Difference Wiki

Gearing vs. Leverage: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 16, 2024
Gearing refers to the ratio of a company's debt to equity, while leverage involves using borrowed capital for investment to increase potential returns.

Key Differences

Gearing is a financial term primarily used to describe the ratio of a company’s borrowed funds to its equity. It shows the extent to which a company’s operations are funded by lenders versus shareholders. Leverage, on the other hand, is a broader concept that refers to the use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital (like debt) to increase the potential return of an investment.
High gearing means a company has more debt compared to its equity, which can be risky but also potentially increase returns for equity holders. In contrast, high leverage in investment or business means using a significant amount of borrowed money, relative to equity, to amplify potential gains, but it also increases the potential for substantial losses.
Gearing is often used in assessing the financial health and risk profile of a company. It is a measure of financial leverage. Leverage, however, is not just limited to borrowing but can also involve leveraging assets to increase one's ability to invest or undertake projects, thereby potentially yielding higher returns.
Gearing ratios are crucial for investors to understand the long-term financial stability of a company and its ability to meet financial obligations. Leverage, particularly in investment or trading, is more about short-term strategies to maximize returns on capital, though it significantly raises the risk factor.
In summary, gearing is a specific measure within the broader concept of leverage. It is a key indicator of the level of debt a company carries, while leverage is a strategy that can be applied in various financial contexts to optimize investment returns but comes with an increased risk of loss.

Comparison Chart


Ratio of company’s debt to equity
Use of borrowed capital to increase returns

Primary Focus

Company’s financial structure
Investment strategy

Risk Assessment

Indicates financial risk and stability
Involves potential for high returns and losses

Application Scope

Mainly used in corporate finance
Used in investments, trading, corporate finance


Expressed as a percentage or ratio
Not a ratio, but a concept of amplifying returns

Gearing and Leverage Definitions


Gearing measures how much a company is financed by loans versus shareholder funds.
Analysts were concerned about the firm's increasing gearing levels.


In finance, leverage is the use of debt to augment investment outcomes.
The hedge fund’s strategy heavily relied on leverage for higher profits.


In finance, gearing is a gauge of a company's financial leverage.
The corporation's low gearing showed a conservative financial strategy.


Leverage can increase both potential gains and potential losses.
High leverage in the trade magnified both the risks and rewards.


High gearing indicates a greater potential for risk and return for a company.
Their gearing ratio made investors cautious about the company's long-term sustainability.


Leverage involves using borrowed funds to increase investment returns.
The investor used leverage to amplify his potential gains in the stock market.


Gearing represents the proportion of a company's debt compared to its equity.
The company's high gearing ratio indicated its reliance on debt financing.


Financial leverage refers to the degree to which a company uses borrowed money.
The company's aggressive use of leverage worried some of the more conservative shareholders.


Gearing helps assess the balance between debt and equity in a company's capital structure.
The business aimed to maintain moderate gearing to attract investors.


Leverage is a strategy to use financial instruments to boost an investment's effectiveness.
The trader’s leverage in the derivatives market was a high-risk, high-reward maneuver.


A system of gears and associated elements by which motion is transferred within a machine.


The action of a lever.


The act or technique of providing with gears.


The mechanical advantage of a lever.


The ratio of a system of gears.
The 4×4 could climb well, as it had relatively low gearing.


Harness; working implements.


A train of toothed wheels and pinions.


(finance) leverage


Present participle of gear




The parts by which motion imparted to one portion of an engine or machine is transmitted to another, considered collectively; as, the valve gearing of a locomotive engine; belt gearing; esp., a train of wheels for transmitting and varying motion in machinery.


Wheelwork consisting of a connected set of rotating gears by which force is transmitted or motion or torque is changed;
The fool got his tie caught in the geartrain


How does gearing affect company valuation?

Higher gearing can lower valuation due to increased risk.

Is leverage always related to debt?

Mostly, but it can also refer to leveraging assets.

Is leverage common in stock trading?

Yes, especially in margin trading and derivatives.

Can leverage lead to higher profits?

Yes, but it also increases the potential for higher losses.

What is a healthy gearing ratio?

It varies by industry, but generally, a lower ratio is less risky.

Does high gearing always mean high risk?

Generally, yes, as it indicates heavy reliance on debt.

Can individuals use leverage in investing?

Yes, through loans or trading on margin.

Do all companies have gearing?

Most companies have some level of gearing, but it varies.

Can leverage be used in real estate?

Yes, leverage is common in real estate through mortgages.

Are there industries with typically higher gearing?

Yes, like utilities and telecommunications, due to their large capital requirements.

Does high leverage mean high risk?

Yes, it can lead to larger losses as well as gains.

Is leverage different in corporate finance and investing?

The concept is similar, but application and context vary.

Is gearing more relevant for long-term investment?

Yes, it's crucial for assessing long-term financial stability.

What's considered a high gearing ratio?

This varies, but typically over 50% is seen as high.

How is gearing calculated?

By dividing a company's total debt by its shareholders' equity.

How can investors manage the risks of high gearing?

By diversifying investments and closely monitoring financial health.

Can leverage affect a company's credit rating?

Yes, high leverage can lead to lower credit ratings.

What role does gearing play in financial analysis?

It's a key indicator of financial leverage and risk.

Can leverage be beneficial?

Yes, if managed well, it can significantly increase returns.

Can high leverage be sustainable?

It depends on the context and the company's ability to manage debt.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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