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Interest Coverage Ratio: Formula, Calculation, and Examples

by | Jun 4, 2024 | Financial dictionary | 0 comments

The interest coverage ratio is a vital financial metric that measures a company’s ability to meet its debt obligations by comparing its earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) to its interest expense. This ratio provides insight into the financial health and creditworthiness of a company, making it an essential tool for investors, lenders, and financial analysts.

What is the Interest Coverage Ratio?

Definition and Purpose of Interest Coverage Ratio

The interest coverage ratio is defined as a company’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) divided by its interest expense. This ratio indicates the number of times a company can cover its interest payments with its operating income, providing a clear picture of its ability to service its debt obligations.

The primary purpose of the interest coverage ratio is to assess a company’s financial stability and its capacity to meet interest payments on time. By comparing EBIT to interest expense, this ratio helps stakeholders determine the level of financial risk associated with a company’s debt.

Importance of Interest Coverage Ratio for Financial Health

The interest coverage ratio is a crucial indicator of a company’s financial health. A high ratio suggests that the company has sufficient earnings to cover its interest expenses, indicating a lower risk of default. Conversely, a low ratio may signal financial distress and a higher likelihood of defaulting on debt payments.

Lenders and investors use the interest coverage ratio as part of their risk assessment process when evaluating a company’s creditworthiness. A company with a consistently high interest coverage ratio is more likely to secure favorable lending terms and attract investors.

How to Calculate the Interest Coverage Ratio

Interest Coverage Ratio Formula

The interest coverage ratio formula is as follows:

Interest Coverage Ratio = EBIT ÷ Interest Expense


  • EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) = Operating Income
  • Interest Expense = Total interest paid on all debts

Components of the Interest Coverage Ratio Formula

To calculate the interest coverage ratio, you need two key components:

  1. EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes): This is essentially a company’s operating income, which is calculated by subtracting operating expenses from revenue, excluding interest and taxes.
  2. Interest Expense: This represents the total amount of interest a company pays on its debts during a given period, often referred to as net interest.

Interpreting the Interest Coverage Ratio

What is a Good Interest Coverage Ratio?

A good interest coverage ratio is generally considered to be 3.0 or higher. This means that the company’s EBIT is at least three times its interest expense, providing a comfortable cushion for meeting debt obligations. However, the ideal ratio may vary depending on the industry and the company’s specific circumstances.

As a rule of thumb, a ratio of 2.0 or above is often seen as an acceptable benchmark, while a ratio below 1.5 may raise concerns about a company’s ability to service its debt.

Low vs High Interest Coverage Ratios

A low interest coverage ratio (below 1.5) suggests that a company may struggle to meet its interest payments, increasing the risk of default. This can be a red flag for lenders and investors, as it indicates a higher level of financial risk.

On the other hand, a high interest coverage ratio (above 3.0) demonstrates a company’s strong ability to cover its interest expenses with its operating income. This is generally viewed as a positive sign, as it suggests a lower risk of default and greater financial stability.

Variations of the Interest Coverage Ratio

EBITDA Interest Coverage Ratio

The EBITDA interest coverage ratio is a variation of the standard formula that uses earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) instead of EBIT. This ratio provides a more comprehensive view of a company’s ability to cover its interest expenses, as it includes non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortization.

The formula for the EBITDA interest coverage ratio is:

EBITDA Interest Coverage Ratio = EBITDA ÷ Interest Expense

EBIAT Interest Coverage Ratio

The EBIAT interest coverage ratio, or earnings before interest after taxes, is another variation that takes into account the impact of taxes on a company’s ability to pay interest. This ratio is calculated by dividing EBIAT by interest expense.

The formula for the EBIAT interest coverage ratio is:

EBIAT Interest Coverage Ratio = (EBIT – Taxes) ÷ Interest Expense

Limitations of the Interest Coverage Ratio

Variability Across Industries

One limitation of the interest coverage ratio is that it can vary significantly across different industries. Some sectors, such as utilities and real estate, tend to have higher levels of debt and lower interest coverage ratios compared to others. As a result, it is essential to consider industry-specific standards when evaluating a company’s interest coverage ratio.

Lack of Cash Flow Consideration

Another drawback of the interest coverage ratio is that it does not take into account a company’s actual cash flow. While the ratio measures a company’s ability to cover interest expenses with its operating income, it does not consider whether the company has sufficient cash on hand to meet its short-term obligations.

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of a company’s financial health, it is important to consider the interest coverage ratio alongside other metrics, such as the cash flow coverage ratio and the debt service coverage ratio.

Interest Coverage Ratio Examples

Example 1: ABC Company

Let’s calculate the interest coverage ratio for ABC Company using the following information:

  • Operating Income (EBIT): $120,000
  • Interest Expense: $10,000

Interest Coverage Ratio = $120,000 ÷ $10,000 = 12.0

In this example, ABC Company’s interest coverage ratio is 12.0, which means that the company’s operating income is 12 times its interest expense. This indicates a strong ability to cover interest payments and suggests a low risk of default.

Example 2: Walmart

Let’s look at a real-world example using Walmart’s financial data for the fiscal years 2022 and 2023:

Fiscal Year Operating Income Net Interest Interest Coverage Ratio
2022 $25.942 billion $1.836 billion 14.13
2023 $20.428 billion $1.874 billion 10.90

Walmart’s interest coverage ratio decreased from 14.13 in 2022 to 10.90 in 2023. Despite the decline, the company’s ratio remains well above the generally accepted benchmark of 3.0, indicating a strong ability to cover its interest expenses with its operating income.

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