Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) Seems To Use Debt Quite Sensibly

Owens Corning +2.65%

Owens Corning

OC

181.35

+2.65%

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.' When we think about how risky a company is, we always like to look at its use of debt, since debt overload can lead to ruin. We can see that Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) does use debt in its business. But the more important question is: how much risk is that debt creating?

When Is Debt Dangerous?

Generally speaking, debt only becomes a real problem when a company can't easily pay it off, either by raising capital or with its own cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more frequent (but still costly) occurrence is where a company must issue shares at bargain-basement prices, permanently diluting shareholders, just to shore up its balance sheet. 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 think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Owens Corning

How Much Debt Does Owens Corning Carry?

As you can see below, Owens Corning had US$2.89b of debt, at September 2023, which is about the same as the year before. You can click the chart for greater detail. However, it also had US$1.32b in cash, and so its net debt is US$1.57b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:OC Debt to Equity History January 30th 2024

How Healthy Is Owens Corning's Balance Sheet?

The latest balance sheet data shows that Owens Corning had liabilities of US$1.83b due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.09b falling due after that. On the other hand, it had cash of US$1.32b and US$1.30b worth of receivables due within a year. So it has liabilities totalling US$3.30b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Owens Corning has a very large market capitalization of US$13.3b, so it could very likely raise cash to ameliorate its balance sheet, if the need arose. But we definitely want to keep our eyes open to indications that its debt is bringing too much risk.

We measure a company's debt load relative to its earnings power by looking at its net debt divided by its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) and by calculating how easily its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) cover its interest expense (interest cover). Thus we consider debt relative to earnings both with and without depreciation and amortization expenses.

Owens Corning's net debt is only 0.78 times its EBITDA. And its EBIT easily covers its interest expense, being 16.7 times the size. So we're pretty relaxed about its super-conservative use of debt. On the other hand, Owens Corning's EBIT dived 17%, over the last year. We think hat kind of performance, if repeated frequently, could well lead to difficulties for the stock. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately the future profitability of the business will decide if Owens Corning can strengthen its balance sheet over time. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

Finally, while the tax-man may adore accounting profits, lenders only accept cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Owens Corning recorded free cash flow worth 71% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This cold hard cash means it can reduce its debt when it wants to.

Our View

When it comes to the balance sheet, the standout positive for Owens Corning was the fact that it seems able to cover its interest expense with its EBIT confidently. However, our other observations weren't so heartening. To be specific, it seems about as good at (not) growing its EBIT as wet socks are at keeping your feet warm. Considering this range of data points, we think Owens Corning is in a good position to manage its debt levels. But a word of caution: we think debt levels are high enough to justify ongoing monitoring. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. These risks can be hard to spot. Every company has them, and we've spotted 2 warning signs for Owens Corning (of which 1 doesn't sit too well with us!) you should know about.

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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