Financial Statement Analysis

Financial statement analysis reviews financial information found on financial statements to make informed decisions about the business. The income statement, statement of retained earnings, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows, among other financial information, can be analyzed. The information obtained from this analysis can benefit decision-making for internal and external stakeholders and can give a company valuable information on overall performance and specific areas for improvement. The analysis can help them with budgeting, deciding where to cut costs, how to increase revenues, and future capital investments opportunities.

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When considering the outcomes from analysis, it is important for a company to understand that data produced needs to be compared to others within industry and close competitors. The company should also consider their past experience and how it corresponds to current and future performance expectations. Three common analysis tools are used for decision-making; horizontal analysis, vertical analysis, and financial ratios.

For our discussion of financial statement analysis, we will use Banyan Goods. Banyan Goods is a merchandising company that sells a variety of products. (Figure) shows the comparative income statements and balance sheets for the past two years.

Comparative Income Statements and Balance Sheets.


Using Banyan Goods as our example, if Banyan wanted to compare net sales in the current year (year of analysis) of ?120,000 to the prior year (base year) of ?100,000, the dollar change would be as follows:

\(\text{Dollar change}=?120,000–?1000,000=?20,000\)

The percentage change is found by taking the dollar change, dividing by the base year amount, and then multiplying by 100.


Depending on their expectations, Banyan Goods could make decisions to alter operations to produce expected outcomes. For example, Banyan saw a 50% accounts receivable increase from the prior year to the current year. If they were only expecting a 20% increase, they may need to explore this line item further to determine what caused this difference and how to correct it going forward. It could possibly be that they are extending credit more readily than anticipated or not collecting as rapidly on outstanding accounts receivable. The company will need to further examine this difference before deciding on a course of action. Another method of analysis Banyan might consider before making a decision is vertical analysis.

Vertical Analysis

Vertical analysis shows a comparison of a line item within a statement to another line item within that same statement. For example, a company may compare cash to total assets in the current year. This allows a company to see what percentage of cash (the comparison line item) makes up total assets (the other line item) during the period. This is different from horizontal analysis, which compares across years. Vertical analysis compares line items within a statement in the current year. This can help a business to know how much of one item is contributing to overall operations. For example, a company may want to know how much inventory contributes to total assets. They can then use this information to make business decisions such as preparing the budget, cutting costs, increasing revenues, or capital investments.

The company will need to determine which line item they are comparing all items to within that statement and then calculate the percentage makeup. These percentages are considered common-size because they make businesses within industry comparable by taking out fluctuations for size. It is typical for an income statement to use net sales (or sales) as the comparison line item. This means net sales will be set at 100% and all other line items within the income statement will represent a percentage of net sales.

On the balance sheet, a company will typically look at two areas: (1) total assets, and (2) total liabilities and stockholders’ equity. Total assets will be set at 100% and all assets will represent a percentage of total assets. Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity will also be set at 100% and all line items within liabilities and equity will be represented as a percentage of total liabilities and stockholders’ equity. The line item set at 100% is considered the base amount and the comparison line item is considered the comparison amount. The formula to determine the common-size percentage is:


Even though vertical analysis is a statement comparison within the same year, Banyan can use information from the prior year’s vertical analysis to make sure the business is operating as expected. For example, unearned revenues increased from the prior year to the current year and made up a larger portion of total liabilities and stockholders’ equity. This could be due to many factors, and Banyan Goods will need to examine this further to see why this change has occurred. Let’s turn to financial statement analysis using financial ratios.

Overview of Financial Ratios

Financial ratios help both internal and external users of information make informed decisions about a company. A stakeholder could be looking to invest, become a supplier, make a loan, or alter internal operations, among other things, based in part on the outcomes of ratio analysis. The information resulting from ratio analysis can be used to examine trends in performance, establish benchmarks for success, set budget expectations, and compare industry competitors. There are four main categories of ratios: liquidity, solvency, efficiency, and profitability. Note that while there are more ideal outcomes for some ratios, the industry in which the business operates can change the influence each of these outcomes has over stakeholder decisions. (You will learn more about ratios, industry standards, and ratio interpretation in advanced accounting courses.)

Liquidity Ratios

Liquidity ratios show the ability of the company to pay short-term obligations if they came due immediately with assets that can be quickly converted to cash. This is done by comparing current assets to current liabilities. Lenders, for example, may consider the outcomes of liquidity ratios when deciding whether to extend a loan to a company. A company would like to be liquid enough to manage any currently due obligations but not too liquid where they may not be effectively investing in growth opportunities. Three common liquidity measurements are working capital, current ratio, and quick ratio.

Working Capital

Working capital measures the financial health of an organization in the short-term by finding the difference between current assets and current liabilities. A company will need enough current assets to cover current liabilities; otherwise, they may not be able to continue operations in the future. Before a lender extends credit, they will review the working capital of the company to see if the company can meet their obligations. A larger difference signals that a company can cover their short-term debts and a lender may be more willing to extend the loan. On the other hand, too large of a difference may indicate that the company may not be correctly using their assets to grow the business. The formula for working capital is:


The current ratio in the current year for Banyan Goods is:

A 2:1 ratio means the company has twice as many current assets as current liabilities; typically, this would be plenty to cover obligations. This may be an acceptable ratio for Banyan Goods, but if it is too high, they may want to consider using those assets in a different way to grow the company.

Quick Ratio

The quick ratio, also known as the acid-test ratio, is similar to the current ratio except current assets are more narrowly defined as the most liquid assets, which exclude inventory and prepaid expenses. The conversion of inventory and prepaid expenses to cash can sometimes take more time than the liquidation of other current assets. A company will want to know what they have on hand and can use quickly if an immediate obligation is due. The formula for the quick ratio is:


The information needed to compute the debt-to-equity ratio for Banyan Goods in the current year can be found on the balance sheet.

