Profitability ratios

July 27, 2023
Profitability ratios evaluate a firm's capacity to generate profits through sales or activities, its financial statements, assets, or equity held by shareholders. They show how well a firm creates earnings and worth for its owners. Margin and return ratios are examples of profitability ratios. Increased ratios are often preferred over lower ones, turning sales into a profit. These ratios are employed for assessing a company's current performance to its prior performance, other firms in the same sector, or the sector average.

What is the profitability ratio?

Profitability ratios are financial indicators employed by investors and economists to assess an organization's capacity to create income (profit) compared to sales, balance sheet assets, operational expenses, and shareholders' equity during a certain period. They demonstrate how successfully a firm uses its securities to generate profit and value for its owners.

Most businesses want a greater ratio or value since it indicates that the firm is functioning well in terms of sales, earnings, and cash flow. The ratios are most beneficial when studied to comparable firms or past times. The most frequent profitability ratios are discussed here.

The concept of the profitability ratio

Profitability ratios may reveal how successfully an organization's management runs a firm. Entrepreneurs might use them with additional research to assess if a firm is a suitable investment. A greater profitability ratio, in general, might indicate an organization's advantages and perks, such as the capacity to demand more (or less) for items while maintaining lower expenses.

Profitability ratios for a firm are most beneficial when compared to comparable companies, the organization's profitability history, or industry average ratios. A greater number than the initial value usually implies that the firm is performing well. Return ratios relate the returns earned to the bondholder and shareholder investments. They represent how successfully a company manages its assets to generate value for investors.

Computation of the profitability ratio

A profitability ratio divides a profit statistic by the revenue earned in the same period, which is useful for assessing a company's past expenditure tendencies. For example, most of a company's expenditure may be related to the cost of goods sold (COGS), operational costs, or non-operating items. The formula for computing the profitability ratio is as shown below:

Profitability Ratio = Profit / Revenue

To convert the ratio to percentage form, multiply the resultant amount by 100. Once uniformed, the ratio may be utilized for comparison purposes, either to the organization's past performance or to its nearest sector counterparts.

Various profitability measures should be utilized to assess a company's financial health and establish a thorough knowledge of its expenses and strategy. Relying on a single profit indicator may lead to erroneous conclusions, particularly in the lack of a thorough understanding of key industry-specific issues.

Varieties of profitability ratios

Profitability ratios are classified into two types which are margin ratios and return ratios.

Margin ratios provide an overview of an organization's capacity to transform revenues into profits from various perspectives. Return ratios provide numerous methods to assess how successfully a firm creates a return for its stockholders by utilizing their invested money.

The following are some frequent instances of the two kinds of profitability ratios:

·       Gross profit margin

·       Operating margin

·       Pre-tax profit margin

·       Net profit margin

·       Cash flow margin

·       EBITDA

·       Return on assets (ROA)

·       Return on equity (ROE)

·       Return on invested capital (ROIC)

Margin ratios

Profit margins assess an organization's viability at different expenses of the examination. Gross margin, operational margin, pre-tax margin, and net profit margin are all profit margins. When costs are low, profit margins widen; profit margins contract when extra costs (such as cost of goods sold (COGS), operational expenditures, and taxes) are included.

     i. Gross profit Margin

One of the most often used profitability measures is gross profit margin, sometimes known as gross margin. The difference between sales revenue and product expenses referred known as COGS, is the gross profit. The gross margin compares the gross profit to the revenue. A firm with a high gross margin in comparison to its competitors is likely to be able to charge a premium for its goods. It might signify that the firm has a significant competitive edge. On the contrary, a tendency of diminishing gross margins may indicate greater competition.

Seasonality affects the functioning of several sectors. Merchants, for instance, often have much greater sales and profitability during the year-end Christmas season. Thus, comparing a retailer's fourth-quarter profit margin to its (or its rivals') fourth-quarter profit margin from the year prior would be most instructive and beneficial.

     ii. Operating margin

The operating margin is the proportion of revenue after deducting COGS and typical operating expenditures (such as advertising and promotion and general and administrative expenses). It evaluates operational profit to revenue. The operating margin may reveal how well a corporation conducts its operations. It may offer insight into how successfully management keeps expenses low and profits high.

A corporation with a larger operating margin than its rivals is seen to be better able to manage its fixed expenses and interest on commitments. It is quite conceivable that it can charge less than its rivals. It is also better positioned to withstand the consequences of a weakening economy.

    iii. Pre-tax margin

The pre-tax margin reflects a company's profitability after deducting all expenditures, including non-operating expenses (interest charges and inventory write-offs), excluding taxes. Pre-tax margin, like other margin ratios, compares revenue to expenses. It may demonstrate management's capacity to operate a firm economically and successfully by increasing revenues while decreasing expenses. A firm with a high pre-tax profit margin compared to its rivals is deemed financially strong and capable of correctly pricing its goods and services.

    iv. Net margin

The net profit margin, often known as the net margin, represents a firm's capacity to create profits after deducting all expenditures and taxes. It is determined by dividing the net income by total revenue.

