Debt to Equity Ratio: a Key Financial Metric

Financial leverage simply refers to the use of external financing (debt) to acquire assets. With financial leverage, the expectation is that the acquired asset will generate enough income or capital gain to offset the cost of borrowing. A high debt to equity ratio means that the company is highly leveraged, which in turn puts it at a higher risk of bankruptcy in the event of a decline in business or an economic downturn. If a company is using debt to finance its growth, this can potentially provide higher return on investment for shareholders, since the company is generating profits from other people’s money. A company’s debt to equity ratio provides investors with an easy way to gauge the company’s financial health and its capital infrastructure. Debt to equity ratio also measures the ability of a company to cover all its financial obligations to creditors using shareholder equity in case of a decline in business.

Financial Leverage

The personal D/E ratio is often used when an individual or a small business is applying for a loan. Lenders use the D/E figure to assess a loan applicant’s ability to continue making loan payments in the event of a temporary loss of income. A debt ratio of 0.2 shows that it is very unlikely for Company net accounts receivable C to become bankrupt, even if the economy were to crush. This is because the company will still need to meet its debt payment obligations, which are higher than the amount of equity invested into the company. Companies generally aim to maintain a debt-to-equity ratio between the two extremes.

The D/E Ratio for Personal Finances

  1. Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization.
  2. Lack of performance might also be the reason why the company is seeking out extra debt financing.
  3. The debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio is a metric that shows how much debt, relative to equity, a company is using to finance its operations.
  4. For instance, a company with $200,000 in cash and marketable securities, and $50,000 in liabilities, has a cash ratio of 4.00.

However, an ideal D/E ratio varies depending on the nature of the business and its industry because there are some industries that are more capital-intensive than others. Utilities and financial services typically have the highest D/E ratios, while service industries have the lowest. Investors, lenders, stakeholders, and creditors may check the D/E ratio to determine if a company is a high or low risk. A lower D/E ratio suggests the opposite – that the company is using less debt and is funded more by shareholder equity. On the other hand, when a company sells equity, it gives up a portion of its ownership stake in the business.

How do companies improve their debt-to-equity ratio?

Upgrading to a paid membership gives you access to our extensive collection of plug-and-play Templates designed to power your performance—as well as CFI’s full course catalog and accredited Certification Programs. Among some of the limitations of the ratio are its dependence on the industry and complications that can arise when determining the ratio components. Also, depending on the method you use for calculation, you might need to go through the notes to the financial statements and look for information that can help you perform the calculation. For instance, let’s assume that a company is interested in purchasing an asset at a cost of $100,000.

Debt-To-Equity Ratio: Explanation, Formula, Example Calculations

Different industries vary in D/E ratios because some industries may have intensive capital compared to others. Generally, a D/E ratio of more than 1.0 suggests that a company has more debt than assets, while a D/E ratio of less than 1.0 means that a company has more assets than debt. Like the D/E ratio, all other gearing ratios must be examined in the context of the company’s industry and competitors. Some investors also like to compare a company’s https://www.simple-accounting.org/ D/E ratio to the total D/E of the S&P 500, which was approximately 1.58 in late 2020 (1). The general consensus is that most companies should have a D/E ratio that does not exceed 2 because a ratio higher than this means they are getting more than two-thirds of their capital financing from debt. You can calculate the D/E ratio of any publicly traded company by using just two numbers, which are located on the business’s 10-K filing.

Interpreting the D/E ratio requires some industry knowledge

However, industries may have an increase in the D/E ratio due to the nature of their business. For example, capital-intensive companies such as utilities and manufacturers tend to have higher D/E ratios than other companies. Because debt is inherently risky, lenders and investors tend to favor businesses with lower D/E ratios.

