# Financial Ratios: Use and Application

## Introduction to financial ratios

Financial ratios are powerful tools that provide valuable insights into a company’s financial health and performance. By analyzing various financial ratios, investors, creditors, and analysts can assess the profitability, liquidity, solvency, and efficiency of a company. These ratios help stakeholders make informed decisions and evaluate the company’s ability to generate profits, manage debts, and efficiently utilize its resources.

## Importance of financial ratios in evaluating company performance

Financial ratios play a crucial role in evaluating a company’s performance as they provide a quantitative measure of its financial position. These ratios allow investors to compare the performance of different companies within the same industry or sector. By examining financial ratios over time, stakeholders can identify trends and patterns, enabling them to make informed investment decisions.

Financial ratios also help creditors assess a company’s creditworthiness and determine whether it can meet its debt obligations. Additionally, these ratios assist management in identifying areas of improvement and making necessary adjustments to enhance the company’s financial performance.

## Different types of financial ratios

Financial ratios can be broadly classified into four categories: liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, solvency ratios, and efficiency ratios. Each category focuses on different aspects of a company’s financial performance and provides unique insights into its operations.

### Liquidity ratios

·       Liquidity ratios are financial metrics that evaluate a company’s ability to meet short-term obligations and measure its ability to convert assets into cash. These ratios are crucial for determining a company’s liquidity position and its capacity to cover immediate financial needs.

a. Current Ratio: The current ratio is one of the most common liquidity ratios used by investors and analysts. It compares a company’s current assets to its current liabilities. The formula for calculating the current ratio is:

Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities

For example, if a company has \$500,000 in current assets and \$200,000 in current liabilities, the current ratio would be 2.5. This means the company has 2.5 times more current assets than current liabilities, indicating a healthier liquidity position.

b. Quick Ratio: The quick ratio, also known as the acid-test ratio, is a more conservative liquidity measure. It excludes inventory from current assets since inventory can sometimes be difficult to convert into cash quickly. The formula for calculating the quick ratio is:

Quick Ratio = (Current Assets – Inventory) / Current Liabilities

For instance, let’s say a company has \$400,000 in current assets, excluding inventory, and \$150,000 in current liabilities. The quick ratio would be 2.67. This indicates that the company has 2.67 times more liquid assets available to cover its current liabilities.

c. Cash Ratio: The cash ratio is the most conservative liquidity ratio. It measures a company’s ability to pay off current liabilities using only its cash and cash equivalents. The formula for calculating the cash ratio is:

Cash Ratio = (Cash + Cash Equivalents) / Current Liabilities

For example, if a company has \$250,000 in cash and cash equivalents and \$100,000 in current liabilities, the cash ratio would be 2.5. This means that the company has enough cash and cash equivalents to cover its current liabilities 2.5 times over.

### Solvency ratios

·       Solvency ratios are financial metrics that provide insights into a company’s ability to meet its long-term obligations. These ratios help assess the financial health and stability of a business by examining the relationship between its debt and equity, as well as the company’s ability to generate enough earnings to cover interest expenses.

A.      Debt-to-Equity Ratio: This ratio measures the proportion of a company’s debt to its shareholders’ equity. It is calculated by dividing total debt by total equity. A high debt-to-equity ratio indicates that a company relies heavily on borrowed funds, which may pose higher financial risk. On the other hand, a low ratio suggests that the company is primarily financed through equity and may have a stronger financial position.

For example, if a company has a debt of \$500,000 and equity of \$1,000,000, the debt-to-equity ratio would be 0.5 (\$500,000/\$1,000,000).

B.      Debt Ratio: The debt ratio measures the proportion of a company’s total debt to its total assets. It is calculated by dividing total debt by total assets. This ratio indicates the percentage of a company’s assets that are financed by debt. A higher debt ratio suggests a higher financial risk, as the company has a larger amount of debt relative to its assets. Conversely, a lower debt ratio indicates a more conservative financial structure.

For example, if a company has a total debt of \$800,000 and total assets of \$2,000,000, the debt ratio would be 0.4 (\$800,000/\$2,000,000).

C.       Interest Coverage Ratio: The interest coverage ratio assesses a company’s ability to cover its interest expenses with its operating income. It is calculated by dividing earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) by interest expenses. A higher interest coverage ratio indicates a company’s greater capacity to meet its interest obligations. Conversely, a lower ratio implies that the company may have difficulty meeting its interest payments.

For example, if a company has EBIT of \$500,000 and interest expenses of \$100,000, the interest coverage ratio would be 5 (\$500,000/\$100,000).

