Logo - Business Development Bank of Canada - BDC


Generally speaking, a company is considered insolvent when it has a negative debt service ratio, i.e.:

  • that it cannot pay its debt as it falls due;
  • it has no liquidity (it has no way of converting its assets into cash).

However, this definition must be distinguished from the more specific legal terms "insolvency" and "insolvent person", which refer to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Banks mainly use the debt service coverage ratio to decide if a company will be able to meet its financial obligations. This is calculated by subtracting the principal and interest payments on all outstanding debts from the company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

If this calculation returns a result of between 1.5 and 2.5, the company’s debt service coverage ratio is considered “safe”. Technically, a business can have a debt service coverage ratio of 1.0 and still be solvent, but it is operating under stress.

More about insolvency

If ABC Co. has an EBITDA of $43,000 for the three months ending at March 31, 2012 and its total debt payments for the period are $13,000, its debt service surplus would be:

$43,000 – $13,000 = $30,000

Its debt service coverage ratio would be ($43,000 / $13,000) = 3.3, which means that ABC Co. is servicing its current debt load with a large margin to spare.

When doing these calculations, the same time period is used to calculate the EBITDA and the debt payment requirements.

The notes to the financial statements include additional detail about the company’s debts, such as the nature of the various debts owed (whether short-term or long-term), interest rates and borrowing terms. This information is required to make the calculations.

Your privacy

BDC uses cookies to improve your experience on its website and for advertising purposes, to offer you products or services that are relevant to you. By clicking ῝I understand῎ or by continuing to browse this site, you consent to their use.

To find out more, consult our Policy on confidentiality.