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Leverage Ratios

Updated on April 29, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Leverage Ratios Definition

Leverage ratios are a tool that determine the extent to which a firm depends on debt for purchasing assets and building capital. It helps investors and creditors assess the ability of a firm to meet its financial obligations. 

What Are Leverage Ratios

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Though the amount of debt helps build capital, investors look more at it as a liability. When a company’s leverage ratio is higher, it indicates that it uses more debt than equity to build its resources. And when the debt is more, the repercussions might turn more severe, including bankruptcies.

Key Takeaways

  • Leverage ratios are assessment tools that help investors determine a company’s financial position, given the debt utilized for purchasing assets and resources.
  • These ratios include debt-to-equity ratio, debt-to-assets ratio, debt-to-capital ratio, and debt-to-EBITDA ratio.
  • Companies prefer using debt over equity for building capital as the cost of borrowing is much less than the cost of equity.
  • For banks, these ratios help determine how much core capital the institution has accumulated with respect to its total assets.

How Do Leverage Ratios Work?

Leverage ratios help investors and decision-makers get a clear view of how capable a business is of fulfilling its financial liabilities. For example, companies take up loans to buy resources to produce, develop, and deliver consumer goods, products, and services. As a result, their amount of debt becomes more with time. Though the financial obligations increase, a higher income as expected from using the debt-driven machinery, assets, and resources turns the deal fruitful.

On the other hand, if a company’s debt is too much, it presents a completely negative impression of it. If the volume of debt is too low, it does not improve the firm’s image, either. While in the former instance, the companies are likely to fail to repay and witness bankruptcy due to consecutive defaults, the latter indicates the firms’ inability to borrow and makes investors assume that the entities are struggling financially.

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Leverage Ratio (Debt to Equity) Video Explanation

 

Types

Leverage ratios are derived depending on the capacity of businesses to utilize their financial obligations to multiply their returns. Therefore, the types of leverage ratios belong to the operating, financial, and combined leverage labels. Operating leverage refers to the ability of a company to use financial obligations or expenditures involving fixed costs for higher returns.

On the other hand, is the process of taking up loans and using the same for building capital, expecting the returns from those assets to be more than the debt incurred. The financial leverage ratios, likewise, determine the amount of debt a company takes to build its capital. The third type of leverage used by investors to assess a company’s financial position is combined leverage. As the name implies, it is the hybrid version developed by combining the operating and financial leverages. 

Formula

Some of the leverage ratios widely used by investors to assess a firm’s financial capabilities include debt-to-equity ratio, debt-to-assets ratio, debt-to-capital ratio, and debt-to-EBITDA ratio. Here, the total debt is divided by total equity, total assets, the sum of total debt and total equity, and Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation & Amortization (EBITDA), respectively. One more ratio on the list is the asset-to-equity ratio, where total assets are divided by total equity.

The image below presents varied leverage ratios formula:

Leverage Ratios Types

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Interpretation

Different leverage ratio formula is interpreted differently. For example, while the debt-to-equity ratio helps see the proportion of debt and equity in the company’s capital structure, the debt-to-capital ratio lets investors know the extension of the previous ratio. In short, it helps provide a holistic look at a company’s capital structure.

In addition, the debt-asset ratio signifies how much debt a company takes to source its assets. This ratio helps investors make well-informed and wise investment decisions. On the contrary, studying the debt-EBITDA ratio tells investors how much debt the company has compared to its earnings before paying out the interests. This helps them understand how the debt affects the company’s earnings.

Example

Tree Co.’s capital structure consists of both equity and debt. Its equity is $400,000 and the debt is $100,000. Let us calculate the leverage ratios based on the information provided below:

  • Total debt = $100,000
  • Total equity = $400,000

Here, investors can find out two ratios based on the information provided:

a. debt-equity ratio, and

b. debt-capital ratio.

Thus, let us put the values in the formula:

Debt-to-Equity Ratio

Debt to Equity Ratio - Leverage Ratio

=100000/400000

=0.25 = 25%

Debt-to-Capital Ratio

Debt to Capital Ratio - Leverage Ratio

= 100000/100000+400000 = 100000/500000

= 0.2 or 20%

The two leverage ratios allow investors to determine if they can trust Tree Co. with investments.

Importance

Leverage ratios are important as they allow investors to assess a company’s financial position with respect to its financial obligations. Though firms have an option of using their equity to purchase assets and resources for undertaking different business activities, they go for taking up loans to finance their capital building. The reason is one – the cost of debt or cost of borrowing is way less than the cost of equity. These ratios help investors know how the company has structured its capital.

Calculating the ratios give investors clarity about whether a company can take advantage of the leverage or not. For example, if the company has taken too much debt, it is too risky to invest in the company. At the same time, if a company does not have any debt, it may pay off too much capital cost and reduce its earnings in the long run.

When it comes to leverage ratios for banks, it compares the core capital of the institutions with the total assets it has. In the United States, banks are one of the most leveraged institutions, with a few restrictions imposed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve, and the Comptroller of the Currency. These three regulatory bodies limit the amount of money an American bank can lend with respect to the capital it utilizes for its assets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are leverage ratios?

Leverage ratios determine the amount of debt the business has taken on the assets or equity of the business. A high ratio indicates that the company has taken on a larger debt than its capacity and will not be able to service the obligations with the ongoing cash flows. It includes an analysis of debt to equity, debt to capital, debt to assets, and debt to EBITDA.

How to calculate leverage ratios?

The calculation of leverage ratios depends on the information available to investors. As per their details, they compute the ratio and compare the financial obligation with the capital a company had built. For example, if the debt amount is known and the equity or capital figure is provided, one can easily find debt-equity or debt-capital ratios.

What is a good leverage ratio for a company?

Normally, the leverage ratio of 3 or higher is considered ideal. However, the ratio suitable for investors varies depending on the industry they are looking forward to investing in.

This article is a guide to what are Leverage Ratios and their definition. Here we explain their role in banks, their formula, example and calculation. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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