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Critical Financial Ratios

A Review of Assets and Liabilities

Balance sheets categorize a company’s assets as either a current asset or a long-term asset. Current assets are expected to provide a benefit to the business within the next year. Long-term assets provide a benefit for more than one year.

An example of a current asset might be a certificate of deposit with a maturity of six months. A long-term asset might be a machine that is expected to operate for many years.

A company typically has several assets aside from cash on its balance sheet. The company can invest its cash in financial instruments like money market accounts, certificates of deposit, or U.S. Treasury notes. Because these investments can be converted into money rapidly, general accounting practices consider these to be cash equivalents. Cash and cash equivalents are considered current assets.

Similarly, a company has current liabilities and long-term liabilities. Current liabilities are those that come due within the next year. Long-term liabilities are those that will be paid off over the course of many years.

Return on Assets

One common measure of a company is Return on Assets (ROA). Return on Assets helps the would-be investor glean insight into how profitably a business is using its assets.

If Company A shows a ROA of 9% while Company B demonstrates a 23% ROA, we see that Company B is getting much more return on its assets. The higher ROA could indicate a competitive advantage that makes Company B an attractive investment. Conversely, if you are the owner of Company A, you may do well to examine how your competition is producing more profit per dollar of assets.

The ROA formula is:

ROA = Net Income / Average Total Assets

Net income can be found readily in a company’s income statement. Average total assets are calculated by adding the value of total assets at the start of the year to the value of total assets at the end of the year. Divide that sum by two.

Debt Ratio

The more debt a business assumes, the more likely the business will be unable to pay that debt. The debt ratio shows the percentage of assets that are financed with liabilities. The debt ratio formula is:

Debt Ratio = Total Liabilities / Total Assets

In spring 2017, Exxon Mobile had a debt ratio of 49% (162,989.00/330,314.00). The other 51% is financed by the stockholders of the company. By comparison, BP has a debt ratio of 64%. If an economic downturn occurs and fewer sales occur, which of these companies is more likely to default on their debts?