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by 5paisa Research Team Last Updated: 2023-06-01T18:03:48+05:30
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Gearing ratio is a financial metric used to measure a company's level of financial leverage. It is a key financial indicator that shows the proportion of a company's debt to its equity capital. The ratio indicates the extent to which a company's operations are financed through debt or equity. The gearing ratio helps investors and analysts understand a company's financial health and ability to meet its financial obligations. This ratio is commonly used by lenders and investors to assess the creditworthiness of a company, as well as its ability to repay debt in the future. In this sense, the gearing ratio plays an important role in determining a company's creditworthiness and overall financial stability.

What is Gearing Ratio?

Gearing Ratio, also known as the leverage ratio, is a financial metric that measures the degree of a company's financial leverage. It is used to assess the company's long-term solvency by analyzing the proportion of the company's equity and debt financing.

In simpler terms, the gearing ratio measures the amount of debt a company has in relation to its equity or shareholder funds. It is expressed as a percentage or a ratio and indicates the extent to which the company's operations are funded by external debt.
 

Understanding Gearing Ratio

A high gearing ratio indicates that the company is relying heavily on debt financing to fund its operations, while a low gearing ratio indicates that the company is using more equity financing. A moderate level of gearing is generally considered desirable, as it suggests a balance between the use of equity and debt financing.
The gearing ratio is an important indicator of a company's financial health and stability. It is closely monitored by investors, lenders, and other stakeholders to assess the company's ability to service its debt obligations and generate sufficient returns for its shareholders.

Uses of Gearing

The gearing ratio is a widely used financial ratio that provides valuable information about a company's financial structure and the extent to which it relies on debt financing to support its operations. Some of the key uses of the gearing ratio are:

By lenders

The gearing ratio is an important metric that lenders and creditors use to evaluate a company's creditworthiness. A high gearing ratio may signal a higher risk of default, which may make it more difficult for a company to secure financing or favorable loan terms. Conversely, a low gearing ratio may make a company more attractive to lenders and creditors as it signals a lower risk of default.

Comparison tool

The gearing ratio is useful for comparing companies in the same industry or sector. Companies with similar operations and revenue streams should have similar gearing ratios, so a comparison can help identify companies that are more or less leveraged relative to their peers. This information can be used to evaluate a company's competitive position and financial strategy.

By investors

The gearing ratio helps investors and analysts assess a company's financial risk by providing a measure of its leverage. A high gearing ratio indicates that the company has a large amount of debt relative to its equity, which increases its financial risk and vulnerability to changes in interest rates and economic conditions. On the other hand, a low gearing ratio indicates a conservative financial structure that is less reliant on debt financing.

Planning capital structure

The gearing ratio is an essential tool for companies to use in planning their capital structure. A company may use the gearing ratio to assess the impact of taking on additional debt or issuing new equity. By analyzing different scenarios and their impact on the gearing ratio, a company can develop a capital structure that balances its need for financing with its financial risk tolerance.

How to calculate the net gearing ratio

The net gearing ratio is a financial metric used to evaluate a company's financial leverage. It compares the total debt (including both long-term and short-term debt as well as bank overdrafts) to the total shareholders' equity. The gearing ratio formula is:

Net Gearing Ratio = (Long-Term Debt + Short-Term Debt + Bank Overdrafts) / Shareholders’ Equity

The gearing ratio calculation can be useful for investors and lenders when assessing a company's financial health and risk profile. It can also help a company's management team determine whether they need to take steps to reduce their reliance on debt financing.
 

Debt-to-Equity ratio: the most common gearing ratio

The gearing ratio is a financial metric that measures the proportion of debt and equity that a company is using to finance its operations. It provides a snapshot of a company's financial health by comparing the amount of long-term and short-term debt with shareholders' equity. This ratio is also known as the net gearing ratio or financial leverage.


In the United States, the gearing ratio is often referred to as financial leverage, while in the United Kingdom, it is commonly known as the capital gearing ratio. The net gearing ratio is calculated by dividing the total debt, including long-term debt, short-term debt, and bank overdrafts, by the shareholders' equity. It is expressed as a percentage and indicates how much of the company's equity would be required to pay off all outstanding debts.

Example of how to use gearing ratios

Here’s a gearing ration example:

Let's say there is a company with a debt ratio of 0.6, which indicates its financial structure is more debt-heavy than equity. However, to get a better understanding of the company's financial health, it's important to compare this ratio with other companies in the same industry.

