Value Investing

The 15 Profit & Return Ratios Every Investor Should Know

Valuing and understanding the risks involved with a business or security requires the ability to benchmark individual data points against a universe.

Get The Timeless Reading eBook in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Timeless Reading in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

That’s why business managers, investors, and accountants alike use ratio analysis to guide their decisions. Ratio analysis provides a consistent framework for benchmarking data points from the financial statements. We can spot relationships and trends more easily by converting the raw financials into ratios.

In this post, I discuss the 15 income statement focused profit and return ratios that enable investors to accurately determine a business’s profitability, competitive strength, and earnings potential. For each financial ratio discussed, I also provide a table listing the median ratio of firms in the database by Sector. The sector medians are as of November 8th, 2017. I've also written about Credit Ratios, Valuation Ratios, and Cash Flow Ratios in past posts.

Interested in calculating the ratios I discuss? I’ve created a spreadsheet template you can use to calculate these 15 income statement ratios yourself. The spreadsheet contains three tabs:

  • Cheat Sheet: This tab lists the Profit & Return financial ratios and formulas used to calculate each ratio.
  • [Example] Calculator: You can use this tab calculate all the ratios discussed for any business by manually entering the financials required in designated cells colored in yellow under the "Required Data" section.
  • [Linked] Calculator: This tab has formulas that are powered by's Spreadsheet add-on so you can use it to automatically fetch data for supported public companies by simply changing the ticker symbol in the designated cell.

[ View Spreadsheet Template ]

You can make a copy of the Google Spreadsheet by clicking File > Make a copy from the menu or using the link below:

[ Copy Google Spreadsheet Template ]

[ Download Excel Spreadsheet Template ]

Profit & Return Ratios

1. Gross Margin

Gross Margin measures the amount of gross profit a company earns on each dollar of revenue. Businesses that operate at high gross margins typically have higher pricing power over their customers and suppliers.


Gross Margin = (Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold) ÷ Revenue  
Median by Sector
Sector Gross Margin
Consumer Discretionary 37.5%
Consumer Staples 33.5%
Energy 50.7%
Financials 89.7%
Healthcare 67.4%
Industrials 29.5%
Information Technology 48.4%
Materials 26.9%
Telecom 57.4%
Utilities 60.6%

2. EBITDA Margin

EBITDA Margin represents the portion of revenue a business is able to convert into earnings before accounting for interest expense, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). EBITDA is often used as a proxy for cash flow since it excludes the non-cash depreciation and amortization expenses.


EBITDA Margin = EBITDA ÷ Revenue  
Median by Sector
Sector LTM EBITDA Margin Proj EBITDA Margin
Consumer Discretionary 11.1% 12.4%
Consumer Staples 12.2% 13.2%
Energy 25.4% 33.4%
Financials 7.8% 10.4%
Healthcare -25.7% -13.4%
Industrials 11.4% 13.0%
Information Technology 8.6% 12.3%
Materials 15.5% 18.8%
Telecom 28.5% 31.8%
Utilities 30.2% 32.6%

3. EBIT Margin

EBIT Margin is similar to EBITDA margin. Instead of using EBITDA as the numerator, EBIT margin expenses depreciation and amortization (D&A) to measure the portion of revenue a business is able to convert into earnings before interest expenses and taxes. Even though D&A expenses aren't cash expenses, they do serve as a fair proxy for cash outlays such as capital expenditures and software development. When these are the material expenses for a business (usually a capital-intensive business), the EBIT margin can serve as a more appropriate measure of profitability.


EBIT Margin = EBIT ÷ Revenue  
Median by Sector
Sector LTM EBIT Margin Proj EBIT Margin
Consumer Discretionary 7.4% 8.1%
Consumer Staples 9.3% 9.4%
Energy 5.0% 5.8%
Financials 0.3% 5.0%
Healthcare -33.5% -20.0%
Industrials 6.9% 8.1%
Information Technology 2.8% 6.0%
Materials 9.3% 11.0%
Telecom 10.7% 14.6%
Utilities 17.7% 20.3%

4. Net Profit Margin

Net Profit Margin measures the amount of profit that common shareholders earn on each dollar of revenue earned by the firm. Businesses that operate at high net profit margins typically have more cash to invest in growth and subsequently pay dividends to investors.


