Debt Service Coverage Ratio

A gauge of a company's available cash flow to satisfy current debt commitments.

Author: Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Josh Pupkin
Private Equity | Investment Banking

Josh has extensive experience private equity, business development, and investment banking. Josh started his career working as an investment banking analyst for Barclays before transitioning to a private equity role Neuberger Berman. Currently, Josh is an Associate in the Strategic Finance Group of Accordion Partners, a management consulting firm which advises on, executes, and implements value creation initiatives and 100 day plans for Private Equity-backed companies and their financial sponsors.

Josh graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and is currently an MBA candidate at Duke University Fuqua School of Business with a concentration in Corporate Strategy.

Reviewed By: Patrick Curtis
Patrick Curtis
Patrick Curtis
Private Equity | Investment Banking

Prior to becoming our CEO & Founder at Wall Street Oasis, Patrick spent three years as a Private Equity Associate for Tailwind Capital in New York and two years as an Investment Banking Analyst at Rothschild.

Patrick has an MBA in Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School and a BA in Economics from Williams College.

Last Updated:February 1, 2024

What Is The Debt-Service Coverage Ratio?

The Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) is a gauge of a company's available cash flow to satisfy current debt commitments. It measures the cash flow available to satisfy existing debt commitments. The ratio is relevant to personal, public, and corporate finance.

DSCR is utilized to evaluate businesses, initiatives, or particular borrowers.

Investors may see whether a company's DSCR generates enough revenue to cover its debts. The ratio is frequently utilized when a business has debt on its balance sheet through bonds, loans, or credit lines.

The DSCR and other credit metrics like the total debt/EBITDA multiple, net debt/EBITDA multiple, interest coverage ratio, and fixed charge coverage ratio are frequently used in leveraged buyout transactions to assess the target company's ability to service its debt.

The macroeconomic environment can influence the minimum DSCR a lender requires, among other factors. Lenders might be more tolerant of lower ratios if the economy is expanding.

Net operating income and the entity's overall debt servicing are two requirements for the debt-service coverage ratio formula. 

A company's net operating income is its revenue minus certain operating expenditures (COE), excluding taxes and interest payments. Therefore, it is frequently regarded as equal to earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT).

    Key Takeaways

    • Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) gauges a company's available cash flow to meet current debt commitments for a company.
    • It is utilized to assess businesses, projects, or borrowers, helping investors gauge if a company generates sufficient revenue to cover its debts.
    • The formula to calculate is
      • DSCR = Net operating income / Total debt service
    • A ratio of 1 or higher indicates the ability to cover debt obligations, with higher ratios enhancing loan terms and financial stability.
    • DSCR introduces the fixed charge coverage ratio, evaluating a company's ability to handle fixed charges beyond interest, providing a more comprehensive view of payback capacity.

    Debt-Service Coverage Ratio Formula

    The formula to calculate the Debt-Service Coverage Ratio is as follows:

    DSCR = Net operating income / Total debt service


    • Net Operating Income = Revenue − COE
    • COE = Certain Operating Expenses
    • Total Debt Service = Current debt obligations

    Non-operating income is accounted for in EBIT in some computations. Therefore, it is crucial to use uniform criteria when calculating DSCR as a lender, investor, or manager by comparing the creditworthiness of several organizations or different years or quarters. 

    Borrowers must be aware that lenders may compute DSCR using significantly different methods, and it is crucial to understand these variations when assessing creditworthiness.

    Total debt service includes all interest, principal, sinking fund, and lease payments due in the upcoming year. Current debt obligations are also referred to as outstanding debt. This will appear as both short-term debt and the present share of long-term debt on a balance sheet.

    Income taxes can complicate DSCR calculations as interest payments are tax-deductible, while principal repayments are not. Therefore, the following calculation is a more precise method to determine total debt service:

    TDS = [Interest ×(1- Tax rate)] + Principal


    TDS = Total debt service

    Debt-Service Coverage Ratio Importance

    Let's understand some of the importance of the ratio below:

    1. Risk Assessment: DSCR is a key tool for lenders and investors to evaluate the level of risk associated with providing funds to a business. A higher DSCR indicates lower financial risk, assuring stakeholders of the company's ability to meet its debt obligations.
    2. Financial Stability: DSCR above 1 signifies that a company generates enough operating income to cover its debt payments, showcasing financial stability. This metric is crucial for maintaining confidence among investors, creditors, and other stakeholders in the business's long-term viability.
    3. Creditworthiness: Lenders heavily rely on DSCR to assess a borrower's creditworthiness. A healthy DSCR enhances a company's ability to secure favorable loan terms, interest rates, and overall financial support.
    4. Informed Decision-Making: Monitoring DSCR over time provides valuable insights into a company's financial performance. Stakeholders can make informed decisions about investments, partnerships, or strategic initiatives based on the company's demonstrated ability to service its debt.
    5. Operational Efficiency: DSCR encourages companies to maintain operational efficiency to cover debt payments. It incentivizes effective financial management, ensuring that resources are allocated optimally to meet short-term and long-term financial obligations.

