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Key Financial Ratios for Value Investors: Evaluating a Company’s Performance and Value

Key Financial Ratios for Value Investors: Evaluating a Company's Performance and Value

The first step to understanding how well a company will do, or whether it is undervalued, is finding the right financial ratios from a company’s financial statements. Financial ratios are critical tools for value investors. They provide a quick snapshot of a company’s financial health, performance, and valuation relative to peers, offering a means of making sense of raw financial data by standardizing measurements. This allows for easy comparisons across industries and companies.

As value investors are principally concerned with finding undervalued companies and assessing their intrinsic worth, i.e. the actual price the company should trade at versus what it is trading at, these ratios serve as a compass in their valuation journey. This article will investigate various financial ratios, from liquidity to valuation ratios, showing how to calculate them and their significance in a value investing framework.

Understanding Financial Statements

Before diving into financial ratios, let’s grasp the fundamentals of financial statements. Financial statements are formal records of a company’s financial activities, providing both the bird’s eye view and the nitty-gritty details of its financial performance. 

They include the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. These statements offer a wealth of information – assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, cash inflows, and outflows – all raw materials for computing financial ratios. A seasoned value investor often plays the role of a financial detective, sifting through these statements to discern the company’s true financial standing.

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios provide insights into a company’s ability to meet its short-term financial obligations. They essentially measure the company’s ability to quickly turn its assets into cash to pay off liabilities. Two significant liquidity ratios are the Current Ratio and the Quick Ratio.

Current Ratio

The current ratio measures a company’s ability to cover its short-term liabilities with its short-term assets. It is a straightforward indication of a firm’s liquidity, gauging the degree to which it can readily meet its obligations within the year. A higher current ratio generally implies a more liquid company.

Formula: Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities

Quick Ratio

Also known as the acid-test ratio, the quick ratio is a more stringent measure of liquidity. It subtracts inventories from current assets before dividing by current liabilities, considering inventories may not be as easily converted into cash. The quick ratio thus provides a more conservative view of a company’s short-term liquidity.

Formula: Quick Ratio = (Current Assets – Inventory) / Current Liabilities

Profitability Ratios

Profitability ratios reflect a company’s ability to generate profits from its operations relative to its costs. They are important in understanding how effectively a company utilizes its resources to produce profits.

Key profitability ratios include the Return on Assets (ROA), Return on Equity (ROE), and Net Profit Margin.

Return on Assets (ROA)

Return on Assets (ROA) is a profitability ratio that measures how efficiently a company utilizes its assets to generate profits. A higher ROA indicates that the company uses its assets effectively to make money.

Formula: ROA = Net Income / Total Assets

Return on Equity (ROE)

Return on Equity (ROE) measures a company’s profitability in relation to the equity invested in it. It reflects how well a company uses its shareholders’ equity to generate profits. A higher ROE suggests a more efficient use of equity and is generally preferred by investors.

Formula: ROE = Net Income / Shareholder’s Equity

Net Profit Margin

The net profit margin indicates the proportion of a company’s revenue left over after accounting for all costs, taxes, and expenses. A higher net profit margin is preferable as it shows the company effectively manages its costs and generates profits.

Formula: Net Profit Margin = Net Profit / Total Revenue

Efficiency Ratios

Efficiency ratios depict how well a company utilizes its assets to generate revenue. These ratios are key to understanding a company’s operational efficiency. We’ll focus on two efficiency ratios: the Asset Turnover Ratio and the Inventory Turnover Ratio.

Asset Turnover Ratio

The asset turnover ratio measures how efficiently a company uses its assets to generate sales. A higher ratio indicates a more efficient use of assets.

Formula: Asset Turnover Ratio = Total Sales / Average Total Assets

Inventory Turnover Ratio

The inventory turnover ratio shows how many times a company’s inventory is sold and replaced over a given period. It provides insight into the company’s inventory management efficiency. A higher ratio indicates that the company is effectively managing its inventory.

