Having high debt isn’t always bad if a company has the capacity to pay it back with its earnings. The net-debt-to-EBITDA[1. earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization] ratio indicates how many years it will take for a company to repay its debt if its net debt and EBITDA stay constant. Net debt is calculated as total debt minus cash and cash equivalents.
A company’s EBITDA is considered as core business profit because it’s not affected by capital structure, tax, and non-cash items. EBITDA is useful in comparing firms with different capital structures.
A lower ratio is generally better for a company. However, if a gold mining company consistently generates enough EBITDA to pay its debt liability, then a higher leverage wouldn’t be considered bad until it consistently maintains its net debt-to-EBITDA ratio on par with its peers and historical averages.
Yamana Gold’s (AUY) net-debt-to-forward EBITDA ratio is 2.1x. This is higher than its peers’ ratios, as you can see in the chart above. Barrick Gold and Goldcorp (GG) have net-debt-to-forward EBITDA ratios of 1.5x and 1.7x, respectively.
Combined, Newmont Mining (NEM) and Barrick Gold (ABX) form 13% of the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX). Investors can access the gold industry by investing in gold-backed ETFs such as the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD). Leveraged ETFs such as the ProShares Ultra Silver ETF (AGQ) and the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NUGT) provide high leverage to changes in precious metal prices.
Next, let’s move to an analysis of the free cash flow upsides for our five senior gold mining companies.