Net Operating Income

Companies raise debt and equity capital to buy operating and non-operating assets, which are expected to generate revenue going forward. The activities related to utilizing these operating assets are called the core operations of a business. For example, the activity of producing and selling toys for a toy manufacturing company would be considered its core operations. The net difference between the revenue generated by the core operations and the expenses directly incurred to generate this revenue is called the Net Operating Income.

The most common operating expenses are:

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): COGS are the cost of the merchandise that is sold.
  • Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (SG&A): SG&A is the non-production costs directly related to the operating activities and include salaries, advertising expenses, rents, and other selling expenses.
  • Depreciation: Depreciation is a non-cash expense representing the deterioration of the operating fixed assets of a company over a reporting period.

In our example above about the toy manufacturing company, the COGS would include the cost of the material used to create the toy along with the direct labor costs used in the production. SG&A would comprise the rent, administrative expenses, utility bills, the marketing campaign, and the selling commissions.

Net Operating Income is an important measure of operating efficiency as it excludes the effect of financial leverage and taxes, which can vary widely among companies even in similar industries. The level of Operating Income is driven by various factors, including pricing strategies, the cost of raw materials, salaries, and the level of fixed versus variable costs.

The various items used to calculate Net Operating Income are reported on the Profit & Loss Statement (P&L) as follows:

Economic view of the P&L
OperationsRevenue – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) – Selling, General, and Administrative expenses (SG&A)
Investments– Depreciation & Amortization
= EBIT or Operating Income
Capital structure+ Net financial income
= Earnings before taxes (EBT)
Exceptional items and taxes+ Exceptional items – taxes – minority interests
= Net Income
Net Operating Income

Investors closely follow net Operating Income as it represents the ability of a company to generate earnings through its core operations. It is the pre-tax income from operating assets that are available to all capital providers. It is also often used to compare profitability metrics between companies in a similar industry as it considers the capital intensiveness of a business.

Net Operating Income should not be confused with Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA), which is another commonly used measure by investors to assess the profitability of the core operations of a business. Contrary to Net Operating Income, EBITDA does not take into account the non-cash D&A expense, so it facilitates comparisons between firms across different industries. EBITDA is often used as a proxy for cash flow from operating activities. The formula for Net Operating Income is often displayed as an adjustment from EBITDA, as shown below.

Operating Income = Revenue – COGS – SG&A – Depreciation – Amortization

Operating Income = EBITDA – Depreciation – Amortization

Net Operating Income should also be distinguished from Net Income, which is the Net Operating Income adjusted for the after-tax effect of financial leverage, non-operating and exceptional items, and minority interest, if necessary.

To better understand the calculation of these figures practically, you can look at the P&L below which provides a line-by-line example of the main items on the top line and bottom line.

P&L ($m)Year 1Year 2
Cost of goods sold100108
Gross margin100108
Selling, general and administrative expenses3032
EBIT / Operating Income4649
Net interest expense2626
Non-recurring items105
EBT 1018
Net income$7$13
* Assuming a tax rate of 30%  

Finally, it is common for financial analysts to calculate the Net Operating Income margin to assess the profitability of a business. It is calculated as the Net Operating Income (EBIT) divided by total revenues. A high and increasing operating margin is viewed positively as the firm is generating more core earnings by the unit of revenue.

Sanjay Borad

Sanjay Bulaki Borad

Sanjay Borad is the founder & CEO of eFinanceManagement. He is passionate about keeping and making things simple and easy. Running this blog since 2009 and trying to explain "Financial Management Concepts in Layman's Terms".

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