Net Profit Margin =  Net Profit to Common ÷ Revenue  
Median by Sector
Sector LTM Profit Margin Proj Profit Margin
Consumer Discretionary 4.1% 5.9%
Consumer Staples 4.8% 7.4%
Energy 0.3% 4.6%
Financials 17.8% 19.9%
Healthcare -35.8% 2.0%
Industrials 3.9% 5.9%
Information Technology 1.6% 8.9%
Materials 4.5% 7.0%
Telecom 3.9% 6.3%
Utilities 7.7% 10.0%

5. Effective Interest Rate

Effective Interest Rate in the context of a firm's debts is calculated as follows:


Effective Interest Rate = Interest Expense ÷ Total Debt  

The effective interest rate measures the average interest rate a company pays on its debts. The effective interest rate is not the cash interest rate because its interest expense includes the non-cash amortization of discounts and premiums from the time the debt was issued.

Median by Sector
Sector Effective Interest Rate
Consumer Discretionary 4.5%
Consumer Staples 4.4%
Energy 5.2%
Financials NM
Healthcare 5.5%
Industrials 4.2%
Information Technology 4.0%
Materials 5.1%
Telecom 5.4%
Utilities 4.7%

6. Effective Tax Rate

Effective Tax Rate measures the GAAP tax rate applicable to the earnings after all expenses have been deducted by the business. Note that this is the tax rate based on GAAP earnings; the cash tax rate is usually lower because firms can depreciate assets faster for tax purposes. Nevertheless, the effective tax rate serves as a good approximation of the current marginal tax rate applicable to the company.


Effective Tax Rate = Provision for Taxes ÷ Earnings before Taxes  
Median by Sector
Sector Effective Tax Rate
Consumer Discretionary 29.3%
Consumer Staples 30.1%
Energy 0.4%
Financials 27.8%
Healthcare 0.0%
Industrials 27.6%
Information Technology 8.8%
Materials 22.9%
Telecom 24.8%
Utilities 27.5%

7. EBITDA - CAPEX Margin

EBITDA - CAPEX Margin is similar to EBIT margin but accounts for capital costs explicitly by deducting capital expenditures. EBITDA less CapEx is often used by analysts as a proxy for unlevered cash flow.


EBITDA - CAPEX Margin = (EBITDA - CAPEX) ÷ Revenue  
Median by Sector
Sector EBITDA minus CAPEX Margin
Consumer Discretionary 7.8%
Consumer Staples 7.5%
Energy 7.8%
Financials 5.8%
Healthcare -26.4%
Industrials 7.6%
Information Technology 4.6%
Materials 9.6%
Telecom 11.3%
Utilities 5.9%

8. Return on Equity

Return on Equity (ROE) is an important ratio for common shareholders. It represents the return that a firm generates on the book value of common equity. Firms with high returns on equity can finance future growth by reinvesting their earnings.


Return on Equity = Net Profit to Common ÷ Average Common Equity  
Median by Sector
Sector Return on Equity
Consumer Discretionary 8.3%
Consumer Staples 10.2%
Energy 0.2%
Financials 8.7%
Healthcare -35.2%
Industrials 9.0%
Information Technology 3.6%
Materials 5.1%
Telecom 5.3%
Utilities 7.9%

9. Return on Invested Capital

Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) is used to measure a firm's ability to create value for all its stakeholders, debt, and equity. ROIC can be used to benchmark capital efficiency of firms within an industry.


NOPAT = EBIT * (1 - 39%)  
Invested Capital = Total Debt + Total Equity  
Return on Invested Capital = NOPAT ÷ (Average Invested Capital)  

ROIC is also useful to when compared to the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC). Since ROIC measures the company's ability to generate a return on invested capital, and the WACC measures the minimum return required by the company's capital providers (equity and debt), the difference between ROIC and WACC is referred to as Economic Profit or Excess Return.


Excess Return = ROIC - WACC  
Median by Sector
Sector Return on Invested Capital
Consumer Discretionary 5.8%
Consumer Staples 6.9%
Energy 1.8%
Financials NM
Healthcare -21.6%
Industrials 5.8%
Information Technology 2.6%
Materials 4.6%
Telecom 3.8%
Utilities 4.3%

10. Return on Assets

Return on Assets (ROA) measures the dollars that the net profit a business generates per dollar of assets it owns. ROA is typically used to gauge the efficiency of management at purchasing assets that generate earnings for their shareholders.