### Profitability Ratios

·       Profitability ratios are financial metrics that help evaluate a company’s ability to generate profits. These ratios provide insights into a company’s profitability and efficiency in utilizing its assets and equity. Let’s take a closer look at the four commonly used profitability ratios:

a.       Gross Profit Margin: The gross profit margin indicates the percentage of revenue remaining after deducting the cost of goods sold (COGS). It measures a company’s ability to generate profit from its products or services. The formula for gross profit margin is:

Gross Profit Margin = (Revenue – COGS) / Revenue

For example, if a company generates \$1,000,000 in revenue and incurs \$600,000 in COGS, the gross profit margin would be (1,000,000 – 600,000) / 1,000,000 = 40%.

b.       Net Profit Margin: The net profit margin measures the percentage of revenue remaining after deducting all expenses, including COGS, operating expenses, interest, and taxes. It reflects a company’s overall profitability. The formula for net profit margin is:

Net Profit Margin = (Net Income / Revenue) * 100

For instance, if a company has a net income of \$200,000 and generates \$1,000,000 in revenue, the net profit margin would be (200,000 / 1,000,000) * 100 = 20%.

c.        Return on Assets (ROA): ROA shows how efficiently a company utilizes its assets to generate profit. It measures the return generated per dollar of assets. The formula for ROA is:

ROA = (Net Income / Total Assets) * 100

For example, if a company has a net income of \$200,000 and total assets of \$1,000,000, the ROA would be (200,000 / 1,000,000) * 100 = 20%.

d.       Return on Equity (ROE): ROE measures the return generated for shareholders’ equity. It indicates how effectively a company generates profit from shareholders’ investments. The formula for ROE is:

ROE = (Net Income / Shareholders’ Equity) * 100

For instance, if a company has a net income of \$200,000 and shareholders’ equity of \$800,000, the ROE would be (200,000 / 800,000) * 100 = 25%.

### Efficiency Ratios

·       Efficiency ratios are financial metrics used to assess how effectively a company utilizes its assets and resources to generate sales and profits. These ratios provide valuable insights into a company’s operational efficiency and can help identify areas where improvements can be made.

a.       Asset Turnover Ratio:

The asset turnover ratio measures the efficiency with which a company utilizes its total assets to generate sales. It is calculated by dividing net sales by the average total assets. A higher ratio indicates that the company is generating more sales from its assets, which is generally seen as a positive sign.

For example, if a company has net sales of \$1 million and average total assets of \$500,000, the asset turnover ratio would be 2 (\$1,000,000 / \$500,000). This means that for every dollar of assets, the company generates \$2 in sales.

b.      Inventory Turnover Ratio:

The inventory turnover ratio measures how efficiently a company manages its inventory. It is calculated by dividing the cost of goods sold (COGS) by the average inventory. A higher ratio suggests that the company is selling its inventory quickly, which is desirable as it reduces holding costs and the risk of obsolete inventory.

For example, if a company has COGS of \$500,000 and average inventory of \$100,000, the inventory turnover ratio would be 5 (\$500,000 / \$100,000). This means that the company sells its entire inventory five times in a given period.

c.       Days Sales Outstanding (DSO):

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) measures the average number of days it takes for a company to collect payment from its customers after making a sale. It is calculated by dividing accounts receivable by average daily sales. A lower DSO indicates that the company collects payments more quickly, which improves its cash flow and liquidity.

For example, if a company has accounts receivable of \$100,000 and average daily sales of \$10,000, the DSO would be 10 days (\$100,000 / \$10,000). This means that, on average, it takes the company 10 days to collect payment from its customers.

### Market Ratios

·       Market ratios are financial metrics used by investors to evaluate the value and performance of a company’s stock. These ratios provide insights into a company’s profitability, financial health, and the potential return on investment for shareholders. Three commonly used market ratios are the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-book (P/B) ratio, and dividend yield.

a. Price-to-Earnings (P/E) Ratio:

The P/E ratio is calculated by dividing the market price per share of a stock by its earnings per share (EPS). It indicates the price investors are willing to pay for each dollar of earnings generated by the company. A high P/E ratio suggests that investors expect high future growth and are willing to pay a premium for the stock. Conversely, a low P/E ratio may indicate that the stock is undervalued or that investors have concerns about the company’s prospects.

For example, if a stock is trading at \$50 per share and its EPS is \$5, the P/E ratio would be 10 (\$50 / \$5). This means investors are willing to pay 10 times the company’s earnings for each share of stock.

b. Price-to-Book (P/B) Ratio:

The P/B ratio compares a company’s market price per share to its book value per share. Book value represents the net asset value of a company, calculated by subtracting liabilities from assets. The P/B ratio is used to assess whether a stock is trading at a discount or premium to its book value.

