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How Are Operating Margin and EBITDA Different?

Operating margin and EBITDA—or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization—are two measures of a company's profitability. The two metrics are related but provide different insights into the financial health of a company. 

Key Takeaways

  • A company's profitability can be measured in several ways, including common calculations such as operating margin and EBITDA.
  • Operating margin gives you the ratio of income to expenses. Higher margins indicate higher degrees of profitability.
  • EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, lets you see how much money a company earns before accounting for non-operating expenses.

Operating Margin 

Operating profit margin is a profitability ratio that investors and analysts use to evaluate a company's ability to turn a dollar of revenue into a dollar of profit after accounting for expenses. In other words, operating margin is the percentage of revenue left over after accounting for expenses. 

Two components go into calculating operating profit margin: revenue and operating profit. Revenue is listed on the top line of a company's income statement and represents the total income generated from the sale of goods or services. Revenue is also referred to as net sales.

Operating profit is the profit remaining after all of the day-to-day operating expenses have been taken out of revenue. However, some costs are not included in operating profit such as interest on debt, taxes paid, profit, or loss from investments, and any extraordinary gains or losses that occurred outside of the company's daily operations such as the sale of an asset. 

The day-to-day expenses included in figuring the operating profit margin include wages and benefits for employees and independent contractors, administrative costs, the cost of parts or materials required to produce items a company sells, advertising costs, depreciation, and amortization. In short, any expense necessary to keep a business running is included, such as rent, utilities, payroll, employee benefits, and insurance premiums. 

While operating profit is the dollar amount of profit generated for a period, operating profit margin is the percentage of revenue a company earns after taking out operating expenses. The formula is as follows:

Operating Profit Margin = Operating Income Revenue × 100 \text{Operating Profit Margin}=\frac{\text{Operating Income}}{\text{Revenue}}\times100 Operating Profit Margin=RevenueOperating Income×100

Examining the operating margin helps companies analyze, and hopefully reduce, variable costs involved in conducting their business.

EBITDA 

EBITDA or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization is slightly different from operating profit. EBITDA strips out the cost of debt capital and its tax effects by adding back interest and taxes to net profit. EBITDA also removes depreciation and amortization, a non-cash expense, from earnings.

Depreciation is an accounting method of allocating the cost of a fixed asset over its useful life and is used to account for declines in value over time. In other words, depreciation allows a company to expense long-term asset purchases over many years, helping a company generate profit from deploying the asset. 

Depreciation and amortization expense are subtracted from revenue when calculating operating income. Operating income is also referred to as a company's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT). EBITDA, on the other hand, adds depreciation and amortization back into operating income as shown by the formula below:

EBITDA = OI + D + A where: OI = Operating income D = Depreciation A = Amortization \begin{aligned} &\text{EBITDA}=\text{OI + D + A}\\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &\text{OI = Operating income}\\ &\text{D = Depreciation}\\ &\text{A = Amortization}\\ \end{aligned} EBITDA=OI + D + Awhere:OI = Operating incomeD = DepreciationA = Amortization

EBITDA helps to show the operating performance of a company before accounting expenses like depreciation are taken out of operating income. EBITDA can be used to analyze and compare profitability among companies and industries as it eliminates the effects of financing and accounting decisions.

For example, a capital-intensive company with a large number of fixed assets would have a lower operating profit due to the depreciation expense of the assets when compared to a company with fewer fixed assets. EBITDA takes out depreciation so that the two companies can be compared without any accounting measures affecting profit. 

The Bottom Line

Operating profit margin and EBITDA are two different metrics that measure a company's profitability. Operating margin measures a company's profit after paying variable costs, but before paying interest or tax. EBITDA, on the other hand, measures a company's overall profitability but may not take into account the cost of capital investments like property and equipment.

The main difference between the two metrics is the no-cash items of depreciation and amortization. EBITDA is a cash-focused metric for stakeholders who care about the cash dimension of the business. Operating profit is an accounting metric for the stakeholders who care about the operational profitability of the company, not the cash aspect of it.

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