Debt to Equity Ratio Formula

Typical debt-to-equity ratios vary by industry, but companies often will borrow amounts that exceed their total equity in order to fuel growth, which can help maximize profits. A company with a D/E ratio that exceeds its industry average might be unappealing to lenders or investors turned off by the risk. As well, companies with D/E ratios lower than their industry average might be seen as favorable to lenders and investors. A company’s total liabilities are the aggregate of all its financial obligations to creditors over a specific period of time, and typically include short term and long term liabilities and other liabilities. There are several metrics that are used to gauge the financial health of a company, how the company finances its business operations and assets, as well as its level of exposure to risk.

There is no universally agreed upon “ideal” D/E ratio, though generally, investors want it to be 2 or lower. The D/E ratio is part of the gearing ratio family and is the most commonly used among them. The other important context here is that utility companies are often natural monopolies. As a result, there’s little chance the company will be displaced by a competitor.

The cash ratio provides an estimate of the ability of a company to pay off its short-term debt. If a company’s D/E ratio is too high, it may be considered a high-risk investment because the company will have to use more of its future earnings to pay off its debts. In contrast, service companies usually have lower D/E ratios because they do not need as much money to finance their operations.

If you are considering investing in two companies from different industries, the debt to equity ratio does not provide an effective way to compare the two companies and determine which is the better investment. Debt to equity ratio also affects how much shareholders earn as part of profit. With low borrowing costs, a high debt to equity ratio can lead to increased dividends, since the company is generating more profits without any increase in shareholder investment. While this limits the amount of liability the company is exposed to, low debt to equity ratio can also limit the company’s growth and expansion, because the company is not leveraging its assets. Long term liabilities are financial obligations with a maturity of more than a year. They include long-term notes payable, lines of credit, bonds, deferred tax liabilities, loans, debentures, pension obligations, and so on.

When finding the D/E ratio of a company, it’s vital to compare the ratios of other companies within the same industry for a better idea of how they’re performing. Each industry has different debt to equity ratio benchmarks, as some industries tend to use more debt financing than others. A debt ratio of .5 means that there are half as many liabilities than there is equity.

But, more specifically, the classification of debt may vary depending on the interpretation. In the financial industry (particularly banking), a similar concept is equity to total assets (or equity to risk-weighted assets), otherwise known as capital adequacy. As a rule, short-term debt tends to be cheaper than long-term debt and is less sensitive to shifts in interest rates, meaning that the second company’s interest expense and cost of capital are likely higher. If interest rates are higher when the long-term debt comes due and needs to be refinanced, then interest expense will rise. Business owners use a variety of software to track D/E ratios and other financial metrics. Microsoft Excel provides a balance sheet template that automatically calculates financial ratios such as the D/E ratio and the debt ratio.

The cash ratio compares the cash and other liquid assets of a company to its current liability. This method is stricter and more conservative since it only measures cash and cash equivalents and other liquid assets. For example, asset-heavy industries such as utilities and transportation tend to have higher D/E ratios because their business models require more debt to finance their large capital expenditures. It is the opposite of equity financing, which is another way to raise money and involves issuing stock in a public offering. Additional factors to take into consideration include a company’s access to capital and why they may want to use debt versus equity for financing, such as for tax incentives. You can find the inputs you need for this calculation on the company’s balance sheet.

On the other hand, a low D/E ratio indicates a more conservative financial structure, where the company relies more on equity financing. Attributing preferred shares to one or the other is partially a subjective decision but will also take into account the specific features of the preferred shares. Gearing ratios constitute a broad category of financial ratios, of which the D/E ratio is the best known. Finally, if we assume that the company will not default over the next year, then debt due sooner shouldn’t be a concern.

It’s essential to consider industry norms and the company’s specific circumstances when interpreting the D/E ratio, as what may be considered high or low can vary across different sectors and business models. As mentioned earlier, the ratio doesn’t tell you anything unless you can compare it with something. For example, a prospective mortgage borrower is more likely to be able to continue making payments during a period of extended unemployment if they have more assets than debt. This is also true for an individual applying for a small business loan or a line of credit.


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