Debt Service Coverage Ratio: What it Tells Us

Understanding the meaning, definition, and explanation of debt service coverage ratio

What is Debt Service Coverage Ratio?

The Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) is a financial metric used by lenders and investors to assess a company’s ability to cover its debt obligations. It is a measure of cash flow available to pay current debt obligations, and it provides a snapshot of a company’s financial health.

Understanding the Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The DSCR is calculated by dividing a company’s net operating income by its total debt service. The net operating income is the income generated from a company’s core business operations, excluding extraordinary income and expenses. The total debt service, on the other hand, includes all current debt obligations, such as interest, principal, lease payments, and sinking fund obligations.

Formula for Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The formula for calculating the DSCR is as follows:

DSCR = Net Operating Income / Total Debt Service

A DSCR of less than 1 indicates that the company does not generate enough income to cover its debt obligations, which could lead to liquidity problems. A DSCR of greater than 1, on the other hand, suggests that the company has sufficient income to meet its current debt obligations.

Uses of Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The Debt Service Coverage Ratio is primarily used by lenders and investors to assess a company’s risk level. Here are some of its main uses:

  • Credit Assessment: Lenders use the DSCR to determine whether a company can repay a loan. A high DSCR indicates a lower risk of default, which could lead to more favorable loan terms.
  • Investment Evaluation: Investors use the DSCR to assess a company’s financial health. A high DSCR suggests that the company is generating enough income to cover its debt, which could indicate a stable investment.
  • Financial Planning: Companies use the DSCR to plan their debt strategy. A low DSCR could signal the need for debt restructuring or cost reduction.

Limitations of Debt Service Coverage Ratio

While the Debt Service Coverage Ratio is a useful tool for assessing a company’s ability to service its debt, it has some limitations. For instance, it does not consider the company’s future income potential or the quality of its assets. Moreover, it is based on accounting figures, which can be manipulated. Therefore, it should be used in conjunction with other financial metrics for a more comprehensive assessment of a company’s financial health.


The Debt Service Coverage Ratio is a critical financial metric that provides insight into a company’s ability to meet its debt obligations. It is used by lenders, investors, and companies for credit assessment, investment evaluation, and financial planning. However, like any financial metric, it has its limitations and should be used as part of a broader financial analysis.


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