The net profit margin is regarded as an indicator of a company's overall financial health. It might show if the company's management is making a sufficient profit from its sales while controlling all expenditures. Its disadvantage as a peer evaluation tool is that, since it incorporates all costs, it may include one-time spending or a stock sale that increases profits for that period. Other businesses will not have the same one-time transactions. Hence, other ratios like gross and operating margin should be considered in addition to net profit margin.

     v. The cash flow margin

The cash flow margin gauges a company's ability to change sales revenue to cash. It depicts the link between operational cash flows and sales. Cash flow margin is an important business ratio since cash is used to purchase assets and pay bills. As a result, cash flow management is critical. A higher cash flow margin means more cash is available to pay shareholder dividends, suppliers, and debt payments or to acquire capital assets.

A corporation with low cash flow is losing money while generating income from sales. It might imply that it will need to borrow money to continue running. A brief negative cash flow may occur from funds being utilized to invest in, for example, a big project that will promote the company's development. In the long term, one would anticipate this will benefit cash flow and cash flow margin.

    vi.  The EBITDA Margin

It indicates the viability of an organization before non-operating expenses such as interest, taxes, and non-cash factors such as depreciation and amortization. The advantage of examining a company's EBITDA margin is that it allows for simple comparison to other firms since it removes costs that may be unpredictable or partly discretionary. The disadvantage of the EBITDA margin is that it might vary significantly from net profit and real cash flow creation, which are more accurate indications of firm success. Many valuation methodologies make extensive use of EBITDA.

Return ratios

Return ratios give data that may be used to determine how successfully a firm produces returns and wealth for its owners. These profitability ratios relate capital or equity investments to net income. These metrics may provide insight into a company's capacity to manage these assets.

     i. Return on assets (ROA)

It is a measure of profitability to costs and expenditures. It is compared to assets to determine how efficiently a corporation deploys assets to create sales and profits. The word "return" in the ROA metric frequently applies to net profit or net income—the value of sales profits after all costs, expenditures, and taxes are deducted. Net income is divided by total assets to calculate ROA.

The higher a company's asset base, the greater its sales and prospective profits. Returns may expand faster than assets as economies of scale assist in cutting costs and boosting margins, eventually improving ROA.

     ii. Return on equity (ROE)

The return on equity (ROE) ratio is important to shareholders because it indicates a company's capacity to produce a return on its equity capital. ROE (net income divided by stockholders' equity) might rise without further equity investments. The higher net income produced by a greater asset base backed with debt might cause the ratio to grow. A high ROE may indicate to investors that a firm is a good investment. It might imply that a corporation can earn cash without relying on debt.

     iii. ROIC (Return on invested capital)

This return ratio measures how successfully a corporation invests cash from all sources (including financiers and stockholders) to create a return for those stakeholders. Because it includes more than simply shareholder equity, it is considered a more sophisticated indicator than ROE.

ROIC compares operational profit after taxes to total invested capital (including debt and equity). It is used internally to determine the best use of money. Investors utilize ROIC for valuation as well. A return on investment (ROI) that surpasses the business's weighted average cost of capital (WACC) might suggest value creation and an organization that may exchange at a premium.

The key profitability ratios

Operating margin, gross margin, and net profit margin are often considered a corporation's most essential profitability factors.

The significance of profitability ratios

The following are some of the benefits of excellent profitability ratios:

   i. Nevertheless, the profitability ratio is still restricted because it is only relevant when comparing firms in the same sector.

   ii. Profitability ratios evaluate a firm's performance at several levels, such as gross profit, profit after tax, and EBITDA.

   iii. These ratios represent the proportion of revenues absorbed by operational expenses at various sales levels. As a result, the lesser the operating cost ratio, the greater the profitability and, as a result, the better the performance.

Drawbacks of the profitability ratio

These ratios have several limits, which are listed below.

   i. Different businesses may use various strategies to show financial data. As a result, using ratios for profitability analysis is difficult for comparative purposes.

   ii. It considers a limited period. Any new investment or growth strategy takes time to bear fruit. Because good outcomes do not occur instantly, the ratios cannot capture them.

   iii. These ratios indicate the present performance state but cannot anticipate the future.

   iv. The ratios do not consider the risks that every firm encounters to generate the revenue and earnings that the ratios used to calculate.

   v. It is feasible to tamper with any company's financial data. The ratio will not accurately reflect the company's financial situation.

Financial analysis

Although profitability ratios are a good place to start when undertaking financial analysis, their fundamental limitation is that none considers the whole picture. Building a DCF model containing 3-5 years of historical outcomes, a 5-year projection, a terminal value, and a Net Present Value (NPV) of the firm is a complete method to combine all the key aspects affecting a company's financial health and profitability.


Profitability ratios aid in determining and evaluating a company's capacity to create money while incurring costs, and they take into consideration the various parts of the corporation's financial statement and profit and loss account when examining the efficiency of the business. It assists stakeholders in determining the entity's potential to generate income via the most efficient use of inventory, capital investments, cost management, etc. Some examples are the gross profit ratio, net profit ratio, operational profit ratio, and return on investment. In contrast, any two significant numerical numbers are chosen from the financial statement.