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

The debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio is computed by dividing a company’s total liabilities by its shareholder equity to determine its financial leverage. Incorporate finance, the D/E ratio is a crucial measure. It’s a measure of how much a corporation relies on debt to fund its operations rather than totally owned funds. In the event of a business downturn, it indicates the ability of shareholder equity to satisfy all outstanding debts. A specific sort of gearing ratio is the debt-to-equity ratio.

Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio Formula and Calculation  

Debt/Equity= Total Liabilities/Total Shareholders’ Equity

​The D/E ratio requires information from a company’s balance sheet. Total shareholder equity must equal assets minus liabilities on the balance sheet, which is a rearranged form of the balance sheet equation:

Assets=Liabilities+Shareholder Equity

​Individual accounts that would not usually be considered “debt” or “equity” in the traditional sense of a loan or the book value of an asset may be included in these balance sheet categories. Because retained earnings/losses, intangible assets, and pension plan adjustments can affect the ratio, more investigation is usually required to determine a company’s true leverage.

Analysts and investors frequently change the D/E ratio to make it more helpful and easier to compare different stocks because of the uncertainty of some of the accounts in the key balance sheet categories. Short-term leverage ratios, profit performance, and growth expectations can all help improve the D/E ratio analysis.

What Does the Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio Tell You?

Because the D/E ratio compares the amount of a firm’s debt to the value of its net assets, it’s commonly used to determine how much debt a company is taking on to leverage its assets. A high D/E ratio is frequently associated with high risk; it indicates that a corporation has used debt to fund its growth.

When a lot of debt is utilized to fund growth, a company may be able to make greater earnings than it would have been able to without it. Shareholders should expect to benefit if leverage boosts earnings by more than the debt’s cost (interest). Share values may fall if the cost of debt financing outweighs the higher income generated. The cost of debt can fluctuate depending on market conditions. As a result, unprofitable borrowing may go unnoticed at first.

Because long-term debt and assets are larger accounts than short-term debt and short-term assets, changes in them have the biggest impact on the D/E ratio. Other measures can be used by investors to assess a company’s short-term leverage and its capacity to meet debt commitments due in a year or less.

The cash ratio, for example, is used by an investor to compare a company’s short-term liquidity or solvency:

Cash Ratio = Cash + Marketable Securities/Short-Term Liabilities 

or the current ratio:

Current Ratio= Short-Term Assets/Short-Term Liabilities 

instead of a long-term leverage measure like the D/E ratio.

Modifications to the Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio

The total value of assets less liabilities is equal to shareholders’ equity on the balance sheet, but this is not the same as assets minus the debt connected with those assets. Modifying the D/E ratio into the long-term D/E ratio is a frequent solution to this problem. This method allows an analyst to concentrate on the most important risks.

Short-term debt is still a part of a company’s overall leverage, but it’s less dangerous because it’ll be paid off in a year or less. Consider the difference between a corporation with $1 million in short-term payables (wages, accounts payable, and notes, for example) and a company with $500,000 in short-term payables and $1 million in long-term debt. Both companies have a D/E ratio of 1.00 if they have $1.5 million in shareholder equity. On the surface, the risk from leverage appears to be the same, but the second company is actually riskier.

Short-term debt is often less expensive than long-term debt, and it is less vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations, therefore the second company’s interest expense and cost of capital are higher. Long-term debt will need to be refinanced if interest rates decrease, which will raise costs even more. Rising interest rates appear to favor companies with greater long-term debt, but if the loan is redeemable by bondholders, it may still be a disadvantage.

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