God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)

Functions and Purposes of Financial Ratios

Functions of Financial Ratios

Financial ratios can be used to show a company’s:

Types of Ratios and Their Purposes

Absolute Standards for Business Performance

In many organizations, minimum financial ratios are used to serve as absolute standards for their performance as follows:

Trend Analysis of Selected Income Items During Last Five Years

To analyze a company’s performance trend, choose the company’s 200x financial statement as a base year and then express subsequent items as percentages of their value in the base year.

For example, consider the cost of goods sold item in successive income statements of ABC Company and use 1991 as a base year (100%), then you find a trend as shown in Table 1:

Table 1. Trend Analysis of ABC Company’s Cost of Goods Sold from 1991-1995







$ in thousand












The following items are often selected for trend analysis with industry comparisons:

Calculations and Interpretations of 14 Key Financial Ratios

Fourteen Key Financial Ratios

Profitability Ratios

Return on Sales (Profit Margin)
Return on Assets
Return on Net Worth (Return on Equity)

Solvency (Liquidity) Ratios

Quick Ratio

Current Ratio
Current Liabilities to Net Worth
Current Liabilities to Inventory
Total Liabilities to Net worth
Fixed Assets to Net Worth

Efficiency Ratios

Collection Period

Sales to Inventory

Assets to Sales

Sales to Net Working Capital
Accounts Payable to Sales


Calculate and Interpret Profitability Ratios

1).  Return on Sales (Profit Margin)

Return on Sales (Profit Margin) = Net Profit After Taxes/Annual Net Sales

Interpretation:  Return on sales (profit margin) is obtained by dividing net profit after taxes by annual net sales.  This reveals the profit earned per dollar of sales and therefore measures the efficiency of the operation.  Return must be adequate for the firm to be able achieve satisfactory profits for its owners.  This ratio is an indicator of the firm’s ability to withstand adverse conditions such as falling prices, rising costs and declining sales.

2).  Return on Assets

Return on Assets = Net Profit After Taxes/Total Assets

Interpretation:  Return on assets comes from net profit after taxes divided by total assets.  This ratio is the key indicator of profitability for a firm.  It matches operating profits with the assets available to earn a return.  Companies efficiently using their assets will have a relatively high return while less well-run businesses will be relatively low.

3).  Return on Net Worth (Return on Equity)

Return on Net Worth (Return on Equity) = Net Profit After Taxes/Net Worth

Interpretation:  Return on net worth (return on equity) is obtained by dividing net profit after tax by net worth.  This ratio is used to analyze the ability of the firm’s management to realize an adequate return on the capital invested by the owners of the firm.  Tendency is to look increasingly to this ratio as a final criterion of profitability.  Generally, a relationship of at least 10 percent is regarded as a desirable objective for providing dividends plus funds for future growth.

Calculate and Interpret Solvency (Liquidity) Ratios

4).  Quick Ratio

 Quick Ratio = (Cash + Accounts Receivable)/Current Liabilities

 Interpretation:  The Quick ratio is computed by dividing cash plus accounts receivable by total current liabilities.  Current liabilities are all the liabilities that fall due within one year.  This ratio reveals the protection afforded short-term creditors in cash near-cash assets.  It shows the number of liquid assets available to cover each dollar of current debt.  Any time this ratio is as much as 1 to 1 (1.0) the business is said to be in a liquid condition.  The larger the ratio the greater the liquidity.

 5).  Current Ratio

 Current Ratio = Current Assets/Current Liabilities

 Interpretation:  Current ratio comes from total assets divided by current liabilities.  Current assets include cash, accounts and notes receivable (less reserves for bad debts), advances on inventories, merchandise inventories, and marketable securities.  This ratio measures the degree to which current assets cover current liabilities.  The higher the ratio the more assurance exists that the retirement of current liabilities can be made.  The current ratio measures the margin of safety available to cover any possible shrinkage in the value of current assets.  Normally a ratio of 2 to 1 (2.0) or better is considered good.

 6).  Current Liabilities to Net Worth

 Current Liabilities to Net Worth = Current Liabilities/Net Worth

 Interpretation:  Current liabilities to net worth are derived by dividing current liabilities by net worth.  This contrasts the funds that creditors temporarily are risking with the funds permanently invested by the owners.  The smaller the net worth and the larger the liabilities, the less security for the creditors.  Care should be exercised when selling any firm with current liabilities exceeding two-thirds (66.6 percent) of net worth.

 7).  Current Liabilities to Inventory

 Current Liabilities to Inventory = Current Liabilities/Inventory

 Interpretation:  A dividing current liability by inventory yields another indication of the extent to which the business relies on funds from disposal of unsold inventories to meet its debts.  This ratio combines with Net sales to Inventory to indicate how management controls inventory.  It is possible to have decreasing liquidity while maintaining consistent sales-to-inventory ratios.  Large increases in sales with corresponding increases in inventory levels can cause an inappropriate rise in current liabilities if growth isn’t made wisely.

 8).  Total Liabilities to Net Worth

 Total Liabilities to Net Worth = Total Liabilities/Net Worth

 Interpretation:  Total liabilities to net worth are obtained by dividing total current liabilities plus long-term and deferred liabilities by net worth.  The effect of long-term (funded) debt on a business can be determined by comparing this ratio with Current Liabilities to Net Worth.  The difference will pinpoint the relative size of long-term debt, which, if sizable, can burden a firm with substantial interest charges.  In general, total liabilities shouldn’t exceed net worth (100 percent) since in such cases creditors have more at stake then owners.

 9).  Fixed Assets to Net Worth

 Fixed Assets to Net Worth = Fixed Assets/Net Worth

 Interpretation:  Fixed assets to net worth comes from fixed assets divided by net worth.  The proportion of net worth that consists of fixed assets will vary greatly from industry to industry but generally a smaller proportion is desirable.  A high ratio is unfavorable because heavy investment in fixed assets indicates that either the concern has a low net working capital and is over-trading or has utilized large funded debt to supplement working capital.  Also, the larger the fixed assets, the bigger the annual depreciation charge that must be deducted from the income statement.  Normally, fixed assets about 75 percent of net worth indicate possible over-investment and should be examined with care.

 Calculate and Interpret Efficiency Ratios

 10).  Collection Period

 Collection period = Accounts Receivable/Sales X 365 days

 Interpretation:  Collection period comes from accounts receivable divided by sales and then multiplied by 365 days.  The quality of the receivables of a company can be determined by this relationship when compared with selling terms and industry norms.  In some industries where credit sales are not the normal way of doing business, the percentage of cash sales should be taken into consideration.  Generally, where most sales are for credit, any collection period more than one-third over normal selling terms (40.0 for 30- day terms) is indicative of some slow-turning receivables.  When comparing the collection period of one concern with that of another, allowances should be made for possible variations in selling terms.

11).  Sales to Inventory

 Sales to Inventory = Annual Net sales/Inventory

 Interpretation:  Sales to inventory is obtained by dividing annual net sales by inventory.  Inventory control is a prime management objective since poor controls allow inventory to become costly to store, obsolete or insufficient to meet demands.  The sales-to-inventory relationship is a guide to the rapidity at which merchandise is being moved and the effect on the flow of funds into the business.  This ratio varies widely between lines of business and a company’s figure is only meaningful when compared with industry norms.  Individual figures that are outside either the upper or lower quartiles for a given industry should be examined with care.  Although low figures are usually the biggest problem, as they indicate excessively high inventories, extremely high turnovers might reflect insufficient merchandise to meet customer demand and result in lost sales.

 12).  Asset to Sales

 Asset to Sales = Total Assets/Net Sales

 Interpretation:  Assets to sales is calculated by dividing total assets by annual net sales.  This ratio ties in sales and the total investment that is used to generate those sales.  While figures vary greatly from industry to industry, by comparing a company’s ratio with industry norms it can be determined whether a firm is over-trading (handling an excessive volume of sales in relation to investment) or under-trading (not generating sufficient sales to warrant the assets invested).  Abnormally low percentages (above the upper quartile) can indicate over-trading, which may lead to financial difficulties if not corrected.  Extremely high percentages (below the lower quartile) can be the result of overly conservative or poor sales management, indicating a more aggressive sales policy may need to be followed.

 13).  Sales to Net Working Capital

 Sales to Net Working Capital = Sales/Net Working Capital

 Interpretation:  Net sales are divided by net working capital (net working capital is current assets minus current liabilities).  This relationship indicates whether a company is over-trading or conversely carrying more liquid assets than needed for its volume.  Each new industry can vary substantially and it is necessary to compare a company with its peers to see if it is either over-trading on its available funds or being overly conservative.  Companies with substantial sales gains often reach a level where their working capital becomes strained.  Even if they maintain an adequate total investment for the volume being generated (assets to sales), that investment may be so centered in fixed assets or other non-current items that it will be difficult to continue meeting all current obligations without additional investment or reducing sales.

14).  Accounts Payable to Sales

 Accounts Payable to Sales = Accounts Payable/Annual Net Sales

 Interpretation:  Accounts payable to sales is computed by dividing accounts payable by annual net sales.  This ratio measures how the company is paying its suppliers in relation to the volume being transacted.  An increasing percentage, or one larger than the industry norm, indicates the firm may be using suppliers to help finance operations.  This ratio is especially important to short-term creditors since high percentage could indicate potential problems in paying vendors.