When determining an individual's qualifications for taking out a mortgage of a certain amount, the ideal situation involves the bank/mortgage broker/real estate agent calculating a simple ratio based upon payments/obligations to income. Where p=mortgage payment, r=other recurring payments, and i=gross monthly income, the ideal situation dictates that (p+r)/i should be less than or equal to 36%. A corporation's creditworthiness is inherently a more complex determination, although today's concept is - from a logical standpoint - similar in nature to the mortgage brokers "back of the napkin" recurring obligations to income ratio.

Times Interest Earned (TIE) is essentially a measure of how many times a firm's interest expense is covered by it's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). Depending upon whether the company specifically reports EBIT in it's income statement, you may have to do some simple math to arrive at the ratio's correct numerator. For instance, you may only be provided with the firm's pretax earnings; in this case, just add interest expense in order to arrive at the EBIT figure. Below is the formula, along with Hewlett-Packard's calculation as an example:

Times Interest Earned (TIE)= Earnings Before Interest & Taxes / Interest Expense

Hewlett-Packard's TIE = EBIT / Interest Expense

= $10,940M / $467M

= 23.43

This rather impressive example means that, for FY 2008, Hewlett-Packard earned 23.43 times it's interest expense before taxes. That number is not so high for many other firms, as can be seen in the chart below:

As usual, it's most instructive to compare these figures across industries, and over time. Below is a graph showing Comcast Corporation's (CMCSA) TIE calculation for FY's 2004-2008:

In general, we can say that the latter part of this decade has been good for Comcast, as it's TIE ratio increased from 2X to 2.5X. If the company was incurring additional long term debt during the time period of 2004-2008, we can assume that these were prudent borrowings which allowed Comcast to grow earnings at a greater rate than it's increase in debt service. A five year TIE chart, similar to the one above, should be a part of any investors credit risk analysis.

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## Tuesday, November 3, 2009

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