Cash coverage ratio

The cash coverage ratio is useful for determining the amount of cash available to pay for a borrower's interest expense, and is expressed as a ratio of the cash available to the amount of interest to be paid. To show a sufficient ability to pay, the ratio should be substantially greater than 1:1.

To calculate the cash coverage ratio, take the earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) from the income statement, add back to it all non-cash expenses included in EBIT (such as depreciation and amortization), and divide by the interest expense. The formula is:

(Earnings Before Interest and Taxes + Non-Cash Expenses) ÷ Interest Expense

For example, the controller of the Anderson Boat Company (ABC) is concerned that the company has recently taken on a great deal of debt to pay for a leveraged buyout, and wants to ensure that there is enough cash to pay for its new interest burden. The company is generating earnings before interest and taxes of $1,200,000 and it records annual depreciation of $800,000. ABC is scheduled to pay $1,500,000 in interest expenses in the coming year. Based on this information, ABC has the following cash coverage ratio:

($1,200,000 EBIT + $800,000 Depreciation) ÷ $1,500,000 Interest Expense

= 1.33 cash coverage ratio

The calculation reveals that ABC can pay for its interest expense, but has very little cash left for any other payments.

There may be a number of additional non-cash items to subtract in the numerator of the formula. For example, there may have been substantial charges in a period to increase reserves for sales allowances, product returns, bad debts, or inventory obsolescence. If these non-cash items are substantial, be sure to include them in the calculation. Also the interest expense in the denominator should only include the actual interest expense to be paid - if there is a premium or discount to the amount being paid, it is not a cash payment, and so should not be included in the denominator.