These 4 Measures Indicate That Kosmos Energy (NYSE:KOS) Is Using Debt Extensively

Kosmos Energy Ltd. -1.32%

Kosmos Energy Ltd.

KOS

5.98

-1.32%

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' 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 Kosmos Energy Ltd. (NYSE:KOS) does have debt on its balance sheet. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. Part and parcel of capitalism is the process of 'creative destruction' where failed businesses are mercilessly liquidated by their bankers. However, a more common (but still painful) scenario is that it has to raise new equity capital at a low price, thus permanently diluting shareholders. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. When we examine debt levels, we first consider both cash and debt levels, together.

See our latest analysis for Kosmos Energy

What Is Kosmos Energy's Net Debt?

As you can see below, at the end of December 2023, Kosmos Energy had US$2.39b of debt, up from US$2.23b a year ago. Click the image for more detail. However, it does have US$95.3m in cash offsetting this, leading to net debt of about US$2.30b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:KOS Debt to Equity History March 30th 2024

How Healthy Is Kosmos Energy's Balance Sheet?

Zooming in on the latest balance sheet data, we can see that Kosmos Energy had liabilities of US$554.8m due within 12 months and liabilities of US$3.35b due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$95.3m in cash and US$120.7m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$3.69b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

When you consider that this deficiency exceeds the company's US$2.81b market capitalization, you might well be inclined to review the balance sheet intently. In the scenario where the company had to clean up its balance sheet quickly, it seems likely shareholders would suffer extensive dilution.

In order to size up a company's debt relative to its earnings, we calculate its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) divided by its interest expense (its interest cover). This way, we consider both the absolute quantum of the debt, as well as the interest rates paid on it.

With a debt to EBITDA ratio of 2.0, Kosmos Energy uses debt artfully but responsibly. And the fact that its trailing twelve months of EBIT was 7.5 times its interest expenses harmonizes with that theme. One way Kosmos Energy could vanquish its debt would be if it stops borrowing more but continues to grow EBIT at around 18%, as it did over the last year. 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 Kosmos Energy'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 company can only pay off debt with cold hard cash, not accounting profits. So it's worth checking how much of that EBIT is backed by free cash flow. During the last three years, Kosmos Energy burned a lot of cash. While investors are no doubt expecting a reversal of that situation in due course, it clearly does mean its use of debt is more risky.

Our View

To be frank both Kosmos Energy's level of total liabilities and its track record of converting EBIT to free cash flow make us rather uncomfortable with its debt levels. But on the bright side, its EBIT growth rate is a good sign, and makes us more optimistic. Overall, we think it's fair to say that Kosmos Energy has enough debt that there are some real risks around the balance sheet. If everything goes well that may pay off but the downside of this debt is a greater risk of permanent losses. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For example - Kosmos Energy has 3 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

When all is said and done, sometimes its easier to focus on companies that don't even need debt. Readers can access a list of growth stocks with zero net debt 100% free, right now.

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