What Are Financial Ratios?

1 minutes reading time
Published 25 Apr 2023
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson
Updated 29 Apr 2024

Financial ratios are essential tools used by businesses, investors, and analysts to assess the financial health and performance of a company. These ratios provide valuable insights into various aspects of a company's operations, allowing stakeholders to make informed decisions. This article seeks to explain what financial ratios are, the five key financial ratios, the most important ratio, and how to analyze them.

Key Insights

  • Financial ratios are essential tools for assessing a company's financial health and performance, providing insights into its profitability, efficiency, and solvency.

  • Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) is often considered the most important financial ratio due to its focus on capital efficiency, reflection of true profitability, consideration of long-term perspective, and alignment with shareholder value creation.

  • Analyzing financial ratios involves comparing them to industry benchmarks, tracking trends over time, considering industry-specific factors, and analyzing multiple ratios together.

What do financial ratios mean?

Financial ratios are mathematical calculations that compare different financial figures to one another. They provide a quantitative representation of a company's financial position, profitability, efficiency, and other key aspects. By analyzing financial ratios, stakeholders can gain a deeper understanding of a company's strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance. These ratios serve as valuable benchmarks for evaluating a company's performance against its industry peers or historical data.

Five common financial ratios

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios measure a company's ability to meet its short-term financial obligations. The most commonly used liquidity ratio is the current ratio, which is calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities. A higher current ratio indicates a better ability to cover short-term liabilities.

Profitability Ratios

Profitability ratios assess a company's ability to generate profits in relation to its revenue, assets, or equity. The gross profit margin, net profit margin, and return on assets (ROA) are some of the key profitability ratios. These ratios help stakeholders understand how efficiently a company is utilizing its resources to generate profits.

Efficiency Ratios

Efficiency ratios evaluate how effectively a company utilizes its assets and liabilities. Inventory turnover ratio, receivables turnover ratio, and asset turnover ratio are examples of efficiency ratios. These ratios provide insights into a company's management of its resources and its operational efficiency.

Solvency Ratios

Solvency ratios analyze a company's long-term financial stability and its ability to meet long-term debt obligations. The debt-to-equity ratio, interest coverage ratio, and debt ratio are commonly used solvency ratios. These ratios help stakeholders assess a company's leverage and its capacity to handle debt.

Market Ratios

Market ratios, also called valuation metrics, evaluate a company's valuation in the financial markets. The price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-sales (P/S) ratio, and dividend yield are examples of market ratios. These ratios are important for investors, as they provide insights into how the market values the company and its future growth potential.

The Most Important Financial Ratio

While several financial ratios play a crucial role in analyzing a company's performance simultaneously, one ratio often stands out as the most important – return on invested capital (ROIC). ROIC is often considered one of the most important financial ratios due to its ability to provide insights into a company's profitability and efficiency in generating returns for its investors. There are several reasons why ROIC holds such significance, some of which are:

  • Focuses on Capital Efficiency: ROIC measures how effectively a company utilizes its invested capital to generate profits. It takes into account both equity and debt capital, providing a comprehensive assessment of how efficiently the company uses its resources. By considering the total invested capital, ROIC offers a holistic view of the company's performance.

  • Reflects True Profitability: ROIC takes into account not only the income statement but also the balance sheet. It considers the capital employed in the business, which includes both equity and debt. By including the cost of debt in the calculation, ROIC reflects the true profitability of the company, accounting for the cost of capital.

  • Considers Long-Term Perspective: ROIC focuses on the long-term sustainability of a company's profitability. It assesses the returns generated over a period of time and relates them to the capital invested. This long-term perspective helps investors and stakeholders understand how well a company is utilizing its resources to generate consistent returns.

ROIC is valuable for both internal and external stakeholders. It helps company management evaluate the effectiveness of their investments and make informed decisions about resource allocation. External stakeholders, such as investors and creditors, rely on ROIC to assess the profitability and the competitive advantages of a company.

Analyzing financial ratios

Analyzing financial ratios involves comparing them to industry benchmarks, historical data, or competitors' ratios. Here are some steps to effectively analyze financial ratios:

  • Collect and Calculate Ratios: Gather the necessary financial information from a company's financial statements, such as the balance sheet and income statement. Calculate the relevant financial ratios using the appropriate formulas.

  • Compare with Benchmarks: Compare the calculated ratios with industry averages or benchmarks to identify areas of strength or weakness. Deviations from industry norms can indicate potential areas for improvement or competitive advantage.

  • Track Trends: Analyze the ratios over time to identify trends and patterns. This helps stakeholders understand the company's performance trajectory and whether it is improving or deteriorating.

  • Consider Industry Factors: Take into account industry-specific factors that may influence the ratios. Industries differ in their capital requirements, growth rates, and profit margins, so it's important to consider these factors while interpreting ratios.

  • Use Multiple Ratios: Analyze multiple ratios together to gain a comprehensive understanding of a company's financial health. Ratios should be considered in conjunction with each other rather than in isolation.


Financial ratios provide valuable insights into a company's financial performance, profitability, efficiency, and solvency. By analyzing these ratios, stakeholders can make informed decisions about investing, lending, or partnering with a company. While various ratios are important for assessing different aspects of a company's performance, the return on invested capital (ROIC) ratio stands out as a key indicator. Effective analysis of financial ratios involves comparing them with industry benchmarks, tracking trends over time, and considering industry-specific factors. By utilizing financial ratios appropriately, stakeholders can gain a deeper understanding of a company's financial standing and make well-informed decisions.

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