top of page

# Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio

## Understanding the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio

In the realm of financial analysis, the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is a critical metric that provides insight into a company's financial leverage and stability. This ratio, often employed by investors, analysts, and creditors, reflects the proportion of a company’s long-term debt to its total capitalization. By doing so, it serves as an indicator of how a company finances its operations and the degree to which it relies on debt relative to equity.

### The Importance of Analyzing Financial Leverage

Before delving into the specifics of the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio, it is essential to understand the concept of financial leverage. Financial leverage refers to the use of borrowed funds (debt) to finance the acquisition of assets with the expectation that the income or capital gains from the new assets will exceed the cost of borrowing. While leverage can amplify returns on equity, it also increases the potential risk of loss, especially if the assets do not generate the anticipated returns. Hence, understanding a company’s leverage through ratios like the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is pivotal for assessing its financial health and risk profile.

### Calculating the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio

The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is calculated using the following formula:

Here’s a breakdown of the components:

• Long-Term Debt: This includes all debt obligations that are due more than one year from the date of the balance sheet. It encompasses bonds, mortgages, and other forms of long-term loans.

• Total Equity: This represents the shareholders' equity, including common stock, preferred stock, and retained earnings.

This ratio is expressed as a percentage, with higher values indicating greater reliance on debt for financing. For example, a ratio of 40% implies that 40% of the company’s capital structure is composed of long-term debt, with the remaining 60% coming from equity.

### Interpreting the Ratio

The interpretation of the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio depends on several factors, including the industry in which the company operates, its growth stage, and its overall business strategy. Generally, a lower ratio suggests a conservative approach to financing, where the company relies more on equity than on debt. Conversely, a higher ratio indicates a more aggressive use of debt, which could potentially lead to higher returns but also increases financial risk.

### Practical Applications and Examples

To further illustrate the application of the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio, let’s consider a hypothetical company, ABC Corp., and analyze its financial statements.

#### Example Analysis: ABC Corp.

Assume ABC Corp. has \$500 million in long-term debt and \$1 billion in total equity. Using the formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio=

A 33.3% ratio indicates that one-third of ABC Corp.’s capital structure is financed by long-term debt, while the remaining two-thirds is financed by equity. If ABC Corp. operates in an industry where the average ratio is 40%, its lower ratio might be viewed positively by investors as a sign of financial conservatism.

#### 1. Apple Inc. (Technology Sector)

Financial Statements (in millions):

• Long-Term Debt: \$109,693

• Total Shareholders' Equity: \$45,671

• Total Capitalization: \$155,364

Formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = Long-Term Debt / Total Capitalization Calculation:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = \$109,693 / \$155,364 = 0.706 or 70.6%

Interpretation:

Apple has a long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio of 70.6%, indicating that a significant portion of its capital structure is financed through long-term debt. This high ratio suggests that Apple relies heavily on debt financing, which may increase its financial risk and vulnerability to economic downturns. However, Apple's strong brand recognition, market dominance, and consistent profitability may mitigate some of this risk.

#### 2. Exxon Mobil Corporation (Energy Sector)

Financial Statements (in millions):

• Long-Term Debt: \$46,300

• Total Shareholders' Equity: \$170,141

• Total Capitalization: \$216,441

Formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = Long-Term Debt / Total Capitalization

Calculation:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = \$46,300 / \$216,441 = 0.214 or 21.4%

Interpretation:

Exxon Mobil has a long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio of 21.4%, indicating that a relatively small portion of its capital structure is financed through long-term debt. This low ratio suggests that Exxon Mobil relies more on equity financing and has a lower financial risk compared to companies with higher debt levels. However, the energy sector is known for its capital-intensive nature and cyclical nature, which may require Exxon Mobil to adjust its financing strategy over time.

#### 3. Walmart Inc. (Consumer Staples Sector)

Financial Statements (in millions):

• Long-Term Debt: \$44,940

• Total Shareholders' Equity: \$79,616

• Total Capitalization: \$124,556

Formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = Long-Term Debt / Total Capitalization

Calculation:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = \$44,940 / \$124,556 = 0.361 or 36.1%

Interpretation:

Walmart has a long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio of 36.1%, indicating that a moderate portion of its capital structure is financed through long-term debt. This ratio suggests that Walmart maintains a balanced approach to financing, utilizing both debt and equity. As a large retailer with a stable cash flow, Walmart can support a certain level of debt while maintaining financial flexibility. However, the company should monitor its debt levels to ensure they remain manageable and aligned with its growth strategies.

#### 4. Johnson & Johnson (Healthcare Sector)

Financial Statements (in millions):

• Long-Term Debt: \$27,216

• Total Shareholders' Equity: \$67,144

• Total Capitalization: \$94,360

Formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = Long-Term Debt / Total Capitalization

Calculation:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = \$27,216 / \$94,360 = 0.288 or 28.8%

Interpretation:

Johnson & Johnson has a long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio of 28.8%, indicating that a relatively small portion of its capital structure is financed through long-term debt. As a diversified healthcare company with a strong market position and stable cash flows, Johnson & Johnson can support a moderate level of debt while maintaining financial flexibility. This ratio suggests that the company has room to increase its debt levels if needed to fund growth initiatives or strategic acquisitions.

