September 27, 2022

Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. We note that International Petroleum Corporation (TSE:IPCO) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.
Debt and other liabilities become risky for a business when it cannot easily fulfill those obligations, either with free cash flow or by raising capital at an attractive price. Ultimately, if the company can't fulfill its legal obligations to repay debt, shareholders could walk away with nothing. While that is not too common, we often do see indebted companies permanently diluting shareholders because lenders force them to raise capital at a distressed price. By replacing dilution, though, debt can be an extremely good tool for businesses that need capital to invest in growth at high rates of return. The first step when considering a company's debt levels is to consider its cash and debt together.
Check out our latest analysis for International Petroleum
The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at June 2022 International Petroleum had debt of US$308.4m, up from US$258.8m in one year. But on the other hand it also has US$327.9m in cash, leading to a US$19.5m net cash position.
According to the last reported balance sheet, International Petroleum had liabilities of US$144.1m due within 12 months, and liabilities of US$528.7m due beyond 12 months. Offsetting this, it had US$327.9m in cash and US$140.1m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So its liabilities outweigh the sum of its cash and (near-term) receivables by US$204.8m.
Since publicly traded International Petroleum shares are worth a total of US$1.16b, it seems unlikely that this level of liabilities would be a major threat. However, we do think it is worth keeping an eye on its balance sheet strength, as it may change over time. Despite its noteworthy liabilities, International Petroleum boasts net cash, so it's fair to say it does not have a heavy debt load!
It was also good to see that despite losing money on the EBIT line last year, International Petroleum turned things around in the last 12 months, delivering and EBIT of US$394m. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine International Petroleum's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.
Finally, a business needs free cash flow to pay off debt; accounting profits just don't cut it. International Petroleum may have net cash on the balance sheet, but it is still interesting to look at how well the business converts its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to free cash flow, because that will influence both its need for, and its capacity to manage debt. Over the last year, International Petroleum recorded free cash flow worth a fulsome 97% of its EBIT, which is stronger than we'd usually expect. That puts it in a very strong position to pay down debt.
While International Petroleum does have more liabilities than liquid assets, it also has net cash of US$19.5m. The cherry on top was that in converted 97% of that EBIT to free cash flow, bringing in US$382m. So is International Petroleum's debt a risk? It doesn't seem so to us. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with International Petroleum .
If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.
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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
Find out whether International Petroleum is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
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International Petroleum Corporation explores for, develops, and produces oil and gas.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Very undervalued with outstanding track record.
Simply Wall St's Editorial Team provides unbiased, factual reporting on global stocks using in-depth fundamental analysis.
Find out more about our editorial guidelines and team.
International Petroleum Corporation explores for, develops, and produces oil and gas.
The Snowflake is a visual investment summary with the score of each axis being calculated by 6 checks in 5 areas.
Read more about these checks in the individual report sections or in our analysis model.
Very undervalued with outstanding track record.
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