How to Calculate the Debt to Equity Ratio of a Company

by C. Taylor ; Updated April 19, 2017

Investors commonly use the debt-to-equity ratio when evaluating a company because it offers insight to a company's primary funding sources. This ratio represents the amount of outstanding debt from creditors divided by the equity gained by shareholders purchasing stock. A high debt-to-equity ratio may indicate an over-dependence on debt, which could negatively effect earnings. A low ratio means the company depends primarily on shareholder equity.

Step 1

Consult the company's balance sheet and get the outstanding debt and the shareholder equity.

Step 2

Divide the debt by the equity to calculate the ratio. As an example, if a company has $3 million in debt with $4 million in shareholder equity, then the debt-to-equity is 0.75.

Step 3

Compare this ratio to 1. A debt-to-equity ratio greater than 1 means the company relies more heavily on debt to run the business. A ratio less than 1 means the company primarily relies on equity for financing.

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