#### 5. The Coca-Cola Company (Consumer Staples Sector)

Financial Statements (in millions):

• Long-Term Debt: \$35,410

• Total Shareholders' Equity: \$21,793

• Total Capitalization: \$57,203

Formula:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = Long-Term Debt / Total Capitalization

Calculation:

Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio = \$35,410 / \$57,203 = 0.619 or 61.9%

Interpretation:

The Coca-Cola Company has a long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio of 61.9%, indicating that a significant portion of its capital structure is financed through long-term debt. As a global beverage company with a strong brand and stable cash flows, Coca-Cola can support a higher level of debt compared to companies in more cyclical industries. However, the company should monitor its debt levels and ensure that they remain manageable, especially in the face of potential economic challenges or changes in consumer preferences.These examples demonstrate how the long-term debt-to-capitalization ratio can vary across different sectors and companies based on their financing strategies, growth prospects, and risk profiles. As an equity research analyst, it's important to consider this ratio in conjunction with other financial metrics and qualitative factors to assess a company's overall financial health and investment potential.

### Limitations and Considerations

While the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is a valuable tool for financial analysis, it is not without its limitations. One of the primary concerns is that the ratio does not account for the cost of debt or the terms of the debt. For instance, two companies might have the same ratio, but if one has higher interest rates or more restrictive covenants, it may be in a weaker financial position.

#### Non-Operational Debt

Additionally, the ratio does not differentiate between operational and non-operational debt. Companies might take on debt for various reasons, including acquisitions or restructuring. If a significant portion of debt is tied to non-operational activities, the ratio might not fully reflect the company’s operational risk.

#### Changes in Market Conditions

Lastly, the ratio is based on historical data and does not account for future changes in market conditions or the company’s business environment. A company with a high Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio might appear stable in a growing economy but could face significant challenges if the economy contracts or if interest rates rise.

### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio vs. Other Financial Ratios

#### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: A Recap

Before diving into the comparisons, let's briefly recap the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio. This ratio measures the proportion of a company’s long-term debt relative to its total capitalization, which includes both long-term debt and shareholders' equity. It provides insight into how much of the company’s operations are financed by debt versus equity, offering a glimpse into the company's leverage.

#### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio vs. Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The Debt-to-Equity Ratio is one of the most commonly used financial ratios, often compared to the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio. Both ratios measure a company’s leverage but do so from slightly different perspectives.

Calculation and Interpretation

• Debt-to-Equity Ratio: This ratio is calculated by dividing the company’s total debt (which can include both long-term and short-term debt) by its total equity.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: As previously discussed, this ratio focuses solely on long-term debt relative to the company’s total capitalization.

The key difference between these two ratios lies in their scope. The Debt-to-Equity Ratio includes all forms of debt (short-term and long-term), providing a broader view of the company’s leverage. In contrast, the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio zeroes in on long-term obligations, which are often more stable and reflective of the company’s strategic financing decisions.

• ##### Debt-to-Equity Ratio: This ratio is more useful for analyzing overall leverage, including the company’s short-term financing strategies. It’s often used to compare companies across different industries or to assess a company’s risk profile from a broad perspective.
• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: This ratio is better suited for understanding the company's long-term financial strategy, especially how it balances long-term debt against equity in its capital structure. It’s particularly useful when assessing a company's stability and long-term financial commitments.

#### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio vs. Interest Coverage Ratio

The Interest Coverage Ratio differs significantly from the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio in that it focuses on a company’s ability to meet its interest obligations, rather than its overall capital structure.

Calculation and Interpretation

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: As mentioned, this ratio evaluates the proportion of long-term debt in the capital structure.

The Interest Coverage Ratio measures a company’s ability to pay interest on its outstanding debt, providing insight into its short-term financial health and operational efficiency. In contrast, the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio offers a snapshot of the company’s leverage and long-term financial commitments.

##### Use Cases
• Interest Coverage Ratio: This ratio is crucial for creditors and lenders who are concerned with a company's ability to meet its interest payments in the short term. A higher ratio indicates a company is generating sufficient income to cover its interest expenses, reducing the risk of default.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: This ratio is more relevant for long-term investors and analysts interested in the company’s financial stability and leverage over time. It’s an essential metric for evaluating how a company balances debt and equity in its long-term capital structure.

#### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio vs. Debt-to-Assets Ratio

The Debt-to-Assets Ratio is another important leverage ratio that provides a different perspective on a company’s use of debt compared to the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio.

Calculation and Interpretation

• Debt-to-Assets Ratio: This ratio is calculated by dividing a company’s total debt by its total assets.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: Focuses on long-term debt relative to total capitalization (long-term debt plus equity).

