Wall Street Prep

Net Debt

Guide to Understanding the Net Debt Concept

Learn Online Now

Net Debt

How to Calculate Net Debt?

The net debt of a company represents the remaining debt balance once the company’s cash is used to help pay down as much debt as possible.

Frequently used to determine the liquidity of a company, the metric shows the remaining debt balance if all of a company’s cash and cash equivalents were hypothetically used to pay down its outstanding debt obligations.

The underlying idea behind net debt is that the cash sitting on a company’s balance sheet could hypothetically be used to pay down outstanding debt if necessary.

Since the assumption is that cash helps offset the debt burden, the value of a company’s cash and cash equivalents are deducted from the gross debt.

Calculating a company’s net debt balance consists of two steps:

  • Step 1: Calculate the Sum of All Debt and Interest-Bearing Obligations
  • Step 2: Subtract Cash and Cash-Equivalents

Net Debt Formula

The formula for calculating net debt is as follows.

Net Debt = Total DebtCash and Cash Equivalents
  • Debt Component → Comprises all short-term and long-term debt obligations, such as short-term and long-term loans and bonds — as well as financial claims such as preferred stock and non-controlling interests.
  • Cash Component → Contains all cash and highly liquid investments — which refer to short-term holdings such as marketable securities, money market funds, and commercial paper.

What is a Good Net Debt?

If the net debt of a company is negative, this suggests the company has a significant amount of cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet.

The negative balance could be an indication the company is not financed with an excessive amount of debt.

In contrast, it could also just mean the company is holding onto more cash in comparison to debt (e.g. Microsoft, Apple).

Given a negative net balance, the enterprise value of these companies will be lower than their equity value. Recall that the enterprise value represents the value of a company’s operations – which excludes any non-operating assets.

Therefore, companies that have accumulated large cash reserves will have a higher equity value than enterprise value.

Net Debt Calculator

We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

Submitting ...

1. Operating Assumptions

Here, our hypothetical company has the following financials in Year 0:

  • Short-Term Borrowings = $40m
  • Long-Term Debt = $60m
  • Cash & Cash Equivalents = $25m
  • Marketable Securities = $15m

For each period in the forecast, all debt and debt-equivalents are assumed to remain constant. Cash and marketable securities, on the other hand, are going to grow by $5m per year.

  • Step Function, Debt = Constant (“Straight-Line”)
  • Step Function, Cash = +$5 per year

Given the growth in cash and cash equivalents, while the debt amount remains constant, it would be reasonable to expect the company’s net debt to decrease each year.

2. Net Debt Calculation Example

For Year 1, the calculation steps are as follows:

  • Total Debt = $40m Short-Term Borrowings + $60m Long-Term Debt = $100m
  • Less: Cash & Cash Equivalents = $30m Cash + $20m Marketable Securities
  • Net Debt = $100m in Total Debt – $50m Cash & Cash Equivalents = $50m

Net Debt Excel Formula

3. Net Debt-to-EBITDA Ratio Calculation Example

A common leverage ratio is the net debt-to-EBITDA ratio, which divides a company’s total debt minus cash balance by a cash-flow metric, which is EBITDA in this case.

For our EBITDA assumption, we’ll be using $30m for each period in the forecast.

Since cash can be used to pay down debt, many leverage ratios use net rather than gross debt, as one could argue that net (not gross) debt is a more accurate representation of the company’s actual leverage.

From the completed output below, we can see how the net debt-to-EBITDA ratio declines from 2.0x in Year 0 to 0.3x by the end of Year 5, which is driven by the accumulation of highly liquid, cash-like assets.

But in the same time span, our total debt / EBITDA ratio remains constant at 3.3x as it does not take into account the growth in cash & cash equivalents.

Net Debt Calculation

Step-by-Step Online Course

Everything You Need To Master Financial Modeling

Enroll in The Premium Package: Learn Financial Statement Modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO and Comps. The same training program used at top investment banks.

Enroll Today
most voted
newest oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alex Shan
Alex Shan
May 17, 2023 10:05 pm

Would you include non current marketable securities in net debt calculations?

Brad Barlow
Brad Barlow
May 18, 2023 4:15 pm
Reply to  Alex Shan

Hi, Alex,

Yes, it should definitely be included.


Learn Financial Modeling Online

Everything you need to master financial and valuation modeling: 3-Statement Modeling, DCF, Comps, M&A and LBO.

Learn More

The Wall Street Prep Quicklesson Series

7 Free Financial Modeling Lessons

Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts.