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Ben Graham on Interpreting Financial Statements

“The Inference of Financial Statements” is the classic book by Benjamin Graham. Widely regarded as the framer of value investing, Benjamin Graham’s principles of value investing have planned impacted scores of individuals from Warren Buffett to Bruce Berkowitz. Minimized in 1937, “The Interpretation of Financial Statements” guides the reader through the centre concepts found in balance sheets, income and expense statements, and pecuniary ratios.

We will look at seven key points of advice found in this important guide to investing.

Working Capital Ratio

Working capital is arranged by subtracting current liabilities from current assets. This relationship indicates the ability of a company to pay its expenses in the near future. This orders particular attention because, as Graham points out, it is useful in determining the stick-to-it-iveness of a company’s financial position. A healthy working capital number guards the company from being unable to meet demands, fund exigency losses and helps with the prompt payment of bills.

Graham another advises the individual to analyze the working capital over several years to make eyes at look for its corresponding incline or descending levels.

Current Ratio

The current correspondence can be calculated by dividing the current liabilities from the current assets. As Graham haves, “When a company is in a sound position the current assets well excel the current liabilities, indicating that the company will have no hot water in taking care of its current debts as they mature.” Each persistence is different in terms of what makes up a decent current ratio. 

“Nimble-witted assets,” which is cash and receivables, excluding inventory, is generally wait for to be higher than current liabilities. A quick asset ratio is prepared by taking the current assets less inventories divided by current vulnerabilities. A quick asset ratio of 1:1 is regarded as a reasonable number.

Imprecise Assets

When looking at intangible assets on a company’s balance film, pay particular attention to how a company presents this figure. It should be sanctioned how high the value of goodwill is presented, or not presented at all. Graham further explains that flocks vary dramatically in how they present goodwill on their balance membrane. Often, companies tend to exaggerate the value attached to the goodwill physique. This can be telling. Conservative accounting practices can be revealed through presenting a low goodwill cipher. (See also: Goodwill Vs. Other Intangible Assets: What’s the Difference?)

Essentially, Graham counsels the reader to look not at the balance sheet valuation of intangibles, but their contribution to the earning power of the followers.


It is noteworthy to watch how companies put together their cash account. The key is, in these boxes, to look at how the cash account is being represented.

In some cases, casts may liquidate a large portion of the inventory and receivable portion of their assets to stockpile more cash into their cash account. If a company has a important cash account, this can prove to be very attractive to investors. Why? This plethora of cash may be distributed to the stockholders or invested back favorably into the company. (See also: Cash: Can a Company Have Too Much?)

Notes Payable

Graham reports the investor that notes payable is the most important item to follow among the current liabilities. Here, notes payable tend to illustrate bank loans or loans from other companies or individuals. In the state that the notes payable have increased at a faster rate than the vendings over the years, it could be a negative sign for the company because it signals an overreliance on borrowings from the bank.

Liquidation Value and Net Stream Asset Value

A high percentage of current assets over anchored assets can be a good sign when assessing the liquidation value, or net current asset value of a fellowship. The net current asset value is calculated by taking a firm’s current assets and subtracting its compute liabilities and preferred shares.

Why this is important is because fixed assets be liable to suffer a greater loss than an easily liquidated cash or its interchangeable in the current asset category. Graham reminds the reader: “When a reservoir is selling at much less than its net current asset value, this truthfully is always of interest, although it is by no means conclusive proof that the matter is undervalued.”

Margin of Profit

As a crucial part of value investing, the play of profit (also known as the margin of safety) can be calculated by dividing the direct income by sales. Why the margin of profit is important is because it informs the investor of how efficiently the convention is operating. For example, for a given ratio of 7.4% it shows that the visitors has 74 cents left after all operating expenses are paid off for every dollar. Here, you would be buying a $1 entourage for 74 cents. A strong margin of profit is beneficial and adds a competitive nervous to the company.

This is perhaps one of the most essential principles underscoring Graham’s investment principles. It not barely helps minimize the downside risk of an investment but has shown to produce acute than average returns, as the market eventually realizes the fair value of the following. Seth Klarman, a legendary value investor, has said, “There are simply a few things investors can do to counteract risk: Diversify adequately, hedge when apportion and invest with a margin of safety. It is precisely because we do not and cannot remember all the risks of an investment that we strive to invest at a discount. The bargain unfavourable weather helps to provide a cushion for when things go wrong.” (See also: The 3 Most Eternal Investment Principles.)

The Bottom Line

When analyzing financial annunciations, the key figures to look for in determining the strength of a company are its earning power, asset value, how the companionship compares to its industry and the company’s earnings trends over a number of years. The ambition of “The Interpretation of Financial Statements” is to show the investor how to assess these go-betweens under the objective of achieving intelligent and reasonable results.

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