Business ratios are tools used to compare similar businesses within the same industry. They are financial metrics evaluating market valuation, performance, liquidity, leverage and activity. In general, business ratios are an excellent tool to value stocks.

Valuation Ratios

Valuation ratios are the only group of business ratios that are externally and not internally driven. The market dictates valuation ratios. All three core valuation ratios are determined by the market price of the stock.  All three have the same numerator, the market share price or market capitalization value of the company.

Price to Sales Ratio: A Poor Indicator of Value

The price to sales ratio is a marginal valuation ratio at best. It is really an offshoot of an antiquated concept of valuing a business. In the past, one of the more common methods to value a business deal was to use a multiplier of sales. The price to sales ratio used with business ratios is similar. Simply stated, the price to sales ratio is the entire market value of the company (the price) as a function of revenue (sales).

Performance Ratios

The most common thought among business owners, consultants, investors and students is the ‘bottom line’.  The proper word is of course ‘PROFIT’.  In business, the single number one reason to operate is to make a profit.

Leverage Ratios

Leverage refers to the ability to lift a heavier load using a fulcrum and a lever. The common image is a board on a triangular pivot point with a heavy weight (M1) on one end and a lighter weight (M2) on the other. As the lever shifts towards the lighter load it starts to lift the heavier weight. In effect, as the distance ‘b’ gets longer, it becomes easier to lift M1. This principle works with finances too.  How so?

Price to Cash Flow

The price to cash flow ratio is a valuation tool used to assist buyers and sellers of stock in determining timing of purchases or the disposition of shares. Unlike the other valuation ratios, this particular ratio utilizes the cash flows statement in determining the outcome.   The formula is simple:

Price to Cash Flow = \$Market Price of a Share of Stock/Cash Flow in Dollars Per Share of Stock

Activity Ratios

The majority of activity ratios measure the ability of the company to turn assets into earnings. All businesses utilize a simple principle, buy an asset at a low price and sell it at a higher price. Even service based businesses do this. Labor is purchased for a certain value and then sold for a much higher price. Retail businesses purchase inventory and then turn around, mark it up and then sell it to make a profit. There isn’t any business out there that doesn’t exercise this basic business principle.

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios are a group of ratios used to measure the ability of a business operation to meets its current obligations. Liquidity ratios are similar to the initial medical tests a patient receives at a doctor’s visit. Doctors take blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate. The doctor wants assurance that the primary indicators of health are good. Liquidity ratios are exactly the same. The user wants to know that the basic measurements of a business indicate good health today.

Return on Equity

Another performance ratio used in business is return on equity. It is similar to return on assets except return on equity uses one section of the bottom half of the balance sheet.

Operating Cash Ratio – Formula and Understanding

Far and above the most valuable liquidity ratio is the operating cash ratio. Unlike the other liquidity ratios that are balance sheet derived, the operating cash ratio is more closely connected to activity (income statement based) ratios than the balance sheet.

Operating Profit Margin – Formula and Understanding

Operating profit margin refers to the value earned as a percentage of net sales. The operating profit is often referred to as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, (EBITDA). This is a misleading reference as operating profit is actually defined differently by industry sector. EBITDA is used primarily in valuing businesses.

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