Friday, 26 October 2012


Using OPM (other people's money) to make money is smart business as long as the company doesn't go over its head in debt.

From the perspective of a shareholder, the more revenue-producing assets a company can put into play without requiring more money from the shareholders, the better.

The downside, of course, is the vulnerability issue and what creditors might do if the income dries up enough to make servicing the debt difficult or impossible.

Common ratios to evaluate leverage are:

1.  Debt to Assets (Total Debt / Total Assets)
2.  Assets to Equity (Total Assets / Shareholder Equity)
3.  Debt to Equity (Total Debt / Shareholder Equity)
4.  Debt to Capital (Long-term Debt / Total Capitalization)

Don't base an investment solely on any of the ratios above.  Their most useful purpose could be to call your attention to possible upcoming changes in your quality criteria and might lead you to be more vigilant about them as you manage your portfolio.

Debt Service

For those companies with high leverage, you should also look at their ability to service their debts.  For this, look at these ratios:

1.  Interest Coverage (EBIT / Interest)
2.  Interest and Principal Coverage  [EBIT / (Interest + Adjusted Principal Repayments)]

Definition of 'Leverage Ratio'

Any ratio used to calculate the financial leverage of a company to get an idea of the company's methods of financing or to measure its ability to meet financial obligations. There are several different ratios, but the main factors looked at include debt, equity, assets and interest expenses.

Investopedia explains 'Leverage Ratio'

The most well known financial leverage ratio is the debt-to-equity ratio. For example, if a company has $10M in debt and $20M in equity, it has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.5 ($10M/$20M).

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