A Refresher on Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The D/E ratio can be used to assess the amount of risk currently embedded in a company’s capital structure. The debt-to-equity ratio or D/E ratio is an important metric in finance that measures the financial leverage of a company and evaluates the extent to which it can cover its debt. It is calculated by dividing the total liabilities by the shareholder equity of the company. While the total debt to total assets ratio includes all debts, the long-term debt to assets ratio only takes into account long-term debts. Companies that are heavily capital intensive may have higher debt to equity ratios while service firms will have lower ratios.

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 federal filing requirements for nonprofits with D/E ratios lower than their industry average might be seen as favorable to lenders and investors. Debt and equity compose a company’s capital structure or how it finances its operations. The debt to equity ratio can be used as a measure of the risk that a business cannot repay its financial obligations.

  1. Finally, if we assume that the company will not default over the next year, then debt due sooner shouldn’t be a concern.
  2. The debt-to-equity ratio reveals how much of a company’s capital structure is comprised of debts, in relation to equity.
  3. This is because the industry is capital-intensive, requiring a lot of debt financing to run.
  4. Where debt financing costs are greater than the actual revenue growth generated by the company, stock prices can and often do fall.

Investors can compare a company’s D/E ratio with the average for its industry and those of competitors to gain a sense of a company’s reliance on debt. In fact, debt can enable the company to grow and generate additional income. But if a company has grown increasingly reliant on debt or inordinately so for its industry, potential investors will want to investigate further.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Debt Ratio

A higher rate would indicate the company is borrowing more to finance its operation. Too high a debt level and the company is exposed to various risks, chief of which is the risk of bankruptcy when business performance dips. A company’s debt-to-equity ratio (D/E) is calculated by dividing its total debt by the shareholders’ share. These figures factor heavily into a company’s financial statements, featured on the balance sheet.

Some sources consider the debt ratio to be total liabilities divided by total assets. This reflects a certain ambiguity between the terms debt and liabilities that depends on the circumstance. The debt-to-equity ratio, for example, is closely related to and more common than the debt ratio, instead, using total liabilities as the numerator. So if a company has total assets of $100 million and total debt of $30 million, its debt ratio is 0.3 or 30%. Is this company in a better financial situation than one with a debt ratio of 40%?

In other words, the ratio alone is not enough to assess the entire risk profile. These can include industry averages, the S&P 500 average, or the D/E ratio of a competitor. It’s also helpful to analyze the trends of the company’s cash flow from year to year. It’s clear that Restoration Hardware relies on debt to fund its operations to a much greater extent than Ethan Allen, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Long-term D/E is calculated by comparing the company’s total debt, including short and long-term obligations. Despite the alarming sounding name, higher debt ratios can actually be advantageous. Companies can deal with debt liabilities through any given set of cash flows and leverage in order to increase their returns on the stock.

Understanding the Debt to Equity Ratio

An investor, company stakeholder, or potential lender may compare a company’s debt-to-equity ratio to historical levels or those of peers. The D/E ratio indicates how reliant a company is on debt to finance its operations. Gearing ratios are financial ratios that indicate how a company is using its leverage. 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.

What are gearing ratios and how does the D/E ratio fit in?

Companies in the consumer staples sector tend to have high D/E ratios for similar reasons. Debt-financed growth may serve to increase earnings, and if the incremental profit increase exceeds the related rise in debt service costs, then shareholders should expect to benefit. However, if the additional cost of debt financing outweighs the additional income that it generates, then the share price may drop. The cost of debt and a company’s ability to service it can vary with market conditions.

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ZacksTrade does not endorse or adopt any particular investment strategy, any analyst opinion/rating/report or any approach to evaluating individual securities. ● A low ratio can lead to higher credit ratings, making it easier for the company to borrow in the future. ● A high ratio can result in a lower credit rating, making it harder for the company to borrow in the future. For example, using the LIFO method for inventory valuation can result in a lower equity value, thereby increasing the ratio. There is no universally agreed upon “ideal” D/E ratio, though generally, investors want it to be 2 or lower. Banks also tend to have a lot of fixed assets in the form of nationwide branch locations.

This is helpful in analyzing a single company over a period of time and can be used when comparing similar companies. The cash ratio is a useful indicator of the value of the firm under a worst-case scenario. If the D/E ratio gets too high, managers may issue more equity or buy back some of the outstanding debt to reduce the ratio. Conversely, if the D/E ratio is too low, managers may issue more debt or repurchase equity to increase the ratio. A good D/E ratio of one industry may be a bad ratio in another and vice versa.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master’s in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses.

For example, often only the liabilities accounts that are actually labelled as “debt” on the balance sheet are used in the numerator, instead of the broader category of “total liabilities”. The debt-to-equity ratio (D/E) compares the total debt balance on a company’s balance sheet to the value of its total shareholders’ equity. The Debt to Equity Ratio (D/E) measures a company’s financial risk by comparing its total outstanding debt obligations to the value of its shareholders’ equity account.