Debt-to-Equity Ratio: Definition, Formula, Example

If the company takes on additional debt of $25 million, the calculation would be $125 million in total liabilities divided by $125 million in total shareholders’ equity, bumping the D/E ratio to 1.0x. For instance, in sectors like telecoms or utilities, where big investments are common, firms might prefer a higher debt-to-equity ratio. In contrast, in fast-paced industries like fashion or tech startups, high debt-to-equity ratios may hint at trouble. In essence, a higher ratio can mean more risk, but also greater potential returns.

Companies leveraging large amounts of debt might not be able to make the payments. The debt to equity ratio is a financial, liquidity ratio that compares a company’s total debt to total equity. The debt to equity ratio shows the percentage of company financing that comes from creditors and investors. A higher debt to equity ratio indicates that more creditor financing (bank loans) is used than investor financing (shareholders). By understanding the trends in the debt to equity ratio, much can be inferred about a company’s financial health. An excessively high ratio might cause alarm as it could indicate a higher risk of bankruptcy should the company fail to service its debt.

  1. Relying on the Debt to Equity ratio without comparisons can lead to misinterpretation of a company’s financial status.
  2. It serves as a good starting point for further analysis, which could involve a detailed review of financial statements, industry trends, and management commentary.
  3. For growing companies, the D/E ratio indicates how much of the company’s growth is fueled by debt, which investors can then use as a risk measurement tool.
  4. Debt in itself isn’t bad, and companies who don’t make use of debt financing can potentially place their firm at a disadvantage.
  5. Alternatively, a declining trend could indicate a conservative approach with an emphasis on organic growth and minimal risk-taking.

The debt-to-equity ratio divides total liabilities by total shareholders’ equity, revealing the amount of leverage a company is using to finance its operations. As a highly regulated industry making large investments typically at a stable rate of return and generating a steady income stream, utilities borrow heavily and relatively cheaply. High leverage ratios in slow-growth industries with stable income represent an efficient use of capital. Companies in the consumer staples sector tend to have high D/E ratios for similar reasons.

Interpreting the D/E ratio requires some industry knowledge

To get a clearer picture and facilitate comparisons, analysts and investors will often modify the D/E ratio. They also assess the D/E ratio in the context of short-term leverage ratios, profitability, and growth expectations. Industries that have more predictable and stable cash flows can handle higher debt-to-equity ratios. Most public utilities have a monopoly in their regions and don’t have to worry about losing market share to a competitor. Any company with an equity ratio value that is .50 or below is considered a leveraged company.


A high debt ratio indicates that a company is highly leveraged, and may have borrowed more money than it can easily pay back. Investors and accountants use debt ratios to assess the risk that a company is likely to default on its obligations. The term debt ratio refers to a financial ratio that measures the extent of a company’s leverage.

In addition, the debt ratio depends on accounting information which may construe or manipulate account balances as required for external reports. Restoration Hardware’s cash flow from operating activities has consistently grown over the past three years, suggesting the debt is being put to work and is driving results. Additionally, the growing cash flow indicates that the company will be able to service its debt level.

What Is a Good Debt-to-Equity Ratio?

The higher the debt ratio, the more leveraged a company is, implying greater financial risk. At the same time, leverage is an important tool that companies use to grow, and many businesses find sustainable uses for debt. Some sources consider the debt ratio to be total liabilities divided by total assets. This reflects a certain ambiguity between the terms debt and liabilities that depends on the circumstance. The debt-to-equity ratio, for example, is closely related to and more common than the debt ratio, instead, using total liabilities as the numerator. Let’s look at a real-life example of one of the leading tech companies by market cap, Apple, to find out its D/E ratio.

The Debt to Equity ratio is a relative measure and depends heavily on the context in which it is used. What can be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can only be determined when compared, either across companies in the same sector or against the company’s historical data. Relying on the Debt to read fundraising for dummies online by john mutz and katherine murray Equity ratio without comparisons can lead to misinterpretation of a company’s financial status. Therefore, a healthier debt to equity ratio not only signifies stronger financial health but is instrumental in steering corporations towards more sustainable and socially responsible paths.

