Going Concern Debt Ratios: Is the Firm Safe?

Corporate Finance Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, p. 25, November/December 2008

9 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2011  

Michael Palmer

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Finance

Thomas B. Sanders

University of Miami - Department of Finance

Date Written: November 1, 2008

Abstract

Traditionally, the maximum debt ratio of a balance sheet has been thought to be determined by the quality of total assets. That is, creditors want fewer other creditors (low debt ratio) when most of the assets are of lower quality (fixed assets). Conversely, higher debt ratios are tolerated by creditors when assets are of higher quality (primarily receivables). Thus, the credit markets will allow higher debt ratios for a finance company than they would for a heavy manufacturer. In this respect, a debt ratio is thought to be a liquidation ratio. That is, when corporate assets are liquidated by a bankrupt referee, higher quality assets will generate a larger quantity of proceeds than lower quality assets. Such an approach ignores the concept of a debt ratio as a going concern ratio. That is, how much do sales have to decline before earnings go negative. We demonstrate a simple method for determining degree of total leverage breakeven and whether or not the firm is safe. We demonstrate that debt ratios as compared with some industry benchmark can be poor indicators of firm safety.

Keywords: debt ratio, degree total leverage, degree of total leverage

JEL Classification: G21, G24, G32, B33

Suggested Citation

Palmer, Michael and Sanders, Thomas B., Going Concern Debt Ratios: Is the Firm Safe? (November 1, 2008). Corporate Finance Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, p. 25, November/December 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1815534

Michael Palmer

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Finance ( email )

Campus Box 419
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303-492-4241 (Phone)
303-492-5962 (Fax)

Thomas Benton Sanders (Contact Author)

University of Miami - Department of Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 248094
Coral Gables, FL 33124-6552
United States
904-445 9065 (Phone)

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