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One of the most important numbers you have to look at any time you’re considering making an investment in a company is the Ebitda. The abbreviation Ebitda stands for earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization. It is so important because it is a simple measure of a company’s financial performance. However, the Ebitda formula still has some limitations and not completely reliable. Find out how to calculate Ebitda, its benefits and limitations in this post today. 

What does Ebitda Mean?

As already mentioned, Ebitda refers to a company’s net income added to the interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization expenses. The Ebitda formula was first used and popularized in the mid-1980s by buyout investors who wanted to figure out if a company would be able to pay back their debt should it be refinanced. If the ratio of EBITDA to interest was too low, then they would know the company could not pay back its debt. 

Nowadays, investors use Ebitda to find out if well a company generates profits even before factors such as interest, depreciation, taxes, and amortization are considered. Through Ebitda, one company can also be compared to another one despite differences in size, and they can tell if the company can service current and future debts, just as the 1980s investors did.

How to calculate Ebitda

Some of the time, a company will provide the Ebitda number during its quarterly earnings report because so many investors have come to rely on it. Nevertheless, some companies will not do so, leaving you to calculate Ebitda on your own. That is because according to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the US or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), companies are not required to divulge the Ebitda. 

It is in these situations that knowing the Ebitda formula becomes so necessary. The good news is that it’s not too difficult to understand, which is partly why it is used by many investors. To work out Ebitda find the individual components from the company’s financial statements and then use this Ebitda formula:

EBITDA = Net Income + Interest + Taxes + Depreciation + Amortization

or

EBITDA = Operating Profit + Depreciation expense + Amortization expense

Explaining Ebitda calculation

To really understand the meaning of Ebitda, you have to break it down into its individual components and then put them back together.

  1. Interest

Different companies pay different amounts of interest depending on their capital structure. While there is technically no interest charged for equity capital, companies still prefer debt capital because it may be tax-deductible and less risky. Despite interest being an actual cost incurred by a company, the Ebitda formula adds it back to the income to eliminate differences in companies’ capital structures. This allows a fairer comparison between companies running different operations.

  1. Taxes

Every company has to pay taxes according to the laws of the region it is located. Therefore, all companies have to pay taxes, although the tax rate will vary by region. Since taxes do not indicate anything about a company’s performance or the management’s expertise, it is added back to the net income to provide investors with a complete picture of financial performance. 

  1. Depreciation and amortization

With time, a company’s assets will lose value due to wear and tear. Depreciation is thus calculated for tangible assets like buildings, while intangible assets like patents are amortized due to competitive protection. Both depreciation and amortization are calculated by non-absolute formulas and are thus added back to the net income through Ebitda calculations.

Calculating Ebitda example

The best way to understand Ebitda is by using a real-life example. On May 5, 2018, JC Penney posted income statements showing various financial figures but not the EBITDA. To do that, we shall use the above formula given that:

  • net income = -$78 million (loss)
  • interest rate = $78 million
  • taxes = the taxes were added to the net income as a credit/benefit of $1 million
  • depreciation/amortization = $141 million

Therefore, the Ebitda is:

(-$78) + $141 + $78 -$1 = $140 million Ebitda

What about Ebitda margin formula?

Whereas Ebitda is simply meant to show investors a company’s profitability before expenses, the Ebitda margin compares operating profit to revenue to find the operating profitability. To calculate the Ebitda margin, the total Ebitda is divided by the total revenue. When the Ebitda margin is high, it means that the company has low operating expenses compared to revenue and thus more profitable. 

In the above case of JC Penney, total revenue was $2.67 billion, equivalent to $2,671 million. Therefore, the Ebitda margin is:

$140 / $2,671 = 0.05

How Ebitda helps or hurts your business funding?

Just like in the 1980s, Ebitda is still used today when seeking business funding. To find out the value of a company, one needs to know that company’s cash flow. Ebitda values provide this metric, at least somewhat, because net income is added to interest, tax, depreciation and amortization expenses. In a way, therefore, it can be considered to be the company’s total cash flow for a period of time. That is why Gil Sadka, assistant professor of accounting at Columbia Business School in New York called Ebitda ‘a quasi-estimate of free cash flow’.

Being a non-GAAP figure, EBITDA can be tinkered with to provide a more attractive outlook for your company. In the above example, JC Penney could have hidden the fact that they experienced a net income loss for the quarter by announcing the Ebitda value. Of course, this is a good thing when you’re looking for funding from investors because you can present higher cash flow and receive more funding. This is not inherently cheating or lying, just highlighting the positives. 

It is also for this reason that financial experts are skeptical about the use of Ebitda. Investors such as Warren Buffett have been particularly vocal about their disdain for Ebitda because it completely ignores the cost of assets. That is why companies in financial trouble will be found trumpeting the Ebitda numbers to appease investors.