Explain Profitability Ratio With Examples

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Updated on July 22, 2022

Profitability Ratios

The main aim of all business enterprises is to earn profit. Moreover, earning profit is considered essential for business prosperity.

Profit is like the engine that drives the business forward. It is also the key to examining the efficiency of the company.

Profits are always measured in terms of sales or investment. These ratios are expressed in terms of percentage and always on sales.

The following important formulae should be understood:

Gross Profit Ratio

This ratio measures the relationship of gross profit to net sales. In general, this percentage is calculated on sales.

The formula for the gross profit ratio is as follows:

GP ratio = (Sales - Cost of goods sold) x 100 / Net sales


Consider the following information and calculate the gross profit ratio:

  • Net sales: $320,000
  • Sales return: $20,000
  • Cost of goods sold: $200,000


At the outset, we need to calculate net sales. This is calculated as follows:

Net sales = $320,000 - 20,000 = $300,000

To calculate the gross profit ratio, the following working is used:

GP = Net sales - Cost of goods sold

= 300,000 - 200,000 = $100,000

GP ratio = (GP x 100) / Net sales = (100,000 x 100) / 300,000

GP ratio = 33.33%

Operating Ratio

The operating ratio is useful to identify the relationship between the cost of goods sold and other operating expenses, on the one hand, and sales on the other hand. Here, operating cost is divided by net sales. In other words:

Operating ratio = (Operating cost x 100) / Net sales

Operating Cost = (Cost of goods sold + Operating exp.) x 100 / Net sales


Consider the following:

  • Cost of goods sold: $300,000
  • Selling exp.: $40,000
  • Administrative. exp.: $60,000
  • Total net sales: $600,000


Operating ratio = (Operating cost x 100) / Net sales $300,000 + 40,000 + 60,000 = 400,000 = 400,000 x 100 / 600,000 = 66.66%

Comment: Two-third of the sales are consumed by operating costs. The balance is to cover up the interest charges, income tax, dividends, and retention of profits.

Operating Profit Ratio

This ratio reflects how much of sales is consumed by operating costs. A higher operating ratio is always harmful because a small margin is left for interest, income tax, dividends, and reserves. It is a test of a company’s operating efficiency.

The operating profit ratio is calculated as follows:

Operating profit = Net sales - Operating cost or Net sales - Cost of goods sold + Operating cost


Net operating profit = Net profit + Non-operating exp. - Net operating income - Operating profit ratio

= 100 - Operating ratio


From the following information, calculate the operating profit ratio:

  • Cost of goods sold: $400,000
  • Administrative exp.: $30,000
  • Selling exp.: $50,000
  • Net sales: $600,000


Operating profit ratio = (Operating profit x 100) / Net sales = 600,000 - (400,000 + 30,000 + 50,000) = $120,000 Operating profit ratio = 120,000 x 100 / 600,000 = 20%

Expense Ratio

Various expenses are related to total net sales. The lower the expense ratio, the greater the profitability, whereas the higher the ratio, the lower the profitability. The expense ratio is calculated as follows:

Expense ratio = (Specific expenses x 100) / Net sales

Net Profit Ratio

The net profit ratio is calculated as follows:

Net profit ratio = (Net profit x 100) / Net sales

While calculating net profit, there are two schools of thought.

  • Net profit after tax
  • Net profit before tax

This ratio is very useful from the perspective of shareholders.

Return on Shareholders' Investment or Net Worth

This ratio is popularly known as return on investment (ROI). It indicates the relationship between net profit after interest and tax and the proprietor’s funds.

To calculate ROI, use the following formula:

ROI = Net profit (after tax and interest) x 100 / shareholders’ funds

Here, net profit is defined as follows:

Net profit = Out of Profit - Interest and income

Also, to calculate shareholders’ funds, use the following formula:

Shareholders’ funds = Equity + Preference share capital, share premium, Retained earnings + surpluses, general reserves


Consider the following information:

  • 20,000 equity shares at $10 each: $200,000
  • 2,000 10% preference shares at $100 each: $200,000
  • Total: $400,000

Reserved and Surplus

Revenue reserves 40,000
Capital reserves 30,000
Reserves for emergencies 30,000 100,000
Net profit before tax and interest 200,000
Interest charges 40,000
Tax rate 50%

Required: Calculate the return on shareholders’ investment.


Shareholder’s investment Share capital $200,000 + 200,000 + 100,000 = $500,000

Net profit before interest and tax  200,000
Less: Interest 40,000
Less: 50% tax 80,000

Return on shareholders’ investment = Net profit after tax x 100 / Shareholders’ investment

= 80,000 x 100 / 5,00,000 = 16%

Comment: ROI is useful when measuring a company’s profitability, and so shareholders and management are interested in it. The greater the ratio, the higher the level of efficiency that the company has used shareholders’ funds.

Explain Profitability Ratio With Examples FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website, view his author profile on Amazon, or check out his speaker profile on the CFA Institute website.