This means that for every ?1 of equity contributed toward financing, ?1.50 is contributed from lenders. This would be a concern for Banyan Goods. This could be a red flag for potential investors that the company could be trending toward insolvency. Banyan Goods might want to get the ratio below 1:1 to improve their long-term business viability.

Times Interest Earned Ratio

Time interest earned measures the company’s ability to pay interest expense on long-term debt incurred. This ability to pay is determined by the available earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) are deducted. These earnings are considered the operating income. Lenders will pay attention to this ratio before extending credit. The more times over a company can cover interest, the more likely a lender will extend long-term credit. The formula for times interest earned is:


Many companies do not split credit and cash sales, in which case net sales would be used to compute accounts receivable turnover. Average accounts receivable is found by dividing the sum of beginning and ending accounts receivable balances found on the balance sheet. The beginning accounts receivable balance in the current year is taken from the ending accounts receivable balance in the prior year.

When computing the accounts receivable turnover for Banyan Goods, let’s assume net credit sales make up ?100,000 of the ?120,000 of the net sales found on the income statement in the current year.

\(\begin{array}{ccc}\hfill \text{Average accounts receivable}& =\hfill & \frac{?20,000+?30,000}{2}=?25,000\hfill \\ \hfill \text{Accounts receivable turnover}& =\hfill & \frac{?100,000}{?25,000}=\text{4 times}\hfill \end{array}\)

An accounts receivable turnover of four times per year may be low for Banyan Goods. Given this outcome, they may want to consider stricter credit lending practices to make sure credit customers are of a higher quality. They may also need to be more aggressive with collecting any outstanding accounts.

Total Asset Turnover

Total asset turnover measures the ability of a company to use their assets to generate revenues. A company would like to use as few assets as possible to generate the most net sales. Therefore, a higher total asset turnover means the company is using their assets very efficiently to produce net sales. The formula for total asset turnover is:


Cost of goods sold for the current year is found on the income statement. Average inventory is found by dividing the sum of beginning and ending inventory balances found on the balance sheet. The beginning inventory balance in the current year is taken from the ending inventory balance in the prior year.

Banyan Goods’ inventory turnover is:

\(\begin{array}{ccc}\hfill \text{Average inventory}& =\hfill & \frac{?35,000+?40,000}{2}=?37,500\hfill \\ \hfill \text{Inventory turnover}& =\hfill & \frac{?60,000}{?37,500}=1.6\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{times}\hfill \end{array}\)

1.6 times is a very low turnover rate for Banyan Goods. This may mean the company is maintaining too high an inventory supply to meet a low demand from customers. They may want to decrease their on-hand inventory to free up more liquid assets to use in other ways.

Days’ Sales in Inventory

Days’ sales in inventory expresses the number of days it takes a company to turn inventory into sales. This assumes that no new purchase of inventory occurred within that time period. The fewer the number of days, the more quickly the company can sell its inventory. The higher the number of days, the longer it takes to sell its inventory. The formula for days’ sales in inventory is:


For Banyan Goods, the profit margin in the current year is:

\(\text{Profit margin}=\left(\frac{?35,000}{?120,000}\right)=0.29\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{(rounded)}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{or}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}29%\)

This means that for every dollar of sales, ?0.29 returns as profit. If Banyan Goods thinks this is too low, the company would try and find ways to reduce expenses and increase sales.

Return on Total Assets

The return on total assets measures the company’s ability to use its assets successfully to generate a profit. The higher the return (ratio outcome), the more profit is created from asset use. Average total assets are found by dividing the sum of beginning and ending total assets balances found on the balance sheet. The beginning total assets balance in the current year is taken from the ending total assets balance in the prior year. The formula for return on total assets is:


Average stockholders’ equity is found by dividing the sum of beginning and ending stockholders’ equity balances found on the balance sheet. The beginning stockholders’ equity balance in the current year is taken from the ending stockholders’ equity balance in the prior year. Keep in mind that the net income is calculated after preferred dividends have been paid.

For Banyan Goods, we will use the net income figure and assume no preferred dividends have been paid. The return on equity for the current year is:

\(\begin{array}{ccc}\hfill \text{Average stockholder equity}& =\hfill & \frac{?90,000+?100,000}{2}=?95,000\hfill \\ \hfill \text{Return on equity}& =\hfill & \frac{?35,000}{?95,000}=0.37\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{(rounded) or 37%}\hfill \end{array}\)

The higher the figure, the better the company is using its investments to create a profit. Industry standards can dictate what is an acceptable return.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Financial Statement Analysis

There are several advantages and disadvantages to financial statement analysis. Financial statement analysis can show trends over time, which can be helpful in making future business decisions. Converting information to percentages or ratios eliminates some of the disparity between competitor sizes and operating abilities, making it easier for stakeholders to make informed decisions. It can assist with understanding the makeup of current operations within the business, and which shifts need to occur internally to increase productivity.

A stakeholder needs to keep in mind that past performance does not always dictate future performance. Attention must be given to possible economic influences that could skew the numbers being analyzed, such as inflation or a recession. Additionally, the way a company reports information within accounts may change over time. For example, where and when certain transactions are recorded may shift, which may not be readily evident in the financial statements.

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A company that wants to budget properly, control costs, increase revenues, and make long-term expenditure decisions may want to use financial statement analysis to guide future operations. As long as the company understands the limitations of the information provided, financial statement analysis is a good tool to predict growth and company financial strength.