Asset Turnover Ratio Definition

What Is the Asset Turnover Ratio?

The asset turnover ratio measures the value of a company’s sales or revenues relative to the value of its assets. The asset turnover ratio can be used as an indicator of the efficiency with which a company is using its assets to generate revenue.

The higher the asset turnover ratio, the more efficient a company is at generating revenue from its assets. Conversely, if a company has a low asset turnover ratio, it indicates it is not efficiently using its assets to generate sales.

Key Takeaways

  • Asset turnover is the ratio of total sales or revenue to average assets.
  • This metric helps investors understand how effectively companies are using their assets to generate sales.
  • Investors use the asset turnover ratio to compare similar companies in the same sector or group.
  • A company’s asset turnover ratio can be impacted by large asset sales as well as significant asset purchases in a given year.

Formula and Calculation of the Asset Turnover Ratio

Below are the steps as well as the formula for calculating the asset turnover ratio.

Asset Turnover = Total Sales Beginning Assets   +   Ending Assets 2 where: Total Sales = Annual sales total Beginning Assets = Assets at start of year Ending Assets = Assets at end of year \begin{aligned} &\text{Asset Turnover} = \frac{ \text{Total Sales} }{ \frac { \text{Beginning Assets}\ +\ \text{Ending Assets} }{ 2 } } \\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &\text{Total Sales} = \text{Annual sales total} \\ &\text{Beginning Assets} = \text{Assets at start of year} \\ &\text{Ending Assets} = \text{Assets at end of year} \\ \end{aligned}
Asset Turnover=2Beginning Assets + Ending AssetsTotal Saleswhere:Total Sales=Annual sales totalBeginning Assets=Assets at start of yearEnding Assets=Assets at end of year

The asset turnover ratio uses the value of a company’s assets in the denominator of the formula. To determine the value of a company’s assets, the average value of the assets for the year needs to first be calculated.

  1. Locate the value of the company’s assets on the balance sheet as of the start of the year.
  2. Locate the ending balance or value of the company’s assets at the end of the year.
  3. Add the beginning asset value to the ending value and divide the sum by two, which will provide an average value of the assets for the year.
  4. Locate total sales—it could be listed as revenue—on the income statement.
  5. Divide total sales or revenue by the average value of the assets for the year.

What the Asset Turnover Ratio Can Tell You

Typically, the asset turnover ratio is calculated on an annual basis. The higher the asset turnover ratio, the better the company is performing, since higher ratios imply that the company is generating more revenue per dollar of assets.

The asset turnover ratio tends to be higher for companies in certain sectors than in others. Retail and consumer staples, for example, have relatively small asset bases but have high sales volume—thus, they have the highest average asset turnover ratio. Conversely, firms in sectors such as utilities and real estate have large asset bases and low asset turnover.

Since this ratio can vary widely from one industry to the next, comparing the asset turnover ratios of a retail company and a telecommunications company would not be very productive. Comparisons are only meaningful when they are made for different companies within the same sector.

Example of How to Use the Asset Turnover Ratio

Let’s calculate the asset turnover ratio for four companies in the retail and telecommunication-utilities sectors for FY 2020—Walmart Inc. (WMT), Target Corporation (TGT), AT&T Inc. (T), and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ).

Asset Turnover Examples
($ Millions)   Walmart Target AT&T Verizon
Beginning Assets 219,295  42,779 551,669 291,727
Ending Assets 236,495  51,248 525,761 316,481
Avg. Total Assets 227,895 47,014 538,715 304,104
Revenue 524,000 93,561 171,760 128,292
Asset Turnover 2.3x 2.0x 0.32x 0.42x
Asset Turnover Examples

AT&T and Verizon have asset turnover ratios of less than one, which is typical for firms in the telecommunications-utilities sector. Since these companies have large asset bases, it is expected that they would slowly turn over their assets through sales.

Clearly, it would not make sense to compare the asset turnover ratios for Walmart and AT&T, since they operate in very different industries. But comparing the relative asset turnover ratios for AT&T compared with Verizon may provide a better estimate of which company is using assets more efficiently in that industry. From the table, Verizon turns over its assets at a faster rate than AT&T.

For every dollar in assets, Walmart generated $2.30 in sales, while Target generated $2.00. Target’s turnover could indicate that the retail company was experiencing sluggish sales or holding obsolete inventory.

Furthermore, its low turnover may also mean that the company has lax collection methods. The firm’s collection period may be too long, leading to higher accounts receivable. Target, Inc. could also not be using its assets efficiently: fixed assets such as property or equipment could be sitting idle or not being utilized to their full capacity.

