Debt to Equity (D/E) Ratio: Explained

What is it, how to calculate it, formula, why it's important

As a CFO, I've seen that one of the most important financial ratios used in analyzing a company's financial health is the Debt to Equity (D/E) ratio. It helps investors understand how well the company is handling its debt and making use of equity.

The D/E ratio is a very simple calculation, but its implications are vast. The ratio is calculated by dividing a company's total liabilities (including long-term and short-term debt) by its total shareholder equity.

Why Is The D/E Ratio Important?

The D/E ratio is important because it tells investors how much debt the company is using to finance its operations and how much of the company's assets are financed by shareholders. A high D/E ratio indicates that a company has taken on a lot of debt, which can be risky. A low D/E ratio means that the company is using a significant portion of its own money to finance its operations, which can be a good sign for investors.

For example, if a company has a D/E ratio of 1, it means that the company is using as much debt as it is using equity to finance its operations. A D/E ratio of 2 would mean that the company is using twice as much debt to finance its operations as it is using equity.

More generally, a D/E ratio of less than 1 indicates that the company is using more equity than debt to finance its operations, while a D/E ratio of more than 1 indicates that the opposite is true.

How Do You Interpret The D/E Ratio?

The interpretation of the D/E ratio is heavily dependent on the industry in which the company operates. For example, a company in the utilities industry may have a higher D/E ratio than a company in the information technology industry. This is because utility companies have high fixed costs and high levels of debt are required to finance their operations.

Another important factor to consider is the market conditions that the company is operating in. For example, if interest rates are very low, a company may be able to handle high levels of debt more easily.

Generally speaking, a low D/E ratio is considered better than a high D/E ratio. This is because a low D/E ratio indicates that a company is using more of its own money to finance operations, which means that it is less risky for investors. However, it's important to keep in mind that a low D/E ratio isn't always better. If a company is in a growth phase and needs to finance significant capital expenditures, it may need to take on more debt to do so.


The D/E ratio is a simple yet powerful metric that can be used to evaluate a company's financial health. As a CFO, I believe that it's important to use this ratio in conjunction with other financial metrics to get a complete picture of a company's financial health.

Investors who understand the D/E ratio and how to use it will be in a better position to make informed investment decisions.

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