Financial leverage


Financial leverage refers to the use of debt (or other fixed-income securities) in a company’s capital structure to amplify the returns to equity shareholders. It involves using borrowed funds to increase the company’s return on equity (ROE). While it can magnify profits, it also introduces additional financial risk.


  1. Debt:

The primary component of financial leverage is debt, including loans, bonds, and other fixed-income securities.

2. Interest Payments:

As the company uses debt, it incurs interest expenses on the borrowed funds.

3. Financial Risk:-

The risk of financial leverage is the additional risk borne by equity shareholders due to the use of debt. If the return on assets (ROA) is greater than the cost of debt, financial leverage can enhance returns to equity shareholders. However, if the ROA is less than the cost of debt, it can magnify losses.



ROE – ROA * (1 * (D/E) * (1 – Tc)) 


– (ROE)= Return on Equity

– (ROA) = Return on Assets

– (D/E) = Debt to Equity Ratio

– (Tc) = Corporate Tax Rate


– Financial leverage magnifies both gains and losses. In a profitable scenario, it enhances returns to equity shareholders.

– It increases the company’s risk because interest payments must be made regardless of the company’s profitability.

– The breakeven point, where the cost of debt equals the return on assets, is a critical threshold.

Operating Leverage:


Operating leverage refers to the extent to which a company relies on fixed costs in its operations as opposed to variable costs. It measures the relationship between fixed costs and variable costs in the production and sale of goods and services. A company with high operating leverage has a higher proportion of fixed costs in its cost structure.


  1. Fixed Costs:

These are costs that do not vary with the level of production or sales. Examples include rent, salaries of permanent staff, and depreciation of fixed assets.

  1. Variable Costs:

These costs vary directly with the level of production or sales. Examples include raw materials, direct labor, and variable overhead.


Operating Leverage = Fixed Costs/Variable Costs


High Operating Leverage:

  – Higher fixed costs result in higher operating leverage.

  – Small changes in sales can lead to proportionally larger changes in profits.

  – Suited for industries with stable demand and predictable sales.

Low Operating Leverage:

  – Lower fixed costs result in lower operating leverage.

  – Profits are less sensitive to changes in sales.

  – Suited for industries with uncertain or fluctuating demand.


– The degree of operating leverage affects a company’s risk and potential for profit. High operating leverage can lead to higher returns but also higher risk.

– Companies often seek a balance between fixed and variable costs to optimize their cost structure based on the nature of their industry and market conditions.


In summary, financial leverage involves the use of debt to magnify returns to equity shareholders, while operating leverage involves the use of fixed costs in operations, affecting the relationship between fixed and variable costs in the cost structure. Both types of leverage introduce additional risks and considerations for companies in terms of financial health and decision-making.