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What is the Interest Coverage Ratio?

By Kristoff De Turck - reviewed by Aldwin Keppens

Last update: Mar 7, 2024

The interest coverage ratio, often referred to as the "debt-service ratio" or "times interest earned", is a crucial metric that sheds light on a company's ability to meet its interest obligations. In this article, we'll delve into the details of the interest coverage ratio, exploring its formula, interpretations and uncovering potential pitfalls that financial analysts should be wary of.


The interest coverage ratio is a relatively simple yet powerful tool for assessing a company's financial health. The formula is straightforward:

Calculating the Cash Conversion Ratio is done by by dividing a company's 'Earnings Before Interest and Taxes' by its 'Interest Expense'

Understanding the Components:

  • Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) : This represents a company's operating profitability before deducting interest and taxes. EBIT is a key indicator of a company's core operational performance.

  • Interest Expense: This component reflects the total cost of borrowing for a company, including interest on loans and other forms of debt. It is a crucial factor in assessing a company's financial obligations.


The interest coverage ratio is a barometer of a company's financial strength and its ability to service its debt. Here's how to interpret the ratio:

  • High Ratio (e.g., 5 or above): A high interest coverage ratio indicates that the company generates substantial earnings compared to its interest obligations. This suggests a robust financial position and lower risk of defaulting on debt payments.

  • Moderate Ratio (e.g., 2 to 5): A moderate ratio suggests that the company's earnings can cover its interest expenses, but the margin of safety is not as comfortable. It may be prudent to assess other financial indicators to get a comprehensive view of the company's financial health.

  • Low Ratio (below 2): A low interest coverage ratio signals that the company's earnings are insufficient to cover its interest payments. This can be a red flag, indicating financial distress and an increased risk of default.


Let's consider Company XYZ, which reported an EBIT of $10 million and an interest expense of $2 million. Using the formula (EBIT/Interest Expense), company XYZ has an interest coverage ratio of 5, signifying that its earnings are five times higher than its interest expenses. This implies a healthy financial position and a comfortable ability to meet debt obligations.

Pitfalls to Watch Out For:

While the interest coverage ratio provides valuable insights, analysts should be cautious of potential pitfalls:

Overreliance on EBIT

EBIT can be manipulated through accounting practices, so it's essential to scrutinize the quality of earnings and consider using alternative metrics for a more comprehensive analysis.

Inconsistent Reporting

Companies may use different methods for calculating EBIT and interest expenses. Analysts should ensure consistency in reporting practices when comparing ratios across companies.

Ignoring Industry Standards

What might be considered a healthy interest coverage ratio can vary across industries. Comparing a company's ratio to industry benchmarks provides a more contextual assessment.


The interest coverage ratio serves as a financial sentinel, guarding against potential debt-related risks and offering valuable insights into a company's financial stability.

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