DefinitionThe Asset to Equity Ratio is the ratio of total assets divided by stockholders’ equity.
The asset/equity ratio indicates the relationship of the total assets of the firm to the part owned by shareholders (aka, owner’s equity). This ratio is an indicator of the company’s leverage (debt) used to finance the firm.
The importance and value of the company’s asset/equity ratio is dependent upon the industry, the company’s assets and sales, current economic conditions, and other factors. There is no ideal asset/equity ratio value but it is valuable in comparing to similar businesses. A relatively high ratio (indicating lots of assets and very little equity) may indicate the company has taken on substantial debt merely to remain its business. But a high asset/equity ratio can also point to a company that is wisely “trading on the equity.” In other words, there is a high asset/equity ratio because the return on borrowed capital exceeds the cost of that capital.
At some higher levels, however, the ratio can reach unsustainable levels, as the additional debt ratchets up interest costs and the deteriorating financial position puts the firm in jeopardy. By the same token, a low asset/equity ratio can indicate a strong firm that needs no debt, or an overly conservative company, foolishly foregoing business opportunities.