The acid-test ratio, along with the current ratio analysis, measures liquidity. Liquidity refers to the ability of the firm to meet its short-term obligations (obligations over the next 12 months) with its current assets (excluding inventory). In other words, the ratio allows us to determine the ease with which business can pay its bills as they come due. It is also sometimes referred to as the quick ratio.
A declining ratio is an indicator of declining liquidity, which usually serves as a warning of potential financial difficulties for the business. Such financial difficulties may even result in bankruptcy. The risk of bankruptcy increases further if the ratio falls significantly below 1. A ratio below 1 indicates a situation whereby current assets (excluding inventory) can no longer cover current liabilities.
The formula for the ratio is as follows:
Acid-test ratio = (Current assets – Inventory)/Current liabilities
Example of an acid-test ratio analysis
Assume Dynasties Inc. has current assets of $550,000, inventory of $300,000 and current liabilities of $300,000. The acid-test ratio of the of Dynasties Inc. is calculated as follows:
This could indicate a ratio which may be too low. However, acceptable ratio values vary between industries. Therefore, the result must always be used in context via a comparison to industry averages as well as in comparison to the ratio of leading firms in the industry and Dynasties own historical ratio analysis.
Things to note about this ratio
A positive ratio is a must. A ratio of 1 or greater is generally advisable. If a company has a ratio of 1, it means that it has current assets (excluding inventory) which would be able to cover current liabilities once.
An acid-test ratio is similar to the current ratio. However, it differs from the current ratio because the former excludes inventory when calculating current assets. Inventory is excluded as it is seen as the least liquid form of current assets. Therefore, it is assumed the acid-test ratio shows a better representation of a firm’s liquidity for businesses which experience slow conversion of inventory into cash.
It is also important to note the acid-test ratio analysis ignores the timing of how quickly current assets can be converted into cash and how soon current liabilities come due. For example, imagine a situation where the business as an healthy acid-test ratio. However, most of its current assets are in accounts receivable, which can only be converted into cash in 4 months time and most of its current liabilities are due within next 30 days. In such a situation, despite a healthy acid-test ratio, a business’s liquidity may be unsatisfactory to meet short-term commitments of the business.
Lastly, as per the above, one should compare the ratios of individual firms to industry averages to obtain a better understanding. There is a large variability of ratio values between industries. This is because different industries have different operating requirements.