Debt to Equity Ratio: Formula and How to Use it

Written By Aaron Sarentino
Oct 31, 2022
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The debt-to-equity ratio is a metric that measures a company’s financial leverage. The ratio is calculated by dividing total liabilities by shareholders’ equity. Debt to equity is important for assessing a company’s ability to pay back its debts and meet its financial obligations.

How to calculate a debt-to-equity ratio

To calculate a debt-to-equity ratio, simply divide a company’s total liabilities by its shareholders’ equity. For example, if a company has a total of $10 million in total liabilities and shareholders’ equity of $5 million, its debt-to-equity ratio would be 2.0 ($10 million / $5 million). This means that for every $1 of equity, the company has $2 of debt.

How to use a debt-to-equity ratio

There are a few key ways to use the debt-to-equity formula:

  1. It can be used as a comparison tool to assess a company’s financial leverage compared to its competitors or the industry average.
  2. It can be used as a red flag for potential financial risk.
  3. It can provide insights into a company’s ability to use debt effectively and pursue growth opportunities.

What does a high or low debt-to-equity ratio mean?

The most common levels of debt-to-equity ratio are high and low. A high debt-to-equity ratio may indicate that a company relies heavily on borrowing to finance its operations and growth, which can be risky. On the other hand, a low debt-to-equity ratio may indicate that a company is not maximizing its use of leverage and potential growth opportunities.
It is important to note that the debt-to-equity ratio only considers a company’s liabilities and equity and does not consider other sources of financing, such as preferred stock or convertible debt. Additionally, the calculation does not consider a company’s debt terms and interest rates, which can also impact its financial health.

What to consider when evaluating debt-to-equity ratios

When evaluating debt-to-equity ratios, it is essential to consider the industry and any red flags in which a company operates, as different industries have varying levels of acceptable debt. Comparing a company’s debt-to-equity ratio with its competitors is also essential.
Investors and analysts generally look for companies with lower debt-to-equity ratios as they tend to be financially healthier and more stable. However, assessing a company’s ability to manage and strategically use its debt effectively is also important. Ultimately, the debt-to-equity ratio should be considered along with other financial metrics in making investment decisions.

Final takeaways about calculating debt-to-equity ratio:

  • Debt-to-equity ratio is the measurement of a company’s financial leverage, calculated by dividing its total liabilities by shareholders’ equity
  • A high debt-to-equity ratio may indicate the company is relying heavily on borrowing and could be risky, while a low ratio may indicate missed growth opportunities.
  • Debt-to-equity ratio should be considered in relation to the industry and competitor comparisons, as well as other financial metrics
  • Non-recurring events and other financing sources should also be considered when analyzing a company’s debt-to-equity ratio.



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