For example, A P/B ratio below 1 suggests the stock is trading at a discount to its book value, indicating potential undervaluation. Conversely, a P/B ratio above 1 may indicate that the stock is trading at a premium, potentially signaling overvaluation.

c.       Dividend Yield:

Dividend yield measures the annual dividend payment relative to the stock price. It is calculated by dividing the annual dividend per share by the stock’s market price per share and is expressed as a percentage. Dividend yield is important for income-seeking investors who prioritize regular dividend payments.

For example, if a stock pays an annual dividend of \$2 per share and its market price is \$40, the dividend yield would be 5% (\$2 / \$40). This means investors would receive a 5% return on their investment through dividends alone.

## Limitations of financial ratios

1.       Ignoring Qualitative Factors: Financial ratios are based solely on numerical data and do not take into account qualitative factors such as management quality, brand reputation, or customer satisfaction. These factors can have a significant impact on a company’s overall performance and cannot be accurately captured by financial ratios alone.

For example, a company with strong financial ratios may still face challenges if it has a poor corporate culture or lacks innovative leadership.

2.       Varied Accounting Methods: Different companies may use different accounting methods, which can lead to variations in financial ratios.

For instance, one company may use the FIFO (First-In, First-Out) method for inventory valuation, while another may use the LIFO (Last-In, First-Out) method. Such variations can distort the interpretation and comparability of financial ratios between companies.

3.       Industry-specific Challenges: Financial ratios are based on industry norms and benchmarks, but each industry has its own unique characteristics and challenges. Ratios that are considered acceptable in one industry may not be appropriate for another.

For example, the average inventory turnover ratio for a retail company may be higher than that of a manufacturing company due to the nature of their operations.

4.       Economic and Market Factors: Financial ratios are influenced by macroeconomic factors and market conditions, which can fluctuate over time. Changes in interest rates, inflation rates, or market volatility can impact the interpretation of financial ratios.

For example, during an economic downturn, a company may experience a decline in profitability, leading to lower financial ratios. However, this may not necessarily indicate poor performance if the entire industry is affected.

## Use and Application of financial ratios

Financial ratios are an essential decision-making tool for various aspects of business management. They provide valuable insights into a company’s financial performance, helping stakeholders make informed decisions. Here are some specific ways financial ratios can be used as decision-making tools:

1.       Investment Decisions: When considering investing in a company, potential investors analyze financial ratios to assess its financial health and growth potential. Ratios such as return on investment (ROI), earnings per share (EPS), and price-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) provide valuable information about the company’s profitability, efficiency, and market value. These ratios help investors determine the potential return on their investment and make informed decisions about allocating their funds.

For example, if a company has a high ROI and a low P/E ratio compared to its industry peers, it may indicate that the company is undervalued and presents a good investment opportunity.

2.       Creditworthiness Assessment: Financial ratios are crucial for assessing a company’s creditworthiness before extending credit or entering into financial agreements. Lenders and creditors analyze ratios such as debt-to-equity ratio, current ratio, and interest coverage ratio to evaluate the company’s ability to meet its financial obligations.

For instance, if a company has a high debt-to-equity ratio, it may indicate a higher risk of defaulting on loans. Lenders can use this information to determine the interest rates or credit limits they should offer.

3.       Capital Budgeting: Financial ratios are invaluable for evaluating the feasibility and profitability of potential investment projects. Ratios such as net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), and payback period help assess the financial viability of investment opportunities.

For example, if a project has a positive NPV and a high IRR, it indicates that the project is expected to generate higher returns than the cost of capital. This information assists management in making informed decisions about allocating resources and prioritizing investment projects.

## Examples of financial ratios in real-world scenarios

To illustrate the practical application of ratio analysis, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario. Suppose you are evaluating two companies in the retail industry, Company A and Company B.

When comparing their current ratios, you find that Company A has a higher ratio of 2.5, while Company B has a current ratio of 1.8. This indicates that Company A has better short-term liquidity and is more capable of meeting its current obligations compared to Company B.

Furthermore, by analyzing the return on equity (ROE) ratios of both companies, you discover that Company A has an ROE of 15%, whereas Company B has an ROE of 10%. This suggests that Company A is more efficient in generating returns for its shareholders compared to Company B.

## Conclusion

Financial ratios are invaluable tools for evaluating a company’s financial performance and making informed investment decisions. By examining liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, solvency ratios, and efficiency ratios, stakeholders can gain insights into a company’s financial health, profitability, and operational efficiency.

However, it is essential to recognize the limitations of financial ratios and use them in conjunction with other financial analysis tools for a comprehensive understanding of a company’s financial position. By combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, investors can make well-informed decisions and navigate the complex world of investing with confidence. So, make sure to leverage financial ratios as part of your investment toolbox and unlock valuable insights into the companies you are assessing. 