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Degree of Combined Leverage


The Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is a financial metric that assesses the sensitivity of a company’s earnings per share (EPS) to variations in its operating income due to changes in its quantity sold and operating leverage, which includes both fixed and variable costs. DCL considers both financial and operating leverage to provide a more comprehensive view of a company’s total risk profile. It assists in forecasting and measuring the potential risk or profitability associated with a company’s leverage level.


Degree of Combined Leverage: /dɪˈgriː əv kəmˈbaɪnd ˈlɛvərɪdʒ/

Key Takeaways

  1. Measures Risk: Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is an important financial ratio that helps understand the overall risk a business is exposed to. It combines the effects of operating and financial leverage. Thus, it provides a comprehensive view of the risk associated with a company’s capital structure.
  2. Identifies Flexibility: DCL helps in identifying a company’s flexibility in terms of pending obligations. A high DCL indicates higher fixed costs, implying less financial flexibility. The company would then be highly sensitive to changes in sales volume, implying increased potential risks but also high possible returns.
  3. A Tool for Decision-Making: DCL can be used as a valuable tool in decision-making. It helps stakeholders in understanding how sensitive a company’s EPS (Earnings Per Share) is to fluctuations in output or sales. Businesses with a lower DCL will generally have more stable earnings, while those with higher DCL have more volatile, but possibly higher, potential earnings.


The Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is a crucial metric in the world of business and finance because it provides a comprehensive measure of a company’s total risk exposure. By simultaneously factoring both operating and financial leverage, it helps in assessing how changes in sales volume will affect a company’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and earnings per share (EPS). This enables analysts, investors, and managers to understand the potential volatility and risk in the firm’s profitability due to changes in output, sales, or the cost of capital. Therefore, DCL serves as an essential tool for making strategic decisions and risk management in business planning.


The Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is a noteworthy financial metric used by companies to understand the complete risk profile related to their cost structure. Essentially, it aids in measuring the sensitivity or volatility of a company’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) due to variations in quantity sold. It combines both operating and financial leverage, hence providing a comprehensive perspective on the aggregated risk a firm bears with respect to alterations in its sales quantity. It is a helpful tool for companies when making major decisions about cost management, capital structure, and budgeting.The purpose of DCL is to evaluate the risk and return trade-off, as both high operating leverage (fixed costs) and high financial leverage (debt) can magnify the potential returns but also increase the firm’s risk profile. Furthermore, DCL allows businesses to model different scenarios and assess the impact of various sales levels on profitability. It helps to understand how a change in the company’s sales would affect its earnings and ability to meet financial obligations. Thus, DCL serves as an integral part of risk assessment and financial management in business.


Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is a gauge of how a company’s operating leverage and financial leverage can amplify the effects of changes in sales on the firm’s earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). It represents the sensitivity of EBIT for a unit change in sales. Here are three real-world examples:1. **Intel Corporation**: This technology company uses a fair degree of financial leverage in the form of debt to finance its operations, R&D projects, and acquisitions. At the same time, Intel’s high operating leverage, which is the result of high fixed costs associated with manufacturing semiconductors, can multiply the effect of changes in sales on their overall earnings. Therefore, Intel has a high degree of combined leverage.2. **Tesla, Inc.**: As a growing automaker, Tesla has significant fixed costs for its production facilities, translating to a high degree of operating leverage. Besides, Tesla also has a substantial amount of debt, signifying a high degree of financial leverage. This makes Tesla’s earnings extremely sensitive to changes in the level of sales, thus exhibiting a high degree of combined leverage.3. **, Inc.**: Amazon operates with a high degree of operating leverage due to its significant fixed costs related to its e-commerce infrastructure and distribution network. While the company uses less financial leverage compared to Tesla, it still has sizable financial obligations, which increases the company’s combined leverage. This makes Amazon’s earnings extremely sensitive to fluctuations in sales levels. Particularly in high-growth industries or for firms investing heavily in capital assets or R&D, the degree of combined leverage may be high. This can amplify the effects of sales changes on EPS, leading to a higher risk but also higher potential returns.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Degree of Combined Leverage?

The Degree of Combined Leverage (DCL) is a financial metric that evaluates the total impact of financial and operating leverage of a company on its earnings per share (EPS). It calculates the sensitivity of the EPS due to changes in sales quantities.

How is the Degree of Combined Leverage calculated?

The Degree of Combined Leverage is calculated by multiplying the Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL) with the Degree of Financial Leverage (DFL). The formula for DCL is: DCL = DOL x DFL

What is the significance of the Degree of Combined Leverage?

The higher the Degree of Combined Leverage, the more volatile a company’s EPS will be. If a company has high operating leverage and financial leverage, a small change in sales can significantly affect its profitability. Therefore, DCL is an important metric in risk management and strategic decision-making.

What does a high Degree of Combined Leverage indicate about a company?

A high Degree of Combined Leverage suggests that a company has a significant amount of fixed costs, both operating and financial. It means that a company’s EPS are sensitive to changes in sales, indicating higher risk but also potential for high returns if sales increase.

How can Degree of Combined Leverage be used in business strategy?

Degree of Combined Leverage helps businesses evaluate the potential risks and rewards of their cost structures. A company with high DCL might aim to increase sales to realize greater returns, or they may seek to reduce their fixed costs to lower their risk.

What is the difference between Degree of Operating Leverage and Degree of Financial Leverage?

The Degree of Operating Leverage measures how a percentage change in sales will affect operating income, considering fixed and variable operating costs. On the other hand, Degree of Financial Leverage measures the sensitivity of the company’s EPS to its EBIT, considering its level of debt and interest obligations.

Is a high Degree of Combined Leverage always bad for a company?

Not necessarily. A high DCL suggests higher risk, but it also indicates a chance for higher returns if the company can increase its sales significantly. The optimal level of DCL depends on the company’s risk tolerance and strategic objectives.

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