Current ratio (also known as working capital ratio) is computed by dividing the total current assets by total current liabilities of the business.
It is a popular ratio to evaluate the short-term solvency position of a business. The short-term solvency means the ability of a business to pay its short-term obligations when they become due. Short term obligations are those liabilities that are payable with in a short period of time, usually one year.
Current ratio is computed by the following formula:
Above formula comprises of two components i.e., current assets and current liabilities. Both current assets and current liabilities are available from the balance sheet of the company. Some examples of current assets and current liabilities are given below:
|Current assets||Current liabilities|
|Cash||Accounts payable / creditors|
|Marketable securities||Accrued payable|
|Accounts receivables / debtors||Bonds payable|
|Inventories / stock|
Compute the current ratio from the following balance sheet of X Ltd:
|Share capital (fully paid up)||1,000,000||Land and building||1,000,000|
|General reserve||800,000||Plant and machinery||400,000|
|Profit and loss account||300,000||inventory||300,000|
|Accounts payable||400,000||Accounts receivables||500,000|
|Cash and bank balances||300,000|
= 1,100,000* / 400,000**
= 2.75 times
|*Current assets:||**Current liabilities:|
|Total current assets of X Ltd||1,100,000||Total current liabilities of X Ltd||400,000|
Significance and interpretation
Current ratio is a useful test of the short-term-debt paying ability of any business. A ratio of 2:1 or higher is considered satisfactory for most of the companies but analyst should be very careful while interpreting it. Simply computing the ratio does not disclose the true liquidity of the business because a high current ratio may not always be a green signal. It requires a deep analysis of the nature of individual current assets and current liabilities. A company with high current ratio may not always be able to pay its current liabilities as they become due if a large portion of its current assets consists of slow moving or obsolete inventories. On the other hand, a company with low current ratio may be able to pay its current obligations as they become due if a large portion of its current assets consists of highly liquid assets i.e., cash, bank balance, marketable securities and fast moving inventories. Consider the following example to understand how the composition and nature of individual current assets can differentiate the liquidity position of two companies having same current ratio figure.
The following data has been extracted from the financial statements of two companies – company A and company B.
|Company A||Company B|
|Total current assets (a)||350,000||350,000|
|Current liabilities (b)||175,000||175,000|
|Current ratio (a)/(b)||2:1||2:1|
Both company A and company B have the same current ratio (2:1). Do both the companies have equal ability to pay its short-term obligations?
The answer is no. Company B is likely to have difficulties in paying its short-term obligations because most of its current assets consist of inventory. Inventory is not quickly convertible into cash. The company A is likely to pay its current obligations as they become due because a large portion of its current assets consists of cash and accounts receivables. Accounts receivables are highly liquid and can be converted into cash quickly.
From this analysis, it is clear that the analyst should not only see the current ratio but also the composition of current assets.
Limitations of current ratio
Current ratio suffers from a number of limitations. Some are given below:
- Some businesses have different trading activities in different seasons. Such businesses may show low or high current ratio in certain periods during the year.
- To compare the ratio of two companies it is necessary that both the companies use same inventory valuation method. For example, comparing current ratio of two companies would be like comparing apples to oranges if one uses FIFO cost flow assumption and the other uses LIFO cost flow assumption for the valuation of inventories. So the analyst would not be able to compare the ratio of two companies even in the same industry.
- It is not an exact science to test the liquidity of a company because the quality of each individual asset is not taken into account while computing this ratio.
- It can be easily manipulated by equal increase or decrease in current assets and current liabilities. For example, if current assets of a company are $10,000 and current liabilities are $5,000, the current ratio would be 2:1 as computed below:
$10,000 / $5,000
If both current assets and current liabilities are reduced by $1,000, the ratio would be increased to 2.25:1 as computed below:
$9,000 / $4,000