How to Analyze a Balance Sheet?

Because it offers useful insights into a company's financial status and assists stakeholders in making decisions, balance sheet analysis is unavoidably important. It helps to assess the liquidity and solvency position of the company and to compare them with industry standards in order to evaluate the financial success.

How to Analyze a Balance Sheet?

What is a Balance Sheet?

A balance sheet is a type of financial statement that shows the financial situation of a business at a particular point in time. It offers a summary of a company's equity, liabilities, and assets. Since the simple balance sheet equation is Assets = Liabilities + Equity, the structure covers these three elements and has a detailed financial examination of the company by showing these three necessary components’ specific subsections. The equation also implies that a company's total assets must always equal the sum of its liabilities and equity.

The balance sheet is a fundamental tool for creditors, investors, and other stakeholders to evaluate a company's financial standing. The main outputs of a balance sheet analysis include the accurate evaluation of liquidity, solvency, and financial performance and its assistance in the decision-making process of investing.

By checking out both the liquidity and solvency ratios, a company's balance sheet provides decisive details regarding its financial performance throughout time. Also, a company's assets, liabilities, and equity can fluctuate over time, which stakeholders can monitor by comparing the balance sheet from one period to the next. Additionally, they can calculate other financial ratios such as profitability or turnover ratios which are different from the ones related to liquidity and solvency in order to figure out the financial performance and risk of a company.

As it is previously mentioned, a balance sheet helps to calculate various ratios which can be used to assess a company's financial situation and health as well as to assess how it stacks up against competitors in the same sector. Stakeholders and investors can decide whether to invest in the company, lend it money, or conduct business with it by assessing these ratios.

As it is stated earlier, the basic structure of balance sheets consists of assets, liabilities, and equity. Before analyzing the balance sheet, a careful understanding of these parts should be conducted.


The resources that a firm owns or controls and that can be used to provide future economic advantages are listed in the assets portion of a balance sheet. The most liquid assets, including cash and marketable securities, are placed first in an asset list since they are the most liquid, and the ones that are least liquid such as property, plant, and equipment or depreciation will be located at the last section of the assets part. The common subparts of the assets can be summarized as follow;

  • Current Assets: These are assets that are anticipated to be converted into cash within one year or, if that period is greater, within the company's operational cycle. Cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, inventories, and pre-paid expenses are a few examples of current assets.
  • Marketable Securities: These are investments that are simple to sell or exchange on open markets. Stocks, bonds, and other securities that the corporation plans to sell in the upcoming year are some examples. In other words, short-term securities can be considered as the marketable securities of the firm.
  • Property, Plant, and Equipment: These are tangible resources that the business possesses and uses to manufacture its goods or render its services. For instance, land, buildings, equipment, and vehicles can be stated as a company’s PPE.
  • Intangible Assets: These are assets that do not actually exist but have worth because of the legal or financial rights they provide. A license, patent, trademark, copyright, or goodwill might be examples.
  • Other assets: All assets that do not fall under the aforementioned categories are included in this category such as deferred tax assets, affiliate investments, and long-term receivables.

These parts of the balance sheet’s asset category contain crucial details regarding the company's liquidity and capacity to produce future financial gains. For example, if a business has a lot of cash and cash equivalents, it might be able to settle its debts and make investments in new possibilities. Likewise, a business may be able to create more goods and bring in more money in the future if it has a lot of property, plant, and equipment. On the contrary, the same business runs the danger of losing money and losing value over time if it has an excessive number of non-generating or hard-to-sell assets. These assumptions can only be made through the precise analysis of the balance sheet and evaluation of asset management.


All of a company's debts to other parties are listed in the liabilities section of the balance sheet. These commitments might relate to loans, taxes, wages, and other costs that the business has incurred but not yet covered. The liabilities that are due the soonest are normally listed first, in order of maturity. As a result, similar to the assets part, short-term obligations come first in the liabilities section whereas the debt which has a longer time to maturity can be listed at the end. The main liability types can be noted as follow:

  • Current Liabilities: These debts must be paid off within a year or the length of the business's operational cycle, whichever is longer. Examples include short-term loans, accumulated expenses, and accounts payable.
  • Long-term Debt: These debts have due dates that are more than a year out from the balance sheet's creation. Long-term loans, notes payable, and bonds are a few examples.
  • Deferred Revenues: These funds represent sums that a business has received but not yet realized. Customers' deposits and upfront subscription fees are a couple of such examples.
  • Other Liabilities: All obligations that do not fall under one of the categories above are included in this category. Deferred tax responsibilities, lease commitments, and obligations under pension plans are a few examples.