Meanwhile, a business in a more mature stage could have a lower ratio due to less reliance on debt financing. A debt-to-equity ratio (or D/E ratio) shows how much debt a business has relative to the capital invested by its owners plus retained earnings. This ratio is calculated by dividing a firm’s total debt by total shareholder equity. The debt ratio aids in determining a company’s capacity to service its long-term debt commitments. As discussed earlier, a lower debt ratio signifies that the business is more financially solid and lowers the chance of insolvency. With this information, investors can leverage historical data to make more informed investment decisions on where they think the company’s financial health may go.

A low equity ratio means that the company primarily used debt to acquire assets, which is widely viewed as an indication of greater financial risk. Equity ratios with higher value generally indicate that a company’s effectively funded its asset requirements with a minimal amount of debt. The Equity Ratio measures the long-term solvency of a company by comparing its shareholders’ equity to its total assets. An upward trend in the debt to equity ratio, which denotes that a company is progressively financing its growth with debt, can occur in response to various scenarios. The company might be scaling its operations and is therefore investing heavily in fixed assets, or possibly the company’s profits are declining, leading to increased borrowing.

The ratio looks at debt in relation to equity, providing insights into how much debt a company is using to finance its operations. Some industries, like the banking and financial services sector, have relatively high D/E ratios and that doesn’t mean the companies are in financial distress. Shareholders’ equity, also referred to as stockholders’ equity, is the owner’s residual claims on a company’s assets after settling obligations. If a company has a negative D/E ratio, this means that it has negative shareholder equity. In most cases, this would be considered a sign of high risk and an incentive to seek bankruptcy protection.

In other words, the ratio alone is not enough to assess the entire risk profile. While a useful metric, there are a few limitations of the debt-to-equity ratio. These can include industry averages, the S&P 500 average, or the D/E ratio of a competitor. However, if that cash flow were to falter, Restoration Hardware may struggle to pay its debt. It’s clear that Restoration Hardware relies on debt to fund its operations to a much greater extent than Ethan Allen, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. You can find the balance sheet on a company’s 10-K filing, which is required by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for all publicly traded companies.

From the perspective of companies, it is therefore important to measure the debt-to-equity ratio because capital structure is one of the fundamental considerations in financial management. Each variant of the ratio provides similar insights regarding the financial risk of the company. As with other ratios, you must compare the same variant of the ratio to ensure consistency and comparability of the analysis. Data used to calculate the Debt to Equity ratio can sometimes be incomplete or inaccurate. Off-balance-sheet financing, leases and pension obligations may not be included in the calculations. In this equation, the term ‘debt’ usually refers to all interest-bearing liabilities, both short term and long term.

The financial health of a firm may not be accurately represented by comparing debt ratios across industries. Bear in mind how certain industries may necessitate higher debt ratios due to the initial investment needed. A debt ratio greater than 1.0 (100%) tells you that a company has more debt than assets. Meanwhile, a debt ratio of less than 100% indicates that a company has more assets than debt. Used in conjunction with other measures of financial health, the debt ratio can help investors determine a company’s risk level.

They may note that the company has a high D/E ratio and conclude that the risk is too high. Airlines, as well as oil and gas refinement companies, are also capital-intensive and also usually have high D/E ratios. And, when analyzing a company’s debt, you would also want to consider how mature the debt is as well as cash flow relative to interest payment expenses. One limitation of the D/E ratio is that the number does not provide a definitive assessment of a company.

James has been writing business and finance related topics for National Funding, PocketSense,, FastCapital360, Kapitus, and e-commerce websites since 2007. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and received an MBA from Columbia University. Equity investors hope to receive dividends, but lenders expect to receive their interest and principal payments on the planned due dates without fail. A company that does not take advantage of its borrowing capacity may be short-changing its shareholders by limiting the opportunities of the business to generate additional profits.

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