Financial Leverage Ratio
The financial leverage ratio is a measure of how much assets a company holds relative to its equity. A high financial leverage ratio means that the company is using debt and other liabilities to finance its assets -- and, every thing else being equal, is more riskier than a company with lower leverage.
In essence, the financial leverage ratio is a variation of the debt to equity ratio and would move in tandem with debt to equity. If a company can employ its assets at a higher return than its cost of debt, it would improve its returns on equity capital. If not the company's debt outweighs the return from its assets, then the debt cost may outweigh the return on assets. Over the long-term, this would lead to bankruptcy. Investors should take this into consideration when investing in a company with a high financial leverage ratio, especially in times of rising interest rates.
The level of leverage depends on a lot of factors such as availability of collateral, strength of operating cash flow and tax treatments. Thus, investors should be careful about comparing financial leverage between companies from different industries. For example companies in the banking industry naturally operates with a high leverage as their assets are easily collateralized.