Leverage Ratio

MoneyBestPal Team
A financial indicator used to assess a company's amount of debt in relation to equity.
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What is the leverage ratio?

A financial indicator called the leverage ratio assesses a company's debt-to-equity, assets, or earnings ratio. It shows how hazardous a company's capital structure is and how well it can satisfy its financial obligations. 

An increased leverage ratio indicates that the business depends more on borrowing funds to fund its operations, which could boost profitability at the expense of default risk. If a firm has more equity or internal money to support its operations, its leverage ratio will be lower, which might cut both its financial risk and return on equity.

Why is the leverage ratio important?

There are various reasons why the leverage ratio matters. In the beginning, it aids in the evaluation of a company's financial stability and solvency by analysts, creditors, and investors. A business with a high leverage ratio could find it difficult to pay off debt or interest charges, particularly in lean times or recessions. 

While a business with a low leverage ratio could be more stable and flexible financially, it might also be losing out on prospects for growth or tax advantages associated with debt financing. Secondly, it facilitates the comparison of the risk profile and capital structure of several businesses operating in the same sector or in distinct sectors. 

Although a company with a larger leverage ratio than its competitors might benefit from reduced capital costs or higher returns, it might also be more volatile and more vulnerable to bankruptcy. In addition to taking a more cautious approach to financing, a company that has a smaller leverage ratio than its competitors may also have a higher cost of equity or less room for expansion. 

Thirdly, it aids in tracking how a company's financial leverage varies over time. An increase in the leverage ratio could mean that the business is growing, purchasing new assets, or capitalizing on advantageous market circumstances. A lower leverage ratio can mean that the business is making greater cash flow, selling off assets, or cutting debt.

What are the formulas for leverage ratio?

There are different ways to calculate the leverage ratio, depending on the type of debt, equity, assets, or earnings that are used in the denominator. Some of the common formulas for leverage ratio are:

Debt-to-Assets Ratio = Total Debt / Total Assets

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

Debt-to-Capital Ratio = Total Debt / (Total Debt + Total Equity)

Debt-to-EBITDA Ratio = Total Debt / Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation & Amortization (EBITDA)

Asset-to-Equity Ratio = Total Assets / Total Equity

Depending on the goal and analysis context, each formula has pros and cons of its own. For instance, the debt-to-assets ratio calculates the percentage of debt compared to the company's total resources, but it ignores the fact that different loan kinds—such as long-term or short-term—and asset kinds—such as current or fixed—may have varying risks and returns. 

The debt-to-equity ratio calculates the proportionate share of debt and equity in the company's financing; however, it does not take into consideration the various costs and advantages of debt and equity, which might change based on market conditions and tax rates. 

The debt-to-capital ratio calculates the total amount of leverage used by the company, but it does not take into consideration variations in profitability and cash flow creation that could impact the company's capacity to pay off debt. 

The debt-to-EBITDA ratio evaluates how well earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) cover debt. However, it ignores non-cash costs and changes in working capital that could have an impact on the real cash flow available to pay down debt. 

The asset-to-equity ratio calculates the multiplier effect of equity on assets; however, it ignores factors like asset efficiency or quality that could have an impact on how much value is created by the assets.

How to calculate the leverage ratio?

In order to determine the leverage ratio, we must divide the entire debt by an appropriate metric representing the worth or performance of the business, such as total capital, total equity, total assets, or EBITDA. The analysis's goal and context influence the denominator selection. 

EBITDA, for instance, can be used as a standard denominator to evaluate the leverage ratio throughout industries since it removes the impact of various tax rates and depreciation strategies. As they represent the worth of the company's resources and claims, total assets or total equity can also be used as the denominator when evaluating a company's solvency.

There are various implications and interpretations for different leverage ratios. A high debt-to-assets ratio, for example, indicates that the company has borrowed money to finance the majority of its assets, which could raise default risk and interest costs. A high debt-to-equity ratio indicates that the business has financed its operations primarily through debt rather than equity, which could raise both the company's financial risk and return on equity (ROE). 

A high debt-to-capital ratio indicates that there is a significant amount of debt in the company's capital structure, which could have an impact on its cost of capital and credit rating. A high debt-to-EBITDA ratio indicates that the firm has a large amount of debt in comparison to its earnings, which could affect its ability to pay interest and access to cash flow. A high asset-to-equity ratio indicates a high level of financial leverage for the business, which could increase the risk of bankruptcy and earnings volatility.

Examples of leverage ratio

Let's look at some examples of leverage ratio calculations for three hypothetical companies: A, B, and C. Assume that they have the following financial information (in millions):

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Using the formula for each leverage ratio, we can calculate the following values:

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As we can see, despite having varying sizes and operational scales, all three organizations have the same leverage ratios. This demonstrates that leverage ratios are helpful when comparing businesses within the same sector or industry, but not when comparing businesses in other sectors or industries.

Limitations of the leverage ratio

Leverage ratios are important indicators of a company's financial health and risk profile, but they also have some limitations that should be considered when using them for analysis or decision-making. 

Some of these limitations are:
  • Because leverage ratios are based on past data, they do not account for changes in the company's debt or profitability in the future.
  • The quality and maturity of the debt, which could have an impact on the company's capacity to repay or refinance it, are not taken into consideration by leverage ratios.
  • The cost and availability of loans, which might change based on the state of the market and the credit rating of the organization, are not taken into consideration by leverage ratios.
  • The kind and purpose of debt, which may have varied effects on the profitability and growth prospects of the organization, is not taken into consideration by leverage ratios.
  • The effect of operating leverage, which gauges how responsive the business's operating income is to variations in sales volume, is not taken into consideration by leverage ratios.
  • Taxes have an impact on the after-tax cost and benefit of debt, which is not taken into consideration by leverage ratios.


A leverage ratio is a financial metric that compares the level of debt incurred by a business entity to several other metrics such as its equity, assets, or earnings.

The leverage ratio is important because it helps investors and analysts understand the risk profile of an organization. A higher leverage ratio indicates a company has a higher proportion of debt in its capital structure, which could increase the risk of financial distress if the company is unable to meet its debt obligations.

Some common types of leverage ratios include the Debt Ratio (Total Debt / Total Assets), Debt-to-Equity Ratio (Total Debt / Total Equity), and Equity Ratio (Total Equity / Total Assets).

A company can decrease its leverage ratio by reducing its debt levels or increasing its equity. This can be achieved through methods such as paying off existing debts, issuing more equity, or increasing earnings to retain more profits.

While a high leverage ratio can indicate financial risk, a very low leverage ratio may also be a concern. It could suggest that a company is not taking advantage of the potential benefits of debt, such as tax benefits from interest expense deductions and the ability to invest in growth opportunities.