Liabilities are items or money the company owes, such as mortgages, loans, etc. Below is an overview of the debt-to-equity ratio, including how to calculate and use it. Investors can use the D/E ratio as a risk assessment tool since a higher D/E ratio means a company relies more on debt to keep going.

  1. 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.
  2. Simply put, the higher the D/E ratio, the more a company relies on debt to sustain itself.
  3. At the same time, the company has $250,000 in shareholder equity, $60,000 in reserves and surplus, and $10,000 in fictitious assets.
  4. The use of leverage is beneficial during times when the firm is earning profits, as they become amplified.

How Can the D/E Ratio Be Used to Measure a Company’s Riskiness?

The Motley Fool reaches millions of people every month through our premium investing solutions, free guidance and market analysis on, top-rated podcasts, and non-profit The Motley Fool Foundation. Finally, analyzing the existing level of debt is an important factor that creditors consider when a firm wishes to apply for further borrowing. The use of leverage is beneficial during times when the firm is earning profits, as they become amplified. On the other hand, a highly levered firm will have trouble if it experiences a decline in profitability and may be at a higher risk of default than an unlevered or less levered firm in the same situation. For example, utilities tend to be a highly indebted industry whereas energy was the lowest in the first quarter of 2024.

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Companies that are heavily capital intensive may have higher debt to equity ratios while service firms will have lower ratios. The debt and equity components come from the right side of the firm’s balance sheet. Long-term debt includes mortgages, long-term leases, and other long-term loans. Debt and equity compose a company’s capital structure or how it finances its operations.

What Is a Good Total Debt-to-Total Assets Ratio?

The current ratio reveals how a company can maximize its current assets on the balance sheet to satisfy its current debts and other financial obligations. Over time, the cost of debt financing is usually lower than the cost of equity financing. This is because when a company takes out a loan, it only has to pay back the principal plus interest. It shows the proportion to which a company is able to finance its operations via debt rather than its own resources. It is also a long-term risk assessment of the capital structure of a company and provides insight over time into its growth strategy. A lower debt-to-equity ratio means that investors (stockholders) fund more of the company’s assets than creditors (e.g., bank loans) do.

What Does the D/E Ratio Tell You?

A company with a high ratio is taking on more risk for potentially higher rewards. In contrast, a company with a low ratio is more conservative, which might be more suitable for its industry or stage of development. Considering the company’s context and specific work with sox reports circumstances when interpreting this ratio is essential, which brings us to the next question. Assessing whether a D/E ratio is too high or low means viewing it in context, such as comparing to competitors, looking at industry averages, and analyzing cash flow.

Changes in long-term debt and assets tend to affect the D/E ratio the most because the numbers involved tend to be larger than for short-term debt and short-term assets. If investors want to evaluate a company’s short-term leverage and its ability to meet debt obligations that must be paid over a year or less, they can use other ratios. A combined leverage ratio refers to the combination of using operating leverage and financial leverage. As is typical in financial analysis, a single ratio, or a line item, is not viewed in isolation.

What Is the Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio?

A high D/E ratio suggests that the company is sourcing more of its business operations by borrowing money, which may subject the company to potential risks if debt levels are too high. Put another way, if a company was liquidated and all of its debts were paid off, the remaining cash would be the total shareholders’ equity. The debt-to-equity ratio is a way to assess risk when evaluating a company.

For example, manufacturing companies tend to have a ratio in the range of 2–5. This is because the industry is capital-intensive, requiring a lot of debt financing to run. Restoration Hardware’s cash flow from operating activities has consistently grown over the past three years, suggesting the debt is being put to work and is driving results. Additionally, the growing cash flow indicates that the company will be able to service its debt level. You can find the inputs you need for this calculation on the company’s balance sheet. In most cases, liabilities are classified as short-term, long-term, and other liabilities.

In contrast, service companies usually have lower D/E ratios because they do not need as much money to finance their operations. A lower D/E ratio suggests the opposite – that the company is using less debt and is funded more by shareholder equity. The principal payment and interest expense are also fixed and known, supposing that the loan is paid back at a consistent rate. It enables accurate forecasting, which allows easier budgeting and financial planning.

It is usually preferred by prospective investors because a low D/E ratio usually indicates a financially stable, well-performing business. A company’s debt to equity ratio gives you insight into their financial leverage and the sources of capital used to run their business. If a company has a negative D/E ratio, this means that it has negative shareholder equity. In most cases, this would be considered a sign of high risk and an incentive to seek bankruptcy protection. These balance sheet categories may include items that would not normally be considered debt or equity in the traditional sense of a loan or an asset.

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. A high debt to equity ratio means a company utilizes more debt than equity to finance its operations. Leverage ratios measure how much of a company’s capital is generated from loans, compared to equity. If a company has a D/E ratio of 5, but the industry average is 7, this may not be an indicator of poor corporate management or economic risk.

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