Solvency Ratio

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DEFINITION of 'Solvency Ratio'

A key metric used to measure an enterprise’s ability to meet its debt and other obligations. The solvency ratio indicates whether a company’s cash flow is sufficient to meet its short-term and long-term liabilities. The lower a company's solvency ratio, the greater the probability that it will default on its debt obligations.

The measure is usually calculated as follows:

BREAKING DOWN 'Solvency Ratio'

Solvency ratio, with regard to an insurance company, means the size of its capital relative to the premiums written, and measures the risk an insurer faces of claims it cannot cover.

The solvency ratio is only one of the metrics used to determine whether a company can stay solvent. Other solvency ratios include debt to equity, total debt to total assets, and interest coverage ratios.

However, the solvency ratio is a comprehensive measure of solvency, as it measures cash flow – rather than net income – by including depreciation to assess a company’s capacity to stay afloat. It measures this cash flow capacity in relation to all liabilities, rather than only debt. Apart from debt and borrowings, other liabilities include short-term ones such as accounts payable and long-term ones such as capital lease and pension plan obligations.

Measuring cash flow rather than net income is a better determinant of solvency, especially for companies that incur large amounts of depreciation for their assets but have low levels of actual profitability. Similarly, assessing a company’s ability to meet all its obligations – rather than debt alone – provides a more accurate picture of solvency. A company may have a low debt amount, but if its cash management practices are poor and accounts payable is surging as a result, its solvency position may not be as solid as would be indicated by measures that include only debt.

A company’s solvency ratio should also be compared with its competitors in the same industry rather than viewed in isolation. For example, companies in debt-heavy industries like utilities and pipelines may have lower solvency ratios than those in sectors such as technology. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, the solvency ratio should be compared for all utility companies, for example, to get a true picture of relative solvency.

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