What Is Financial Leverage, and Why Is It Important?

financial leverage meaning

Financial leverage refers to the use of borrowed capital to increase the potential return on investments. It involves using debt financing, such as loans or bonds, to buy assets or invest in projects, which expect to generate higher returns than the cost of borrowing. The debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio measures the amount of debt a business has relative to its equity.

Businesses with higher production costs also tend to run higher debt-to-equity ratios than most others. While leverage magnifies profits when the returns from the asset more than offset the costs of borrowing, leverage may also magnify losses. A corporation that borrows too much money might face bankruptcy or default during a business downturn, while a less-leveraged corporation might survive.

How to calculate leverage in investing

In the case of a cash flow loan, the general creditworthiness of the company is used to back the loan. For example, if a public company has total assets valued at $500 million and shareholder equity valued at $250 million, then the equity multiplier is 2.0 ($500 million ÷ $250 million). Instead of looking at what the company owns, it can measure leverage by looking strictly at how assets have been financed. The debt-to-equity (D/E) ratio is used to compare what the company has borrowed compared to what it has raised from private investors or shareholders. The interest coverage ratio measures a business’s ability to meet its interest payments on its debt. It is calculated by dividing the earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) by the interest expense.

This may happen exactly at a time when there is little market liquidity, i.e. a paucity of buyers, and sales by others are depressing prices. It means that as market price falls, leverage goes up in relation to the revised equity value, multiplying losses as prices continue to go down. This can lead to rapid ruin, for even if the underlying asset value decline is mild or temporary[7] the debt-financing may be only short-term, and thus due for immediate repayment.

Interest coverage ratio

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  • It shows how much a firm’s EPS will increase or decrease for a given percentage change in its EBIT.
  • By using loans and lines of credit, both of which have tax-deductible interest, the company’s use of leverage is even more beneficial.
  • Financial leverage which is also known as leverage or trading on equity, refers to the use of debt to acquire additional assets.
  • Because it can take a while to save enough money to meet some brokerages’ or mutual funds’ investment minimums, you might use this approach to get a lump sum to build a portfolio right away.
  • Labor-intensive companies have fewer fixed costs but require greater human capital for the production process.

Being highly leveraged (meaning you carry a lot of debt) can overburden your cash flow because you have to make payments toward those debts every month. The company could have continued its operations without leveraging debt to obtain those new assets, but its profit wouldn’t have doubled. Instead, it leveraged the loan money it borrowed to become a bigger, more profitable operation than it was before. The degree of financial leverage (DFL) indicates how sensitive a firm’s earnings per share (EPS) are to changes in its EBIT.

Related Terms

Business credit may be required when applying for loans, lines of credit and business credit cards. Repaying them as promised can help your business build credit, but falling behind can drag down its score. That can impact your ability to get approved for financing for your business in the future.

It shows how much a firm’s EPS will increase or decrease for a given percentage change in its EBIT. A high DFL means that a firm’s EPS will change significantly for a small change in its EBIT, which implies higher risk and volatility. A low DFL means that a firm’s EPS will change moderately for a large change in its EBIT, which implies lower risk and stability. The DFL depends on the level of debt and interest in a firm’s capital structure.

Debt-to-Equity (D/E) Ratio

This may require additional attention to one’s portfolio and contribution of additional capital should their trading account not have a sufficient amount of equity per their broker’s requirement. The DFL is calculated by dividing the percentage change of a company’s financial leverage meaning earnings per share (EPS) by the percentage change in its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) over a period. Examples of financial leverage usage include using debt to buy a house, borrowing money from the bank to start a store and bonds issued by companies.

financial leverage meaning

It’s characterised by periods of high borrowing in an economy, which lead to price bubbles, followed by a deleveraging process and economic meltdowns, such as the global financial crisis of 2008. Financial leverage follows the straightforward definition of leveraged discussed so far. Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success.