The proprietary ratio (also known as the equity ratio) is the proportion of shareholders’ equity to total assets, and as such provides a rough estimate of the amount of capitalization currently used to support a business. If the ratio is high, this indicates that a company has a sufficient amount of equity to support the functions of the business, and probably has room in its financial structure to take on additional debt, if necessary. Conversely, a low ratio indicates that a business may be making use of too much debt or trade payables, rather than equity, to support operations (which may place the company at risk of bankruptcy).
Thus, the equity ratio is a general indicator of financial stability. It should be used in conjunction with the net profit ratio and an examination of the statement of cash flows to gain a better overview of the financial circumstances of a business. These additional measures reveal the ability of a business to earn a profit and generate cash flows, respectively.
To calculate the proprietary ratio, divide total shareholders’ equity by total assets. The results will be more representative of the company’s true situation if you exclude goodwill and intangible assets. from the denominator.
The more restrictive version of the formula is:
Shareholders’ equity ÷ Total tangible assets
Significance and interpretation:
The proprietary ratio shows the contribution of stockholders’ in total capital of the company. A high proprietary ratio, therefore, indicates a strong financial position of the company and greater security for creditors. A low ratio indicates that the company is already heavily depending on debts for its operations. A large portion of debts in the total capital may reduce creditors interest, increase interest expenses and also the risk of bankruptcy.
Having a very high proprietary ratio does not always mean that the company has an ideal capital structure. A company with a very high proprietary ratio may not be taking full advantage of debt financing for its operations that is also not a good sign for the stockholders.