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Debt-To-Equity Ratio: What It Is And Why It Matters

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  5. Debt-To-Equity Ratio: What It Is…


The debt-to-equity ratio is a fundamental financial metric that plays a crucial role in assessing a company’s financial health. Understanding this ratio is of utmost importance in conducting comprehensive financial analysis.

The D/E ratio provides valuable insights into its capital structure and financial stability by examining the relationship between a company’s debt and equity.

In this article, we will delve into the definition and significance of the D/E ratio, emphasizing the importance of comprehending this metric in financial analysis. To begin, let’s understand the concepts of debt and equity.

Debt: Debt refers to the money a business owes to others, including organizations, employees, and vendors. It is incurred through regular business transactions.

Equity: Equity represents ownership or the value of a company. It is the capital invested by business owners or investors.

What is the Debt-to-Equity?

The debt-to-equity ratio is a financial metric that compares a company’s debt to its equity. It helps assess the proportion of debt and equity financing used by a company to support its operations.

In simpler terms, the D/E ratio shows how much a company owes compared to the value of ownership in the company. It provides insight into a company’s financial structure and leverage, helping investors and analysts evaluate its financial health and risk profile.

What is Debt-to-Equity Formula?

The D/E  formula is a simple calculation used to compare a company’s debt and equity financing. It provides insight into the company’s financial structure and risk level.

The formula is straightforward:

Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Debt / Total Equity


Total Debt = Short-Term Liabilities + Long-Term Liabilities

Total Equity = Total Assets – Share Capital or Total Liabilities  +Other Reserves + Retained Earnings

FYI: Shareholders in a company are considered partial owners, and their ownership is determined by the percentage of shares they hold in relation to the total number of shares issued by the company.

However, when it comes to repayment, creditors such as lenders and debenture holders are given higher priority compared to equity shareholders. It means creditors are paid back first from the company’s assets before the shareholders receive their shares. Creditors have a higher claim on the company’s assets in case of financial obligations or liquidation.

Interpreting Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The D/E ratio compares a company’s net assets to its debt, indicating the level of risk associated with its financial structure. A high D/E ratio suggests the company has relied on borrowing to finance its growth.

When a company uses significant debt to fuel expansion, it has the potential to generate higher earnings than it would have without debt. If the increased earnings surpass the cost of debt (interest), shareholders can benefit.

 However, if the cost of debt outweighs the improved income, share values may decline. Market conditions can affect the cost of debt, making it challenging to identify unprofitable borrowing initially.

 Long-term debt and assets have the greatest impact on the D/E ratio, as they contribute significantly to the calculation. Investors can use other metrics to evaluate a company’s short-term leverage and its ability to meet short-term liabilities.

Analysts often modify the D/E ratio to focus on long-term liabilities that significantly influence shareholder value and company survival. A D/E ratio of less than one is generally considered favorable. However, what constitutes a good ratio depends on various factors.

Good Debt-to-Equity Ratio: Factors and Considerations

A D/E ratio of less than one is generally considered favorable. However, what constitutes a good ratio depends on various factors.

  • Companies with stable cash flows can handle higher ratios, while new businesses without a solid plan may prefer no debt.
  • Industries with reliable sales, like telecommunications, can sustain higher ratios due to consistent cash flows.
  • In contrast, companies in competitive industries with short product cycles tend to aim for lower ratios.
  • Seasonal businesses, for example, have unpredictable cash inflows.

Negative Debt-to-Equity Ratio: Insolvency Warning

When a firm has a negative D/E ratio, it means the company owes more than it owns. It denotes a situation where the company’s liabilities outweigh its assets or financial solvency.

Explaining Long-Term Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The long-term D/E ratio focuses on calculating the ratio using only long-term debt instead of considering all liabilities. This approach provides a clearer picture of a company’s actual debt level. By excluding short-term debts, such as credit lines and amounts owed to suppliers, reveals a more accurate assessment of long-term financial obligations.

While the impact of excluding short-term debt varies across businesses, it can significantly affect the result. For example, businesses like distributors that require substantial inventory may have higher debt levels. However, as these businesses generate sales, they gradually pay off their debts.

Example of a D/E ratio

The following example shows how to calculate the Debt-to-Equity Ratio.

Example 1: Let’s assume ABC company has a total debt of ₹50,00,000 and shareholders’ equity of ₹1,00,00,000. To calculate the D/E ratio, you divide the total debt by shareholders’ equity:

Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Debt / Total Equity

D/E Ratio = ₹50,00,000 / ₹1,00,00,000

D/E Ratio = 0.5

In this example, the D/E ratio is 0.5, which means the company has ₹0.50 in debt for every ₹1 of shareholders’ equity.

Example 2: Let’s consider another scenario where BCD company has a total debt of ₹2,00,00,000 and shareholders’ equity of ₹3,50,00,000. The calculation would be as follows:

Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Debt / Total  Equity

D/E Ratio = ₹2,00,00,000 / ₹3,50,00,000

D/E Ratio ≈ 0.5714

In this case, the D/E ratio is approximately 0.5714, indicating that the company has ₹0.5714 in debt for every ₹1 of shareholders’ equity.

Benefits of Debt-to-Equity Ratio

Having a D/E ratio offers these advantages:

  1. Strong company: A high D/E ratio means it can meet its debt payments using cash flow. It can also use leverage to enhance equity returns and drive strategic growth.
  2. Lower financing costs: Debt is generally cheaper than equity. By increasing the D/E ratio up to a certain point, a company can reduce its overall cost of capital, known as the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC).

Limitations of Debt-to-Equity Ratio

  1. Preference shares impact: If a company has a significant portion of preference shares in its equity, preference shareholders are entitled to receive dividends. Which can affect the company’s available cash flow for debt payments. In such cases, preference shares have debt-like characteristics rather than equity.
  1. No indication of debt repayment timeline: The ratio alone does not reveal when debt repayment will occur.
    It could be due soon or far in the future, making it less problematic if the repayment date is distant.
  1. Limited insight into current loan repayment ability: The D/E ratio does not provide information on a company’s ability to repay current loans. The current ratio, which compares current assets to current liabilities, is more relevant for this. The quick ratio, which excludes inventory from current assets, can also be useful. Therefore, combining the D/E ratio with other ratios focusing on short-term liquidity is advisable.
  1. Consideration of industry differences: When using this ratio, it is important to consider the industry in which a company operates. Industries have varying capital requirements and growth rates, which can result in different D/E ratios. Comparisons should be made within the same industry to gain meaningful insights.

Final Words

The D/E ratio is essential when assessing a company’s financial health and risk, revealing its capital structure and stability. Despite limitations like debt repayment timelines, it’s valuable when combined with ratios for short-term liquidity. Industry-specific considerations aid informed decisions and provide meaningful insights into a company’s financial position for investors and analysts.


What is the difference between the debt-to-equity ratio and the debt ratio?

The D/E ratio measures the amount of debt relative to equity, while the debt ratio measures the amount of debt relative to total assets.

Are banks utilizing the D/E ratio frequently?

The D/E ratio, although trackable on a monthly basis, is less utilized by banks. Its relevance diminishes due to its focus solely on the balance sheet, neglecting the company’s cash flow and fund generation.

Read more:  How Long-term investing helps create life-changing wealth – TOI.

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