Using the Asset Turnover Ratio With DuPont Analysis

The asset turnover ratio is a key component of DuPont analysis, a system that the DuPont Corporation began using during the 1920s to evaluate performance across corporate divisions. The first step of DuPont analysis breaks down return on equity (ROE) into three components, one of which is asset turnover, the other two being profit margin, and financial leverage. The first step of DuPont analysis can be illustrated as follows:

ROE = ( Net Income Revenue ) Profit Margin × ( Revenue AA ) Asset Turnover × ( AA AE ) Financial Leverage where: AA = Average assets AE = Average equity \begin{aligned} &\text{ROE} = \underbrace{ \left ( \frac{ \text{Net Income} }{ \text{Revenue} } \right ) }_\text{Profit Margin} \times \underbrace{ \left ( \frac{ \text{Revenue} }{ \text{AA} } \right ) }_\text{Asset Turnover} \times \underbrace{ \left ( \frac{ \text{AA} }{ \text{AE} } \right ) }_\text{Financial Leverage} \\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &\text{AA} = \text{Average assets} \\ &\text{AE} = \text{Average equity} \\ \end{aligned}
ROE=Profit Margin(RevenueNet Income)×Asset Turnover(AARevenue)×Financial Leverage(AEAA)where:AA=Average assetsAE=Average equity

Sometimes, investors and analysts are more interested in measuring how quickly a company turns its fixed assets or current assets into sales. In these cases, the analyst can use specific ratios, such as the fixed-asset turnover ratio or the working capital ratio to calculate the efficiency of these asset classes. The working capital ratio measures how well a company uses its financing from working capital to generate sales or revenue.

The Difference Between Asset Turnover and Fixed Asset Turnover

While the asset turnover ratio considers average total assets in the denominator, the fixed asset turnover ratio looks at only fixed assets. The fixed asset turnover ratio (FAT) is, in general, used by analysts to measure operating performance. This efficiency ratio compares net sales (income statement) to fixed assets (balance sheet) and measures a company’s ability to generate net sales from its fixed-asset investments, namely property, plant, and equipment (PP&E).

The fixed asset balance is a used net of accumulated depreciation. Depreciation is the allocation of the cost of a fixed asset, which is spread out—or expensed—each year throughout the asset’s useful life. Typically, a higher fixed asset turnover ratio indicates that a company has more effectively utilized its investment in fixed assets to generate revenue.

Limitations of Using the Asset Turnover Ratio

While the asset turnover ratio should be used to compare stocks that are similar, the metric does not provide all of the detail that would be helpful for stock analysis. It is possible that a company’s asset turnover ratio in any single year differs substantially from previous or subsequent years. Investors should review the trend in the asset turnover ratio over time to determine whether asset usage is improving or deteriorating.

The asset turnover ratio may be artificially deflated when a company makes large asset purchases in anticipation of higher growth. Likewise, selling off assets to prepare for declining growth will artificially inflate the ratio. Also, many other factors (such as seasonality) can affect a company’s asset turnover ratio during periods shorter than a year.

What Is Asset Turnover Measuring?

The asset turnover ratio measures the efficiency of a company’s assets in generating revenue or sales. It compares the dollar amount of sales (revenues) to its total assets as an annualized percentage. Thus, to calculate the asset turnover ratio, divide net sales or revenue by the average total assets. One variation on this metric considers only a company’s fixed assets (the FAT ratio) instead of total assets.

Is It Better to Have a High or Low Asset Turnover?

Generally, a higher ratio is favored because it implies that the company is efficient in generating sales or revenues from its asset base. A lower ratio indicates that a company is not using its assets efficiently and may have internal problems.

What Is a Good Asset Turnover Value?

Asset turnover ratios vary across different industry sectors, so only the ratios of companies that are in the same sector should be compared. For example, retail or service sector companies have relatively small asset bases combined with high sales volume. This leads to a high average asset turnover ratio. Meanwhile, firms in sectors like utilities or manufacturing tend to have large asset bases, which translates to lower asset turnover.

How Can a Company Improve Its Asset Turnover Ratio?

A company may attempt to raise a low asset turnover ratio by stocking its shelves with highly salable items, replenishing inventory only when necessary, and augmenting its hours of operation to increase customer foot traffic and spike sales. Just-in-time (JIT) inventory management, for instance, is a system whereby a firm receives inputs as close as possible to when they are actually needed. So, if a car assembly plant needs to install airbags, it does not keep a stock of airbags on its shelves, but receives them as those cars come onto the assembly line.

Can Asset Turnover Be Gamed by a Company?

Like many other accounting figures, a company’s management can attempt to make its efficiency seem better on paper than it actually is. Selling off assets to prepare for declining growth, for instance, has the effect of artificially inflating the ratio. Changing depreciation methods for fixed assets can have a similar effect as it will change the accounting value of the firm’s assets.

The Bottom Line

The asset turnover ratio is a metric that compares revenues to assets. A high asset turnover ratio indicates a company that is exceptionally effective at extracting a high level of revenue from a relatively low number of assets. As with other business metrics, the asset turnover ratio is most effective when used to compare different companies in the same industry.

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