    What the Debt-Service Coverage Ratio Can Tell You? 

    To understand what the ratio tells us, let's look at the bullets below:

    1. Role in Loan Agreements: DSCR is an important metric in loan negotiations, influencing conditions like maintaining a minimum ratio, such as 1.25, to ensure compliance with loan terms. Violations might trigger consequences outlined in the loan agreement.
    2. Risk Management and Analysis: Beyond aiding banks in risk management, DSCR is valuable for analysts and investors assessing a company's financial health. It offers insights into a company's ability to meet debt obligations and navigate potential financial challenges.
    3. National Economic Perspective: On a broader scale, DSCR extends to national economics, determining how much a country needs to generate from exports to cover its external debt payments. In personal finance, it guides bank loan officers in evaluating loans for income property, with a DSCR of 0.95 suggesting potential reliance on personal resources.
    4. Cash Flow Implications: A DSCR of 1.1 or close raises concerns, as even a slight decrease in cash flow may hinder debt payment. Lenders may set minimum DSCR requirements, considering falls below as defaults, emphasizing the critical role DSCR plays in maintaining financial stability.
    5. Macroeconomic Influence: The macroeconomic environment impacts DSCR requirements, with credit accessibility influenced by economic growth. As observed in the pre-2008 financial crisis, periods of leniency in lending standards can jeopardize economic stability, emphasizing the need for prudent DSCR considerations.

    What is the ideal DSCR ratio?

    Now, let's understand what is the ideal DSCR ratio below:

    1. Significance of 1 or Higher: A Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) of 1 or higher signifies that a company or property generates enough income to meet debt obligations. While not indicative of default risk, it suggests tight cash flow, leaving little room for unexpected expenses.
    2. Repayment Capacity: The higher the DSCR above 1, the more likely favorable loan terms and lower interest rates are attainable. This reflects the company's robust ability to cover its debt commitments, enhancing its financial standing and attractiveness to lenders.
    3. Government Standards: The Small Business Administration mandates a minimum DSCR of 1.15 for loans exceeding $350,000. This standard ensures a buffer for repayment capacity, aligning with the government's mission to support small businesses.
    4. Debt Service Reserve Account: Establishing a debt service reserve account provides a safety net, enabling loan approval for companies with lower credit ratings. This account safeguards lenders by setting aside funds equivalent to several months or a year's debt payments, ensuring repayment assurance.
    5. Mutual Advantages: The DSCR calculation benefits both lenders and borrowing entities. Lenders can assess loan requests in advance, determining their reasonableness. Borrowers can strategically analyze DSCR results, proactively enhancing the ratio before loan applications to increase the likelihood of approval.

    DSCR vs. Interest Coverage Ratio

    Both ratios serve as an important metric for a company. Let's understand their difference in the table below:

    Criteria DSCR Interest Coverage Ratio
    Scope of Analysis Encompasses both principal and interest payments for a comprehensive view of financial obligations. Focuses solely on interest costs, offering a narrower perspective.
    Calculation Components Utilizes EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) or net operating income, considering all operational aspects. Centers around EBIT, deducting all costs except interest, providing a snapshot of operating profit.
    Tax Considerations Accounts for tax implications, as interest is tax-deductible, providing a more accurate financial assessment. Excludes tax considerations, potentially underestimating the impact on cash flows.
    Measure of Stability More reliable, considering both principal and interest, offering a robust indicator of financial health. Limited in scope, mainly gauging the capability of operating profit to cover interest, overlooking principal payments.
    Calculation Formula DSCR = (EBIT + Principal Payments) / (Interest + Principal Payments) Interest Coverage Ratio = EBIT / Interest
    Threshold for Concern DSCR below 1.00 indicates insufficient funds to meet minimum debt obligations, posing a significant risk. A ratio below 1.00 signals potential challenges in covering interest costs, but it lacks consideration for principal payments.
    Long-Term Debt Issues Considered Considers potential issues like amortization clauses and sinking fund requirements, providing a holistic evaluation. May overlook critical long-term debt issues, such as breaching sinking fund requirements, risking contractual breaches and bankruptcy.
    Comprehensive View of Payback Capacity Offers a thorough assessment of a company's capacity to meet both principal and interest obligations over time. Focuses on interest payments without addressing the broader spectrum of payback capacity.
    Additional Ratio Introduces the fixed charge coverage ratio, further evaluating a company's ability to handle fixed charges beyond interest. Primarily focuses on interest coverage without extending to assess broader fixed charges.

    Debt Service Coverage Ratio FAQs

    Researched and authored by Ruxue Bai | LinkedIn

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