A Primer on Financial Ratio analysis

Written by Gbolahan Aina · 2 min read

Being an investment Banker, I found ratio analysis very interesting in my CFA class. Ratio analysis is one of the tools I use in identifying the attractiveness of companies. There are different types of ratios depending on what is being analyzed.

In simple terms, a ratio is the quantitative relation between two amounts showing the number of times one value contains or is contained within the other. While Financial Ratio analysis refers to the analysis of various pieces of financial information in the financial statements of a company. They are mainly used by analysts to determine the viability of a business. Analysts rely on current and past financial statements to obtain data to evaluate the financial performance of a company. The data to determine if a company’s financial health is on an upward or downward trend and to draw comparisons to other competing firms.

Uses of Ratio Analysis

1. Comparisons

Ratio analysis helps to compare a company’s financial performance to similar firms in the industry to understand the company’s industry position. Ratios can help management identify market gaps and examine its competitive advantages, strengths, and weaknesses. The management can then use the information to formulate decisions that aim to improve the company’s position in the market.

2. Operational efficiency

Financial ratio analysis can be used in determining the degree of efficiency in the management of assets and liabilities. Inefficient use of assets can result in unnecessary expenses that ought to be eliminated. Ratios can also help to determine if the financial resources are over- or under-utilized.

3. Trend line

Companies can also use ratios to see if there is a trend in financial performance. The trend obtained can assist in predicting the direction of future financial performance, and also identify any expected financial headwinds.

Types of Ratio Analysis

There are numerous financial ratios that are used for ratio analysis, and they are grouped into the following categories:

1. Liquidity ratios

Liquidity ratios measure a company’s ability to meet its debt obligations using its current assets. When a company is experiencing financial difficulties and is unable to pay its debts, it can convert its assets into cash and use the money to settle any pending debts with more ease.

Some common liquidity ratios include the quick ratio, the cash ratio, and the current ratio. Liquidity ratios are used by banks, creditors, and suppliers to determine if a client has the ability to honor their financial obligations as they come due.

2. Solvency ratios

Solvency ratios measure a company’s long-term financial viability. These ratios compare the debt levels of a company to its assets, equity, or annual earnings.

Important solvency ratios include the debt to capital ratio, debt ratio, interest coverage ratio, and equity multiplier.

3. Profitability Ratios

Profitability ratios measure a business’ ability to earn profits, relative to their associated expenses. Recording a higher profitability ratio than in the previous financial reporting period shows that the business is improving financially. A profitability ratio can also be compared to a similar firm’s ratio to determine how profitable the business is relative to its competitors.

Some examples of important profitability ratios include the return on equity ratio, return on assets, profit margin, gross margin.

4. Efficiency ratios

Efficiency ratios measure how well the business is using its assets and liabilities to generate sales and earn profits. They calculate the use of inventory, machinery utilization, turnover of liabilities, as well as the usage of equity. These ratios are important because, when there is an improvement in the efficiency ratios, the business stands to generate more revenues and profits.

Some of the important efficiency ratios include the asset turover ratio, inventory turnover, payables turnover, working capital turnover, fixed asset turnover,  and receivables turnover ratio.

5. Coverage ratios

Coverage ratios measure a business’ ability to service its debts and other obligations. Analysts can use the coverage ratios across several reporting periods to draw a trend that predicts the company’s financial position in the future. A higher coverage ratio means that a business can service its debts and associated obligations with greater ease.

Key coverage ratios include the debt coverage ratio, interest coverage, fixed charge coverage, and EBIDTA coverage.

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