1. Debt Ratios: Introduction
  2. Debt Ratios: Overview Of Debt
  3. Debt Ratios: The Debt Ratio
  4. Debt Ratios: Debt-Equity Ratio
  5. Debt Ratios: Capitalization Ratio
  6. Debt Ratios: Interest Coverage Ratio
  7. Debt Ratios: Cash Flow To Debt Ratio

By Richard Loth (Contact | Biography)

The debt-equity ratio is another leverage ratio that compares a company's total liabilities to its total shareholders' equity. This is a measurement of how much suppliers, lenders, creditors and obligors have committed to the company versus what the shareholders have committed.

To a large degree, the debt-equity ratio provides another vantage point on a company's leverage position, in this case, comparing total liabilities to shareholders' equity, as opposed to total assets in the debt ratio. Similar to the debt ratio, a lower the percentage means that a company is using less leverage and has a stronger equity position.



As of December 31, 2005, with amounts expressed in millions, Zimmer Holdings had total liabilities of $1,036.80 (balance sheet) and total shareholders' equity of $4,682.80 (balance sheet). By dividing, the equation provides the company with a relatively low percentage of leverage as measured by the debt-equity ratio.

A conservative variation of this ratio, which is seldom seen, involves reducing a company's equity position by its intangible assets to arrive at a tangible equity, or tangible net worth, figure. Companies with a large amount of purchased goodwill form heavy acquisition activity can end up with a negative equity position.

The debt-equity ratio appears frequently in investment literature. However, like the debt ratio, this ratio is not a pure measurement of a company's debt because it includes operational liabilities in total liabilities.

Nevertheless, this easy-to-calculate ratio provides a general indication of a company's equity-liability relationship and is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on a company's leverage. Generally, large, well-established companies can push the liability component of their balance sheet structure to higher percentages without getting into trouble.

The debt-equity ratio percentage provides a much more dramatic perspective on a company's leverage position than the debt ratio percentage. For example, IBM's debt ratio of 69% seems less onerous than its debt-equity ratio of 220%, which means that creditors have more than twice as much money in the company than equity holders (both ratios are for FY 2005).

Merck comes off a little better at 150%. These indicators are not atypical for large companies with prime credit credentials. Relatively small companies, such as Eagle Materials and Lincoln Electric, cannot command these high leverage positions, which is reflected in their debt-equity ratio percentages (FY 2006 and FY 2005) of 91% and 78%, respectively. Debt Ratios: Capitalization Ratio

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Why do Debt to Equity Ratios Vary From Industry to Industry?

    Obtain a better understanding of the debt/equity ratio, and learn why this fundamental financial metric varies significantly between industries.
  2. Investing

    Evaluating a Company's Capital Structure

    Learn to use the composition of debt and equity to evaluate balance sheet strength.
  3. Investing

    4 Leverage Ratios Used In Evaluating Energy Firms

    These four leverage ratios can help investors understand how oil and gas firms are managing their debt.
  4. Investing

    5 Must-Have Metrics For Value Investors

    These quick-and-dirty ratios will help you find the most undervalued stocks on the market.
  5. Financial Advisor

    The Debt To Equity Ratio

    The debt to equity ratio identifies companies that are highly leveraged and therefore a higher risk for investors. Find out how this ratio is calculated and how you can use it to evaluate a stock.
  6. Investing

    4 Leverage Ratios Used In Evaluating Energy Firms

    Analysts use specific leverage ratios to compare firms within an industry. A basic understanding of these ratios helps when evaluating oil and gas stocks.
  7. Investing

    Understanding Leverage Ratios

    Large amounts of debt can cause businesses to become less competitive and, in some cases, lead to default. To lower their risk, investors use a variety of leverage ratios - including the debt, ...
  8. Investing

    What is the Shareholder Equity Ratio?

    The shareholder equity ratio shows how much money shareholders will receive if a company has to liquidate its assets.
  9. Investing

    Analyze Investments Quickly With Ratios

    Make informed decisions about your investments with these easy equations.
  10. Investing

    Ratio Analysis

    Ratio analysis is the use of quantitative analysis of financial information in a company’s financial statements. The analysis is done by comparing line items in a company’s financial ...
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Depreciation Can Shield Taxes, Bolster Cash Flow

    Depreciation can be used as a tax-deductible expense to reduce tax costs, bolstering cash flow
  2. What schools did Warren Buffett attend on his way to getting his science and economics degrees?

    Learn how Warren Buffett became so successful through his attendance at multiple prestigious schools and his real-world experiences.
  3. How many attempts at each CFA exam is a candidate permitted?

    The CFA Institute allows an individual an unlimited amount of attempts at each examination.Although you can attempt the examination ...
  4. What's the average salary of a market research analyst?

    Learn about average stock market analyst salaries in the U.S. and different factors that affect salaries and overall levels ...
Trading Center