For instance, suppose the same company had a debt ratio of 0.3 in the previous year, and the industry average is 0.8, while the main competitor has a debt ratio of 0.9. By comparing the company's gearing ratio with its competitors, one can get more information about how well it is performing in the industry. In this case, a company with a debt ratio of 0.3 would be performing better than its peers as the industry average ratio is 0.8, and the competitor's ratio is 0.9.
 

Good and Bad Gearing Ratios

The appropriate gearing ratio for a firm will vary depending on the industry, stage of the business life cycle, and financial objectives of the business. To assess the company's financial stability and amount of risk, there are various broad principles that may be applied:


A gearing ratio of more than 50% implies that the firm has a significant amount of debt in relation to its equity. This is often seen as a high-risk condition since the firm is prone to loan defaults and bankruptcy, particularly during economic downturns or periods of high-interest rates. A high gearing ratio indicates that the firm is significantly reliant on borrowing to fund its operations, which may put an additional strain on its cash flow.

For well-established businesses, a gearing ratio of 25% to 50% is considered ideal or average. Such businesses are more likely to have a consistent cash flow and strong credit ratings, making it simpler for them to get funding in favorable conditions. When compared to companies with high gearing ratios, they are less vulnerable to loan defaults and bankruptcy. 

A gearing ratio of less than 25% is typically seen as low-risk by both investors and lenders. Such firms have a comparatively low debt-to-equity ratio, implying that they rely less on borrowing to fund their operations. This might imply that the firm has substantial cash reserves or produces enough income to sustain its operations without depending substantially on debt. An extremely low gearing ratio, on the other hand, may indicate that the firm is passing up prospects for growth by not leveraging its assets through borrowing.

What does the gearing ratio say about risk?

The gearing ratio is an important financial metric that indicates the level of financial risk a company is taking. A high gearing ratio means that a larger proportion of the company's capital structure is funded by debt, which makes the company more vulnerable to fluctuations in interest rates, changes in economic conditions, and other financial risks. As a result, a high gearing ratio generally indicates a higher level of financial risk for the company.

On the other hand, a low gearing ratio indicates that a smaller proportion of the company's capital structure is funded by debt, which means the company is less vulnerable to financial risks. This makes a low gearing ratio generally associated with lower financial risk.

Overall, the gearing ratio is an important measure of a company's financial risk, and investors and lenders often use it to assess the company's financial stability and creditworthiness.
 

How can companies reduce their gearing?

Companies can reduce their gearing or debt-to-equity ratio through various strategies, including:

Paying off debt

Companies can use their profits to pay down their debts, thereby reducing their outstanding liabilities.

Issuing equity

Companies can issue new shares to raise capital and reduce their reliance on debt. This approach can dilute the ownership stake of existing shareholders, but it can also make the company more attractive to potential investors.

Asset sales
Companies can sell off assets that are not essential to their operations to raise cash and pay down debt.

Refinancing
Companies can refinance their debt to take advantage of lower interest rates or longer repayment terms, which can help reduce their debt burden.

Cost-cutting measures
Companies can reduce their expenses, such as by cutting back on capital expenditures or reducing overhead costs, to improve their cash flow and pay down debt.

Pros and cons of gearing ratios

Pros

Helps in financial analysis

The gearing ratio is a key financial metric used to analyze the financial health of a company. It provides valuable insight into the proportion of debt and equity in a company's capital structure.

Access to capital

A company can use debt financing to raise capital for expansion and growth. Gearing ratios help determine how much debt the company can take on without putting the company at risk.

Tax benefits

Interest payments on debt are tax-deductible, which can lower a company's tax bill and increase its after-tax earnings.

Cons

Increased financial risk

High gearing ratios indicate a greater proportion of debt financing in the company's capital structure, which can increase the risk of financial distress, bankruptcy, and default.

Higher cost of capital

Debt financing comes with interest payments, which increase the overall cost of capital for a company. The more debt a company takes on, the higher the interest payments, which can impact the company's profitability.

Limited financial flexibility

Debt financing requires regular interest and principal payments, which can limit a company's financial flexibility. If the company's financial performance declines, it may not be able to make these payments, which can result in default or bankruptcy.

Negative impact on credit ratings

High levels of debt can negatively impact a company's credit ratings, making it more difficult and expensive to raise capital in the future.

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