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

    Debt Ratios

    Learn about the debt ratio, debt-equity ratio, capitalization ratio, interest coverage ratio and the cash flow to debt ratio.
  2. 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.
  3. Investing

    Evaluating a Company's Capital Structure

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

    Financial Ratios to Spot Companies Headed for Bankruptcy

    Obtain information about specific financial ratios investors should monitor to get early warnings about companies potentially headed for bankruptcy.
  5. Investing

    5 Must-Have Metrics for Value Investors

    These quick-and-dirty ratios will help you find the most undervalued stocks on the market.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. How do you calculate r-squared in Excel?

    Calculate R-squared in Microsoft Excel by creating two data ranges to correlate. Use the Correlation formula to correlate ...
  2. What is the Difference Between International Monetary Fund and the World Bank?

    Learn about the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and how they are differentiated by their respective functions ...
  3. Where Did the Bull and Bear Market Get Their Names?

    The terms bull and bear are used to describe general actions and attitudes, or sentiment, either of an individual (bear and ...
  4. What's the difference between Google's GOOG and GOOGL stock tickers?

    Learn the difference between Google's GOOG and GOOGL ticker symbols. Splitting shares into classes prevents management from ...
Trading Center