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Balance Sheet

A financial statement of assets, liabilities, and equity at a certain time.

Business Glossary provided by


A Balance Sheet is a financial statement that summarizes a company's assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity at a specific point in time. It provides a snapshot of a business's financial condition by showing what it owns (assets), what it owes (liabilities), and the amount invested by shareholders (equity). This document is fundamental in financial reporting and is used by analysts, investors, and managers to gauge a company's financial health and liquidity.

Context of Use:

The balance sheet is used across all sectors of business and is essential for financial analysis, investment evaluation, and strategic planning. It is a critical component of a business's financial statements, alongside the income statement and cash flow statement. The balance sheet is frequently referred to during audits, internal reviews, and when seeking investment or loans.


The primary purpose of a balance sheet is to give interested parties an idea of the company’s financial standing. It enables stakeholders to understand the structure of the company’s finances, assessing both the resources available to sustain operations and the obligations that might restrict its capabilities. This insight is crucial for making informed business or investment decisions.


  • BP plc: According to its annual report for the year 2022, BP reported total assets worth $296 billion, total liabilities of $194 billion, and shareholders' equity of $102 billion. This balance sheet demonstrates BP's substantial asset base, enabling it to manage large-scale operations worldwide. The figures also reflect BP's financial strategies in handling its obligations and equity, crucial for its activities in the highly capital-intensive oil and gas industry.

Related Terms:

  • Assets: Resources owned by a company that are expected to bring economic benefits.

  • Liabilities: Financial obligations or debts incurred during business operations.

  • Shareholders’ Equity: The amount of capital given by shareholders plus retained earnings minus any treasury shares.

  • Liquidity: The ability of a company to meet its short-term obligations using assets that are readily convertible into cash.

  • Solvency: The ability of a company to meet its long-term debts and financial obligations.


What are the main components of a balance sheet?

A: A balance sheet comprises three main components: assets, liabilities, and shareholders' equity. Assets must equal the sum of liabilities plus shareholders' equity, which is expressed as the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders’ Equity.

Why is the balance sheet important for investors?

A: Investors use the balance sheet to assess the financial robustness of a company, evaluating metrics like liquidity, solvency, and capital structure. This helps them determine the risk and return of investing in that company.

How often should a balance sheet be updated?

A: Balance sheets are typically updated at the end of an accounting period, which could be monthly, quarterly, or annually. Publicly traded companies must publish them along with other financial statements in their quarterly and annual reports.

What is the difference between current and non-current assets on a balance sheet?

A: Current assets are assets that can be converted into cash within one year or one operating cycle, such as cash, inventory, and receivables. Non-current assets include long-term investments, equipment, real estate, and intellectual property, which provide value over a more extended period.

Can the balance sheet help in assessing a company's debt level?

A: Yes, the balance sheet provides detailed information about a company's liabilities, including both short-term and long-term debts. Analyzing these figures helps stakeholders understand the company’s debt structure and its ability to handle and service this debt relative to its assets.

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