DEBT RATIO Definition

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DEBT RATIO measures the percent of total funds provided by creditors. Debt includes both current liabilities and long-term debt. Creditors prefer low debt ratios because the lower the ratio, the greater the cushion against creditors losses in liquidation. Owners may seek high debt ratios, either to magnify earnings or because selling new stock would mean giving up control. Owners want control while "using someone elses money." Debt Ratio is best compared to industry data to determine if a company is possibly over or under leveraged. The right level of debt for a business depends on many factors. Some advantages of higher debt levels are:

  • The deductibility of interest from business expenses can provide tax advantages.
  • Returns on equity can be higher.
  • Debt can provide a suitable source of capital to start or expand a business.

Some disadvantages can be:

  • Sufficient cash flow is required to service a higher debt load.
  • The need for this cash flow can place pressure on a business if income streams are erratic.
  • Susceptibility to interest rate increases.
  • Directing cash flow to service debt may starve expenditure in other areas such as development which can be detrimental to overall survival of the business.

 Formula: Total Liabilities / (Total Liabilities + Stockholders Equity)

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RETURN ON ASSETS (ROA) shows the after tax earnings of assets. Return on assets is an indicator of how profitable a company is. Use this ratio annually to compare a business performance to the industry norms: The higher the ratio the greater the return on assets. However this has to be balanced against such factors as risk, sustainability and reinvestment in the business through development costs. 

Higher ROA is better, but extremely high ROA may be an indicator of vulnerability as to any sustainable competitive advantage.

Formula: Earnings After Tax (EAITDA) / Total Assets

ACTIVITY RATIO is any accounting ratio that measures a firms ability to convert different accounts within their balance sheets into cash or sales.

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