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1 Number You May Have Missed in Maxar Technologies' Q1 Earnings Report

By Rich Smith - May 6, 2021 at 9:43AM

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Yes, Maxar lost money -- but it also slimmed down its debt load.

Investors in Maxar Technologies (MAXR 1.48%) stock had a bad day on Tuesday.

Maxar shares tumbled 26.4% through noon EDT Tuesday after the space company reported a big net loss for its fiscal first quarter 2021. Indeed, the headline numbers were not pretty -- but there's good news to report here, too.

Man in suit reading a financial report and typing numbers into a calculator

Image source: Getty Images.

But first ...

But first, let's look at the numbers that sparked the sell-off. Maxar's total sales for Q1 2021 only inched up 3% year over year to $392 million, and the company's net loss totaled $1.30 per share -- 62.5% worse than a year ago.

Granted, Maxar management tried to soften the blow, pointing out that its "revenue and earnings were negatively impacted by a $28 million charge related to the Sirius-XM7 satellite program. Without this charge, we performed in-line with our expectations for the quarter." But even so, the headline numbers were bad enough that investors may not have cared about the caveats.

But was that a mistake?

Silver linings around a gray quarter

It might have been. Make no mistake -- I'm not a huge fan of investing in unprofitable companies, and Maxar has now put together back-to-back money-losing quarters. Indeed, Maxar is running a GAAP earnings deficit over the past 10 years, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence -- literally unprofitable for the past decade.

And yet, there is hope for improvement.

For one thing, analysts who follow Maxar's stock seem to believe that 2021 is the year that Maxar will finally turn the corner. Earnings are expected to turn positive as soon as Q2 2021, and to continue profitable through the year's second half, then turn profitable on an annual basis in 2022. Free cash flow could turn positive as early as this year.

Based on those expectations, earlier today, investment bank JPMorgan doubled down on its "overweight" rating on Maxar stock, insisting it's worth $47 a share and that this value will become apparent as the company gets its new constellation of Worldview Legion Earth imaging satellites into orbit.  

Maxar itself, meanwhile, is taking steps to shore up its financials to make this bright future more likely to happen.

Maxar's one big improvement in Q1

Take debt, for example.

One reason Maxar's loss was so big in Q1 was because the company sold 10 million shares of stock in the quarter (for $40 apiece, thus raising $380 million after paying $20 million in fees). Maxar then used this cash to pay off $350 million in "2023 notes" (debt coming due in 2023), incurring a $41 million "loss on debt extinguishment from the early repayment."

That single charge accounts for nearly half the losses Maxar reported for the quarter. But as a result of paying off its notes early, Maxar slimmed down its total debt load to $2.1 billion. When you consider that interest expense cost Maxar $78 million in Q1 (and thus comprised 93% of the company's net loss), reducing the debt load is one lever Maxar can pull to move itself closer to profitability -- and now it's cut its debt load, and its interest payments, by about 12%.

That's progress. Maybe it's not enough progress to turn the company profitable right away, but as the company's next generation Legion satellites come on line and begin boosting revenues in the all-important Earth imaging segment (Maxar's sole profit-earning business at present), it's one small step in the right direction, and one more reason to hope that 2021 will be the year Maxar turns itself around.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES LTD. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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