Importance of Different Ratios to Different User Groups

As we have seen earlier that there is a wide variety of financial ratios available. They fall into many categories and if variations are included there are hundreds of types of ratios that are common in practice. However, all the ratios are not used by everyone on a regular basis. There are some ratios which are more important to some user groups than they are to other user groups. This article explains why this is the case:

Management: Turnover and Operating Performance Ratios

The management of the company may not be so concerned with the results. They are usually more interested in the cause. This is because while other classes of stakeholders do not have control over the working of the firm i.e. the cause, the management does. All the other stakeholders question the management at the annual general meeting. Hence, management tries to get as much insight into the ratios as possible. They create operating performance ratios and compare it to their previous performance and to the performance of others to learn from the past as well as to be able to give satisfactory answers to the investors.

Shareholders: Profitability

Shareholders, for obvious reasons, are most concerned about profitability. Their investments are at risk and they expect to gain the maximum. Investors scrutinize profitability numbers and pounce upon the slightest signs of mismanagement. For the shareholders, the profitability ratios are the beginning point. They then follow the trail the ratios leave. However over the past two decades the focus has been steadily shifting towards cash flow ratios.

Debt holders and Suppliers: Cash Flow and Liquidity

Debt holders and suppliers are concerned whether they will be paid the amount promised to them at the date that was promised to them. It is for this reason that they are very concerned about the liquidity of the firm. Slightest signs of liquidity issues are met with supply cutbacks from suppliers.

The fact that debt holders are concerned about the same ratios creates a self reinforcing negative loop for the company. This is because at the same time when suppliers cut credit and supplies, debt holders refuse to lend more money and the whole situation becomes a cash crunch.

Credit Rating Agencies: Solvency

While debt holders are suppliers are concerned about short term liquidity and cash flow, credit rating agencies go a step ahead. They use solvency ratios to rigorously analyze whether the company will be able to make good its obligations in the long run.

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