Return on Assets = Net Profit ÷ Average Total Assets  
Median by Sector
Sector Return on Assets
Consumer Discretionary 3.7%
Consumer Staples 4.5%
Energy 0.0%
Financials 1.0%
Healthcare -31.5%
Industrials 3.7%
Information Technology 1.3%
Materials 2.8%
Telecom 2.2%
Utilities 2.4%

11. Unlevered Return on Assets

Unlevered Return on Assets (UROA) is similar to Return on Assets but can be a more useful measure for benchmarking since it normalizes earnings for capital structure differences. Instead of using net profit in the numerator; the Unlevered Return on Assets ratio uses EBIT. Using earnings before interest expenses ensures that earnings (and thus returns) are not lower just because the firm utilizes debt in its capital structure.


EBIT = Earnings before Interest & Taxes  
Unlevered Return on Assets = EBIT ÷ Average Total Assets  
Median by Sector
Sector Unlevered ROA
Consumer Discretionary 6.9%
Consumer Staples 8.3%
Energy 2.4%
Financials 0.0%
Healthcare -29.9%
Industrials 6.6%
Information Technology 2.5%
Materials 6.0%
Telecom 4.5%
Utilities 4.8%

12. Dividend Yield

Dividend Yield measures the cash returned to shareholders by a firm as a percentage of the price they pay for each share of stock.


Dividend Yield = Dividend per Share ÷ Stock Price

Note: For quarterly dividends, it's common practice to multiply the most recent  
dividend by 4 to calculate Dividend per Share.  
Median by Sector
Sector Dividend Yield
Consumer Discretionary 1.4%
Consumer Staples 2.0%
Energy 3.4%
Financials 2.0%
Healthcare 0.6%
Industrials 1.1%
Information Technology 1.0%
Materials 1.5%
Telecom 2.9%
Utilities 2.9%

13. FCF Yield

FCF Yield measures the amount of free cash flow a firm generates when compared to the market value of equity (Market Cap).


FCF Yield = FCF ÷ Enterprise Value  
Median by Sector
Sector Free Cash Flow Yield
Consumer Discretionary 3.9%
Consumer Staples 2.6%
Energy 0.1%
Financials -5.4%
Healthcare -4.4%
Industrials 2.5%
Information Technology 0.8%
Materials 2.0%
Telecom 2.2%
Utilities -0.8%

14. Earnings Yield

Earnings Yield is the inverse of the P/E ratio and measures the return on investment in the form of net profit:


Earnings Yield = Earnings Per Share ÷ Stock Price  or  
Earnings Yield = Net Profit ÷ Market Cap  or  
Earnings Yield = 1 ÷ P/E Ratio  
Median by Sector
Sector Earnings Yield
Consumer Discretionary 5.0%
Consumer Staples 4.0%
Energy 5.1%
Financials 5.4%
Healthcare 2.9%
Industrials 4.0%
Information Technology 3.3%
Materials 4.1%
Telecom 5.4%
Utilities 4.1%

15. EBIT Yield

EBIT Yield compares the earnings before interest and taxes to the market's valuation of the entire business, including debt and equity.

The EBIT Yield was popularized by Joel Greenblatt in his book the Little Book That Beats The Market. The EBIT Yield has continued to perform well as a leading indicator as shown in recent backtests conducted by the Quantopian community.


EBIT Yield = EBIT ÷ Enterprise Value  
Median by Sector
Sector LTM EBIT Yield Fwd EBIT Yield
Consumer Discretionary 7.1% 8.0%
Consumer Staples 5.7% 6.7%
Energy 5.3% 6.1%
Financials 4.0% 3.1%
Healthcare 4.1% 5.1%
Industrials 5.7% 6.4%
Information Technology 4.5% 5.3%
Materials 5.9% 6.9%
Telecom 6.3% 8.2%
Utilities 5.3% 5.9%

Additional Resources

I’ve created a simple cheat sheet listing the formulas and short descriptions that you can download and print for quick reference.

Article by