Debt/EBITDA Ratio

A leverage ratio that measures a company’s ability to pay off its debt

What is the Net Debt to EBITDA Ratio?

The net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) ratio measures financial leverage and a company’s ability to pay off its debt. Essentially, the net debt to EBITDA ratio (debt/EBITDA) gives an indication as to how long a company would need to operate at its current level to pay off all its debt. The ratio is commonly used by credit rating agencies to determine the probability of a company defaulting on its debt.

 

Net Debt to EBITDA Ratio Formula

The net debt to EBITDA ratio formula is as follows:

 

Net Debt to EBITDA Ratio Formula (aka Debt/EBITDA)

 

Where:

  • Net debt is calculated as short-term debt + long-term debt – cash and cash equivalents.
  • EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

 

Practical Example of Net Debt to EBITDA Ratio

For example, McDonald’s Corporation reported the following figures for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2016:

 

Net Debt to EBITDA Ratio - McDonald's

 

The net debt to EBITDA ratio for McDonald’s is calculated as follows:

 

Net Debt to EBITDA - McDonald's (debt/ebitda)

 

Interpretation of the Debt/EBITDA Ratio

A low ratio of net debt/EBITDA is preferred by analysts as it indicates that the company is not excessively indebted and should be able to repay its debt obligations. Conversely, a high ratio of net debt/EBITDA indicates that a company is heavily burdened with debt. That situation would be reflected in the company’s credit rating and the company would be forced to offer higher yields on bonds to compensate for the higher default risk. For McDonald’s Corporation, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) assigned a credit rating of BBB+, Moody’s assigned a credit rating of Baa1, and Fitch assigned a credit rating of BBB:

 

McDonald's Credit Ratings - debt/ebitda

 

Generally, a net debt to EBITDA ratio above 4 or 5 is considered too high and is a cause for concern for rating agencies, investors, creditors, and analysts. However, the ratio varies depending on specific industries, as each industry differs greatly in capital requirements. As a result, it is best used to compare companies within the same industry. Typically, in a loan agreement made between the company and a lender, the company must remain at a certain net debt to EBITDA ratio.

 

Key Takeaways

  • The Net debt to EBITDA ratio measures a company’s ability to pay off debt with EBITDA.
  • The ratio is commonly used by credit rating agencies to assign a credit rating to a company.
  • A low ratio is preferred and indicates that the company is not excessively indebted.
  • A high ratio indicates that the company has high debt levels and may consequently result in a lower credit rating (therefore mandating the company offer higher yields on bonds).
  • An ideal debt/EBITDA ratio depends heavily on the industry, as industries vary greatly in terms of average capital requirements. However, a net debt to EBITDA ratio of greater than 5 is usually a cause for concern.
  • To ensure that a company is able to repay debt obligations, loan agreements typically specify covenants that dictate the range which a company’s debt/EBITDA ratio can fall under.

 

Related Readings

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