Z-Score (Altman)

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Predicting bankruptcy. Explanation of Z-Score formula of Altman. ('68)


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Z-Score Bankruptcy AltmanThe Z-Score formula for predicting bankruptcy of Edward Altman is a multivariate formula for a measurement of the financial health of a company and a powerful tool to diagnose the probability that a company will go bankrupt within a 2 year period. Studies measuring the effectiveness of the Z-Score have shown the model is often accurate in predicting bankruptcy (72%-80% reliability).

The Z-Score was developed in 1968 by Dr. Edward I. Altman, Ph.D., a financial economist and professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Composition of the Z-Score

The Z-Score bankruptcy predictor combines five common business ratios, using a weighting system calculated by Altman. Thus it determines the likelihood that a company will go bankrupt. It was derived based on data from manufacturing firms, but has since proven to be also effective (with some modifications) in determining the risk that a services firm will go bankrupt.

Analyzing the results of the Z-Score method

How should the results be judged? It depends:

  • Original Z-Score [For Public Manufacturer] If the score is 3.0 or above - bankruptcy is not likely. If the Score is 1.8 or less - bankruptcy is likely. A score between 1.8 and 3.0 is the grey area. Probabilities of bankruptcy within the above ranges are 95% for one year and 70% within two years. Obviously, a higher score is desirable.
  • Model A Z'-Score [For Private Manufacturer] Model A of Altman's Z-Score is appropriate for a private manufacturing firm. You should not apply Model A to other companies. A score of 2.90 or higher indicates that bankruptcy is not likely. But a score of 1.23 or below is a strong indicator that bankruptcy is likely. Probabilities of bankruptcy in the above ranges are 95% for one year and 70% within two years. Obviously, a higher score is desirable.
  • Model B Z'-Score [For Private General Firm] Edward Altman developed this version of the Altman Z-Score to predict the likelihood that a privately owned non-manufacturing company will go bankrupt within one or two years. Model B is appropriate for a private general (non-manufacturing) firm. Model B should not be applied to other companies. A score of 1.10 or lower indicates that bankruptcy is likely, while a score of 2.60 or higher can be an indicator that bankruptcy is not likely. A score between the two is the gray area. Probabilities of bankruptcy in the above ranges are 95% for one year and 70% within two years. Again, obviously, a higher score is desirable.

For the Z-Score Formula, see the figure on the right. Note the variations for public and private companies.

Book: John B. Caouette, Edward I. Altman, Paul Narayanan - Managing Credit Risk -

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Compare Z-Score model with these other liquidity measurement ratios:  Current Ratio  |  Quick Ratio  |  Cash Ratio  |  RAROC

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