The Debt-to-Assets Ratio offers a broader view of a company’s leverage, indicating the proportion of a company’s assets that are financed by debt. The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio, on the other hand, hones in on the relationship between long-term debt and equity, excluding short-term liabilities.

##### Use Cases
• Debt-to-Assets Ratio: This ratio is particularly useful for assessing a company’s solvency and long-term viability. It provides insight into how much of the company’s asset base is financed by debt, which is crucial for understanding its financial risk.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: Best for analyzing the company’s long-term financial structure, especially in terms of its strategic use of debt versus equity.

#### Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio vs. Equity Ratio

The Equity Ratio is a measure of the proportion of a company’s assets that are financed by shareholders’ equity, offering a contrast to the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio.

Calculation and Interpretation

• Equity Ratio: This ratio is calculated by dividing total equity by total assets.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: Focuses on the long-term debt component of the capital structure relative to equity.

The Equity Ratio indicates the proportion of a company’s assets that are funded by shareholders rather than debt, providing a view of financial health from an equity perspective. The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio, however, provides a more nuanced view by isolating long-term debt from short-term obligations and focusing on the balance between debt and equity in the capital structure.

##### Use Cases
• Equity Ratio: Useful for investors and analysts looking to understand how much of the company’s assets are owned outright by shareholders, as opposed to being financed by debt.

• Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio: Ideal for analyzing how the company uses long-term debt to finance its operations and growth relative to equity.

#### Comparative Analysis of Ratios: When to Use Each?

Each of these financial ratios offers unique insights into a company's financial health, and the choice of which to use often depends on the specific focus of the analysis.

• Broad Leverage Assessment: Use the Debt-to-Equity Ratio or Debt-to-Assets Ratio to get a general sense of a company's overall leverage, including both short-term and long-term obligations.

• Long-Term Financial Stability: The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is the go-to metric for understanding a company's long-term financial strategy and leverage.

• Short-Term Financial Health: The Interest Coverage Ratio is crucial for assessing a company's ability to meet its immediate debt obligations, particularly interest payments.

• Equity Perspective: The Equity Ratio provides insight into how much of the company’s assets are funded by shareholders, as opposed to debt.

### FAQs

What does a high Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio indicate?

A high ratio indicates that a company relies heavily on debt to finance its operations, which could increase financial risk, especially if the company faces declining revenues or rising interest rates.

How does the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio affect a company’s credit rating?

Credit rating agencies consider this ratio when evaluating a company’s financial stability. A higher ratio may lead to a lower credit rating, increasing the cost of borrowing for the company.

Can a low Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio be a negative sign?

While generally viewed positively, a very low ratio could indicate that a company is not taking advantage of potential growth opportunities that could be financed through debt.

How do industry norms impact the interpretation of this ratio?

Industry norms play a significant role in interpreting this ratio. A ratio that is considered high in one industry might be standard in another, so comparisons should always be made within the same industry.

Is the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio the same as the Debt-to-Equity Ratio?

No, the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio specifically looks at long-term debt relative to total capitalization, while the Debt-to-Equity Ratio compares total debt to total equity.

What strategies can a company employ to improve its Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio?

A company can improve its ratio by reducing debt, increasing equity through retained earnings or stock issuance, or refinancing existing debt under more favorable terms.

Which ratio is better for evaluating a company's long-term debt?

The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is specifically designed to assess the proportion of long-term debt in a company’s capital structure, making it ideal for evaluating long-term debt.

Can a company have a good Debt-to-Equity Ratio but a poor Interest Coverage Ratio?

Yes, a company can have a low Debt-to-Equity Ratio, indicating low overall leverage, but still struggle with a low Interest Coverage Ratio if it has insufficient earnings to cover interest payments.

How does the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio compare to the Debt-to-Assets Ratio?

The Debt-to-Assets Ratio includes all debt relative to total assets, providing a broad view of leverage. The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio focuses specifically on long-term debt relative to equity, offering a more focused perspective on long-term financial stability.

What does a low Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio indicate?

A low ratio suggests that the company relies more on equity than on long-term debt, which might indicate a conservative approach to financing and potentially lower financial risk.

Is the Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio relevant for all industries?

Yes, but the optimal ratio can vary widely by industry. Capital-intensive industries may have higher ratios, while service-oriented industries might maintain lower ratios.

How can a company improve its Interest Coverage Ratio?

A company can improve its Interest Coverage Ratio by increasing its earnings (EBIT) or reducing its interest expenses through debt reduction or refinancing at lower interest rates.

### Conclusion

The Long-Term Debt-to-Capitalization Ratio is a fundamental metric in financial analysis, offering critical insights into a company’s financial leverage and stability. By understanding and analyzing this ratio, stakeholders can make informed decisions about the company’s financial health and its ability to navigate different economic conditions. Whether used by investors, creditors, or the company itself, this ratio remains a cornerstone of financial decision-making, emphasizing the delicate balance between debt and equity in a company’s capital structure.