It is vital to remember that the liabilities portion of the balance sheet contains important details regarding the obligations and capacity of a firm to meet its financial obligations. For instance, if a business has a lot of current liabilities, it might need to produce more cash flow to pay its debts in the near future. In addition, a business may require consistent cash flow generation if it has a significant amount of long-term debt in order to make payments on that debt over time.

Also, the balance sheet's liabilities column might reveal information about a company's creditworthiness and financial health. To exemplify this ability of the liability section, assume a company with a high debt-to-equity ratio. This ratio can be computed by dividing the total liabilities by the total shareholders’ equity; therefore, the data should be obtained from the balance sheet of that company. This high debt/equity ratio may show a risky position to lenders and investors. On the other hand, a corporation may be viewed as financially solid and able to withstand economic downturns if it has a low debt-to-equity ratio and a sizable quantity of equity.

As a result of these implications, the balance sheet's liabilities section is an essential part of financial reporting since it informs creditors, investors, and other stakeholders about a company's financial obligations and ability to fulfill them. Stakeholders can learn more about a company's creditworthiness, financial health, and capacity to produce future cash flows by examining the liabilities part of the balance sheet.


The remaining worth of a company's assets after all liabilities have been settled is shown in the equity column of a balance sheet. In other terms, equity is the ownership stake in the assets of the business. Depending on the legal structure of the organization, equity is frequently referred to as shareholders' equity or owner’s equity. The main components of the equity section can be categorized as follow:

  • Paid-in Capital: This is the sum of money that the business has raised from investors in exchange for stock in the enterprise. Common stock, preferred stock, and additional paid-in capital can be considered in this part. Preferred stock refers to the distributed dividends with a fixed amount of payment whereas common stock is distributed from the amount left after all liabilities and preferred stockholders’ payments are made.
  • Retained Earnings: This is the total earnings that the company has generated during the course of its existence, less any dividends or payments made to shareholders. The corporation may invest its retained earnings in the future or use them to settle the debt. Moreover, the retained earnings will constitute the beginning balance of the balance sheet for the next accounting period.
  • Accumulated other comprehensive income: This indicates gains or losses that aren't accounted for in the company's net income, including changes in the market value of assets that are currently on the market or adjustments for currency conversion.
  • Treasury Stock: This is a representation of shares of the company's stock that the business has repurchased and is holding as an investment. This portion of the shares will not be available to trade publicly.

There are several reasons why the analysis of the equity part of a balance sheet is important. The first reason behind this emphasis is the fact that it gives information about the company's financial health and value because it shows the remaining value of the company's assets after all liabilities are settled. For shareholders and potential investors who are concerned about the company's future prospects, it also serves to demonstrate the owners' interest in the business. Lastly, it offers details on the capital structure of the business, which may affect its future capacity for capital raising.

Key financial ratios including return on equity (ROE) and debt-to-equity ratio can be calculated by investors and analysts using the equity component of the balance sheet. These ratios can offer important information about the company's financial stability and potential for future returns. In general, the equity area of the balance sheet is a crucial part of financial reporting since it informs creditors, investors, and other stakeholders about the financial situation and ownership structure of a company.  

Ratio Analysis

A balance sheet's financial ratios are calculated and interpreted using the data in the balance sheet. This is known as ratio analysis. By contrasting various financial measures and ratios, ratio analysis aids investors and analysts in developing a deeper knowledge of a company's financial performance and health. Ratio analysis can assist uncover trends, strengths, and weaknesses in a company's financial position by examining the relationship between various financial data.

Ratio analysis makes it possible to compare financial data over multiple time periods, between different businesses in the same industry or sector, or against averages for the industry. This provides a perception for analysts and investors to assess a company's performance over time and to pinpoint its areas of strength and weakness in comparison to competing companies.

They can also be used to exhibit the parts of a firm that are running well, like its control over its assets, liabilities, and expenses. Companies can take remedial action to enhance their financial performance and profitability by discovering inefficiencies.

By examining past trends and speculating on future development and profitability, ratio analysis can be beneficial to forecast future financial performance. This can assist analysts and investors in making wise choices about potential investment possibilities in the future.

Although there are numerous ratios and metrics, a basic grouping of financial ratios can be made as liquidity ratios, solvency ratios, and profitability ratios.

Liquidity Ratios

A sort of financial statistic known as a liquidity ratio assesses a company's capacity to use its current assets to pay its short-term debts. Therefore, liquidity ratios aid analysts and investors in determining a company's ability to pay its debts as they become due and help their decision-making process regarding whether this company is a beneficial investment opportunity in the short run or not.

