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The Altman Z-Score: A Guide for Investors

Updated: Feb 19

The Altman Z-Score is a widely used and respected metric to assess the financial health and risk of bankruptcy of a company. Developed by Edward I. Altman in 1968, the Z-Score is a linear combination of five weighted financial ratios, derived from a company's financial statements. Let's dive deep into understanding this score, its components, and its relevance in the investment world.

What is the Altman Z-Score?

The Altman Z-Score is a quantitative metric designed to predict the probability that a firm will go bankrupt within two years. It is based on multiple corporate income and balance sheet values. The Z-Score effectively measures the financial stability and strength of a company.

The Formula

The Z-Score is calculated as: Z = 1.2A + 1.4B + 3.3C + 0.6D + 1.0E


  • A = Working Capital / Total Assets

  • B = Retained Earnings / Total Assets

  • C = Earnings Before Interest & Tax (EBIT) / Total Assets

  • D = Market Value of Equity / Total Liabilities

  • E = Sales / Total Assets


Based on the Z-Score, companies can be classified into three categories:

  • Z-Score > 2.99: The company is considered 'Safe' with respect to bankruptcy.

  • Z-Score between 1.81 and 2.99: The company is in a 'Grey' zone and may be considered at some risk.

  • Z-Score < 1.81: The company is at 'High Risk' of bankruptcy.


Let's consider a hypothetical company with the following financial data:

  • Working Capital: $2,000,000

  • Total Assets: $10,000,000

  • Retained Earnings: $1,500,000

  • EBIT: $1,000,000

  • Market Value of Equity: $5,000,000

  • Total Liabilities: $6,000,000

  • Sales: $8,000,000

Using the above data, we can calculate the Altman Z-Score. Based on the provided financial data for the hypothetical company, the Altman Z-Score is calculated to be 2.08. 2.08, it falls into the 'Grey' zone. This means the company is at some risk, and investors should exercise caution and conduct further due diligence before making any investment decisions.

Applications and Limitations

  • Investment Decision: Investors can use the Z-Score to gauge the risk associated with a particular investment.

  • Credit Analysis: Lenders might utilize the Z-Score to evaluate the risk of a company defaulting on its obligations.

  • General Financial Health Check: Companies can use the Z-Score internally to assess their financial health and take corrective actions if needed.


  • Industry Specificity: The Z-Score model was originally developed for manufacturing firms. Applying it to firms from other sectors, like financial services, might not be as accurate.

  • Historical Data: The Z-Score relies on historical financial data, which may not always be indicative of future performance.

  • One-size-fits-all: Different companies might have different operational models, and the Z-Score does not account for these nuances.

The Altman Z-Score, while not a definitive predictor of bankruptcy, is a valuable tool for investors and financial analysts. It provides a quick snapshot of a company's financial health. However, like any financial metric, it should be used in conjunction with other tools and analyses for the best results. Always remember that while metrics like the Z-Score can provide valuable insights, no single metric should be used in isolation. It's essential to understand the broader context and underlying factors affecting a company's financial health.

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