Formula: Inventory Turnover Ratio = Cost of Goods Sold / Average Inventory

Solvency Ratios

Solvency ratios assess a company’s long-term financial stability and ability to meet long-term obligations. They essentially measure the company’s debt relative to its equity and its earnings. Notable solvency ratios include the Debt-to-Equity Ratio and the Interest Coverage Ratio.

Debt-to-Equity Ratio

The debt-to-equity ratio measures a company’s financial leverage by comparing its total liabilities to shareholders’ equity. A high ratio indicates that the company funds a significant portion of its operations through debt, which may suggest higher risk – especially if higher than their industry or comparative company averages.

Formula: Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Liabilities / Shareholder’s Equity

Interest Coverage Ratio

The interest coverage ratio measures a company’s ability to meet its interest payments on outstanding debt. A higher ratio indicates better financial health and a lower risk of default on its debt obligations.

Formula: Interest Coverage Ratio = EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) / Interest Expenses

Valuation Ratios

Valuation ratios allow investors to assess the relative value of a company’s stock. They give insight into how the market prices a company’s earnings, sales, or book value. Key valuation ratios are the Price-to-Earnings Ratio (P/E), Price-to-Book Ratio (P/B), and Dividend Yield.

Price-to-Earnings Ratio (P/E)

The P/E ratio is a popular valuation ratio used to measure a company’s current share price relative to its per-share earnings. A lower P/E ratio could indicate that the stock is undervalued, but it may also suggest that the company has poor future growth prospects.

Formula: P/E Ratio = Market Value per Share / Earnings per Share (EPS)

Price-to-Book Ratio

The P/B ratio compares a company’s market valuation to its book value. It indicates how much shareholders are paying for the net assets of a company. A lower P/B ratio could indicate that the stock is undervalued.

Formula: P/B Ratio = Market Price per Share / Book Value per Share

Dividend Yield

The dividend yield is a financial ratio that indicates how much a company pays out in yearly dividends relative to its stock price. It measures the income an investment in the stock could generate and is particularly important to income-focused investors.

Formula: Dividend Yield = Annual Dividends per Share / Price per Share


These key indicators, derived directly from a company’s financial statements, provide invaluable insights into a company’s financial health, operational efficiency, and market valuation. As value investors, understanding and applying these ratios help navigate the complexities of the financial world, enabling more informed investment decisions. Comparing them across industries and between companies is particularly important.

We’ve looked into various ratios across several categories: liquidity, profitability, efficiency, solvency, and valuation. Each has its unique purpose and significance, from the Current Ratio’s assessment of a company’s short-term financial health to the Price-to-Earnings Ratio’s valuation of a company’s stock price relative to its earnings.

While highly informative, these financial ratios are just tools in a value investor’s arsenal. They should be used with other research methods to comprehensively understand a company’s health and future prospects. The most successful investors often utilize a mosaic of information to construct their investment thesis, and these ratios undoubtedly represent critical pieces.

As investors seeking to capitalize on market inefficiencies and uncover hidden gems, mastering these financial ratios is beneficial and necessary. So, get those financial statements, crank up the calculations, and let the ratios guide your value investing journey. 


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About the author:

Matthew Levy, CFA, is a dedicated finance professional with a proven track record of creating successful, risk-adjusted portfolios that empower clients to achieve financial freedom. As a University of Victoria graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Economics, Matthew has built a strong foundation of knowledge and expertise in the financial sector.

He has a wealth of experience managing and co-managing over $600 million in assets for private households and institutions, demonstrating his commitment to client satisfaction and financial growth. In 2015, Matthew earned his CFA® charter, solidifying his dedication to maintaining the highest standards of education, ethics, and professional excellence in the investment profession.

Currently, Matthew shares his insights and knowledge through his work as a financial writer, contributing valuable financial commentary and articles that help others navigate the complex world of finance.