The financial health of a corporation can be assessed using a variety of different liquidity ratios which can be listed as follow:

  • Current Ratio: By dividing a company's current assets by its current liabilities, the current ratio can be found. This ratio gauges how well a business can use its existing assets to pay down its short-term debts. The widespread consensus is that a corporation can satisfy its short-term obligations if its current ratio is 1 or above.
  • Quick Ratio: The quick ratio, commonly referred to as the acid-test ratio, is computed by dividing the inventory deducted current assets by the current liabilities of a business. Due to the exclusion of inventory, which may be difficult to convert into cash, this ratio offers a more conservative assessment of a company's capacity to pay off its short-term loans. Similar to the current ratio limitation, it is thought that a corporation can pay its short-term obligations if its quick ratio is 1 or greater.
  • Cash Ratio: By dividing a company's cash and cash equivalents by its current obligations, the cash ratio is determined. Since this ratio only takes the company's most liquid assets into account, it offers the most cautious assessment of its capacity to pay down short-term loans. Just like all other liquidity ratios, the well-known information about this calculation is that a corporation can satisfy its short-term obligations if it has a cash ratio of 1 or above.

Because it has more readily available cash and other liquid assets to pay off its debts, a firm with a high liquidity ratio is generally thought to be in a stronger financial situation than a corporation with a low liquidity ratio. However, a high liquidity ratio may not always be a reliable indicator of long-term financial health, thus it is paramount to remember that liquidity ratios should be used in agreement with other types of financial research.

Solvency Ratios

The financial metrics referred to as solvency ratios assess a company's capacity to use its assets to satisfy its long-term obligations. In other words, while liquidity ratios are examining the company’s capability of compensating for its short-term obligations, solvency ratios show the long-term picture of the company. The main solvency ratios can be counted as debt-to-equity, debt-to-assets, and interest coverage ratios.

  • Debt/Equity Ratio: Divide the total debt of a firm by the equity held by its shareholders to arrive at the debt-to-equity ratio. This ratio adjusts the degree to which a business relies on debt financing to fund its operations. A company's reliance on debt funding is indicated by a larger debt-to-equity ratio, which can raise the riskiness of its financial activities.
  • Debt/Assets Ratio: By dividing an organization's entire liabilities by its total assets, the debt-to-assets ratio is determined. The debt-financed portion of a company's assets is gauged by this ratio. An organization's financial risk may increase if its debt-to-assets ratio is larger, which shows that it has more debt in comparison to its assets.
  • Interest Coverage Ratio: A company's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) divided by interest expense yields the interest coverage ratio. The ability of a business to cover its interest costs out of earnings is measured by this ratio. A firm is less risky if it has a better interest coverage ratio, which shows that its earnings outweigh its interest costs.

As can be seen from the definitions, the solvency ratios are directly related to the risk level a company has, and they aid analysts and investors in assessing a company's capacity to utilize its assets to satisfy its long-term obligations. Because it has more assets available to cover its debts over the long term, a company with a high solvency ratio is typically thought to be in a stronger financial situation than a company with a low solvency ratio except in special circumstances. Moreover, as we also observed from the liquidity ratios, these computations can only be meaningful by their synchronized usage with industry averages and other financially analyzed outputs. In addition, despite its ability to express a long-term position, a high solvency ratio cannot always be a reliable sign of immediate and short-run financial stability or profitability.  

Profitability Ratios

A company's capacity to make a profit in relation to its revenue, assets, and equity is assessed by profitability ratios. Profitability ratios assist analysts and investors in determining how effectively a company uses its resources to produce a profit. Some of the widely used profitability ratios are gross profit margin, return on assets (ROA), and return on equity (ROE).

  • Gross Profit Margin: By dividing a company's gross profit (revenue less cost of goods sold) by its revenue, the gross profit margin is determined. This ratio calculates the proportion of revenue that a business keeps after subtracting the cost of goods sold. A corporation can make more money from its goods or services if its gross profit margin is bigger. 
  • Return on Assets (ROA): A company's net profit is divided by its total assets in order to detect its return on assets. This ratio quantifies how effectively a business uses its resources to turn a profit. If a firm’s ROA is higher relative to other firms in the same industry or to the past ROA evaluations of its own, it means that it is able to produce more profit per unit of assets.
  • Return on Equity (ROE): The return on equity of a company can be found by dividing its net profit by its shareholders' equity. This ratio evaluates how effectively a business turns equity into profits. A company that has a higher ROE can produce more profit per dividend it has distributed.

Profitability ratios are important statistics because they enable analysts and investors to assess a company's capacity to make a profit in relation to its available resources. Due to its ability to extract more profit from its resources, similar to previous ratios, a company with high profitability ratios is typically thought to be in a stronger financial situation than one with low profitability ratios. However, since profitability is usually related to short-term performance and financial health, these ratios should not be used individually in order not to reach a misleading conclusion that does not reflect the long-term situation of the company. 

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