Ratio analysis is an essential part of studying financial statements to form an understanding of a business.

The wide range of ratios used in financial analysis cover profitability, valuation, solvency, and leverage of a concerned organisation. Of the numerous ratios, operating margin is a prominent one when we want to know about how profitable a business is.

What is Operating Margin?

Also known as operating profit ratio, it defines the relationship between a company’s operating profits and net sales in an accounting period. It is often used interchangeably with operating profits, which is an inaccurate representation of this ratio.

Operating margin is one of the key measures of a company’s profitability. It is denoted in terms of percentage and represents the amount of operating profit a company can generate against Re.1 of its sales.

For instance, if the operating margin of a hypothetical company is 25%, then it goes on to show that such a company is making Rs.0.25 as operating profits against Re.1 of total revenue.

All operational costs directly and indirectly related to business operations are deducted from net sales in the calculation of operating margin.

Therefore, it shows the proportion of revenue an organisation could divert to non-operational expenses, address liabilities, finance growth, pay dividends to shareholders, and hold reserves.

Ergo, an operating margin is a critical indicator of the efficiency of a company’s core business operations and also managerial competency. Some financial experts also utilise operating margin to infer the risk associated with an organisation.

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How to Calculate the Operating Margin Ratio?

1. Calculation of operating profits

As mentioned previously, an operating margin represents operating profits in relation to total revenue. Therefore, for operating margin calculation, one must firstly deduct expenses like Cost of Goods Sold (manufacturing overheads), administrative overheads, and depreciation & amortisation from the net sales to compute the operating profit.

Operating profit can be expressed as:

Operating profit = Net sales – (COGS + Administrative overheads + Depreciation and Amortisation)

It can also be written as,

Operating profit = Gross profit – (Administrative overheads + Depreciation & Amortisation) [Since, Gross profit = Net sales – COGS]

Here, Net sales amount is derived from gross sales by netting it against discounts, returns, and allowances.

The cost of goods sold includes all expenses directly associated with revenue-generating activities. That incorporates –

  • Labour costs
  • Raw materials
  • Freight expenses
  • Packaging

Administrative overheads, on the other hand, include all expenses that are crucial for day-to-day operations but have no direct bearing on revenue-generating activities. It involves –

  • Salary
  • Finance costs
  • Office rent
  • Warehouse expenses

Example: An excerpt from the Income Statement of Procter and Gamble as of June 30th, 2019 is presented below. 

Particulars Amount ($ in millions)
Net sales 67,684
Cost of products sold 34,768
Selling, general, and administrative expenses 19,084
Goodwill and indefinite-lived tangible asset impairment charges 8345
Interest expense 509
Interest income 220
Other non-operating net income 871

In the calculation of operating profit, any expense or income that does not stem from operational activities is not considered. Therefore, in the calculation of operating profit of P&G only these items shall be included – net sales, cost of products sold, selling, general, administrative expenses, goodwill and indefinite-lived tangible asset impairment charges.

Ergo, Operating Profit of P&G = $ {67,684 – (34,768 + 19,084 + 8345)} million = $5,487 million

2. Calculation of Operating Margin

Post the calculation of operating profit it shall be divided by total revenue or net sales to derive the operating profit.

The operating margin formula is mentioned below:

Operating Margin = Operating Profit / Net Sales

It could also be expressed as, (Net sales – Operating expenses) / Net sales

Let’s consider the above instance of Procter & Gamble as an operating margin ratio example. In the statement, its total income from sales stood at $67,684 million from July 2018 – June 2019. Its operating expenses, for the same period, come about to be $ (34768 + 19084 + 8345) million or $62,197 million. 

Therefore, Operating margin of P&G for the year that ended on June 30th 2019 = (67,684 – 62,197) / 67684 = 0.081 or 8.1%

Usage of Operating Margin

As mentioned previously, operating margin is a critical indicator of a company’s financial health, managerial competency, efficiency in core business operations, and associated risk. Therefore, it is of paramount value to investors, shareholders, and creditors.

  • Risk assessment

A positive operating margin value is far more desirable to both a company’s internal and external factors than otherwise.

On that note, a high operating margin indicates an efficient and substantially profitable core operational setup. Conversely, a low ratio implies an inferior and less profitable operational setup.

Furthermore, the measurement of how much revenue a company can manage to translate into operating profit highlights managerial competency of such an organization. A high operating margin means more funds to meet non-operating costs like interest, taxes, etc. That is of particular interest to creditors and investors since it directly correlates to the risk associated with an organisation.

  • Comparison among companies

The operating margin also facilitates comparison between companies belonging from the same industry. That is because the margin of operating expenses varies from one industry to another. Some industries might be labor-intensive and therefore, incur higher operational expenses when compared to capital-intensive industries.

  • Financial health of a company

Operating margin ratio can also reveal a thing or two about the financial health of the company in question. For that purpose, analysts should study the ratio across different periods.

If the operating margin of a company increases steadily over accounting periods,it implies a stable and improving financial health. That is a green signal for investors and creditors.

Conversely, if the operating margin of a company is erratic or decreases over a period of time, it may be indicative of an underlying problem in the financial health of a company, and hence raises a red flag for both investors and creditors.

In other words, the ratio portrays how a company is spending its monetary resources to generate Re.1 of revenue and whether such efficiency is improving or degrading over time.

However, organisations can utilise this ratio to their favour to keep a check on their performance and make necessary arrangements to get back on track.

Operating Margin vis-á-vis EBITDA

As mentioned previously, the operating margin can be applied to comparisons between companies that belong to similar industries.

To make up for these shortcomings, analysts use Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation (EBITDA). EBITDA does away with the impacts of taxation, financing, and accounting policies that make comparison with an operating margin less effective.

One merely needs to add back depreciation and amortisation costs to operating profit to reach EBITDA.

Operating Margin vs Gross Margin

Gross margin is the ratio between the cost of goods sold and net sales. Therefore, the primary distinction between operating profit ratio and gross profit ratio is that the latter does not account for administrative overheads and depreciation & amortisation.

Therefore, gross margin provides an understanding of a company’s cost-effectiveness in the production of goods or provides services. It is, therefore, a key indicator of soundness adopted in a company’s revenue-generating activities.

Operating Margin in Relation to Net Margin

Net margin is the ratio between net profit and net sales. Operating profit minus interest and taxes equates to net profit.

Analysing operating margin in relation to net margin allows a significant understanding of a company’s leverage.

If the former substantially differs from the latter, it indicates that such a company is functioning on high leverage. It means most of a company’s operating profit is chipped away by interest payment. Therefore, it indicates an unsound borrowing policy.


  • What is a good operating margin?

A good operating margin varies based on industry, market capitalisation, and business model.

  • Is EBITDA a better metric than the operating margin?

EBITDA is more useful than operating, in comparisons between companies from different industries. It helps to understand a company’s profit sans tax implications, accounting policies and financing.

  • Why isn’t tax included in the calculation of operational profit?

Tax is not included in the calculation of operating profit since it is not an operating expense.