The term balance sheet refers to a financial statement that reports a company's assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity at a specific point in time. Balance sheets provide the basis for computing rates of return for investors and evaluating a company's capital structure.
In short, a balance sheet is a financial statement that provides a snapshot of what a company owns and owes, as well as the amount invested by shareholders. Balance sheets can be used with other important financial statements to conduct fundamental analysis or calculate financial ratios.
The balance sheet adheres to the following accounting equation, with assets on one side, and liabilities plus shareholder equity on the other, balance out:
Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders’ Equity
This formula is intuitive. That's because a company has to pay for all the things it owns (assets) by either borrowing money (taking on liabilities) or taking it from investors (issuing shareholder equity).
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