Financial leverage is the relationship between operating profit and EPS (earnings per share). In short, it measures the level of debt. It is a measure of how the potential use of fixed financial costs (e.g. interest on debt) can enlarge the effect that change in operating profit (EBIT) has on EPS (earnings per share).
When does a firm have financial leverage?
If a firm has mixed financial costs, it has financial leverage. Due to financial leverage (existence of fixed financial costs), any increase in EBIT will result in even larger increases in EPS and any decrease in EBIT will result in even larger decreases in EPS.
How to calculate degree of financial leverage (DFL) of the firm?
To calculate degree of financial leverage, which is just a way to measure financial leverage of the firm, we can follow the following formula:
DFL =% change in EPS/% change in EBIT
Therefore, if the degree of financial leverage is greater than 1, then financial leverage exists (which is the case as long as the company has fixed financial costs). Also, any increase in financial leverage results in an increase in risk and any decrease in financial leverage results in a decrease in risk.