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Fast Balalnce Sheet Analysis

CMA Jitendra Singh , Last updated: 29 September 2008  


The Profit & Loss Statement describes you how your business is performing at that particular time and the Balance Sheet is the statement that tells you about the long-term health and strength of your business. The Balance Sheet shows whether you can meet your obligation as they come due, how much you are indebted to others and your prospects for staying in business.

Assets = Liabilities + Equity. This is the accounting equation. Assets = your stuff. Liabilities and equity = how you paid for your stuff. Liabilities indicate how much of your stuff that you have paid for with other people’s money. Equity shows how much of your stuff that you have paid for with your own money. Retained earnings are exactly what they sound like: how much of previous years’ profits you have retained in the business.

The terms current assets and current liabilities have a special meaning in the Balance Sheet. Current, in this case, indicates any asset or liability that will convert into cash within the next 12 months. Accounts receivable is current because when your customers pay you (hopefully within 12 months), that asset will become cash. Same with inventory: When you sell your product, that asset converts to accounts receivable and then to cash, typically within 12 months. On the liability side, accounts payable are typically paid within 12 months. So are credit card bills and your bank credit line.

Another interesting feature of the Balance Sheet is that the assets and liabilities are listed according to their liquidity. So cash is the first asset, accounts receivable the second, inventory the third and so on. Fixed assets and investments are listed toward the bottom of the asset side of the balance sheet because they are not expected to convert to cash anytime soon. The same holds true for liabilities: accounts payable first, credit cards next with long-term debt coming in lower on the liabilities side of the Balance Sheet.

Financial ratios are very helpful in assessing the strength of your business. The current ratio (current assets minus current liabilities) indicates how much free cash that you have. A current ratio greater than one indicates that you have sufficient current assets to meet your current obligations as they come due.

The debt to equity ratio (total liabilities divided by total equity) indicates how much of your creditors’ money as compared to how much of your money is supporting your assets. A debt-to-equity ratio greater than one is a strong indicator that you have borrowed too much. Too much debt is not a problem during good times, but it can wreak havoc when your business dips

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CMA Jitendra Singh
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