EBITDA definition

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What is EBITDA?

EBITDA is a way of evaluating a company’s performance without factoring in financial decisions or the tax environment. The literal meaning of EBITDA is ‘earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation’.

EBITDA is a measure of a company’s net income – also known as earnings or profit – with non-cash expenses added back to operating income.*

The EBITDA metric can be calculated in two ways – either by adding depreciation and amortisation expenses to operating income, or by adding interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation expenses back on top of net income.

Example of EBITDA

Let’s say company ABC’s revenue is CHF 1 million, but it has operating expenses of CHF 200,000 and CHF 50,000 in depreciation and amortisation expenses. The operating income before interest and taxes (known as EBIT) is therefore CHF 750,000. If we then subtract the interest expenses of CHF 50,000, we have an earnings before taxes figure of CHF 700,000, and if taxes are CHF 100,000, then the net income for company ABC is CHF 600,000.

To calculate EBITDA, we take the operating income, and add depreciation and amortisation back to the figure:

EBITDA = 750,000 + 50,000

The EBITDA figure for company ABC is 800,000.

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Pros and cons of EBITDA

Pros of EBITDA

EBITDA is useful for comparing the financial strength of two companies because it creates a singular measure of performance, which can then be applied across industries. It considers the differences in expenses and rates and allows analysts to focus on the outcome of operating decisions rather than imposed taxes and payments.

EBITDA is also commonly used in valuation ratios, such as assessing businesses that have high-value expenses, which can detract from net profits.

Cons of EBITDA

The main drawback of the EBITDA metric is that there is the potential for different components to be included, or excluded, by different companies. This can be misleading to traders and analysts. EBITDA can be used to present financial decisions to a company’s advantage, by excluding any debts – this is known as ‘window dressing’ accounts.

Today, most companies will report an EBITDA figure as part of their regular earnings releases. This isn’t mandatory, however, since it’s not one of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s generally accepted accounting principles (known as GAAP).

When using the EBITDA metric, it is important to look at other factors and performance indicators to ensure the company is not intentionally deceiving investors with its accounting figures.

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*A non-cash expense is a payment that has to be reported on a company’s balance sheet but that has no related cash payment during the period. Depreciation and amortisation are examples of non-cash expenses, because they track the process of payment over a period of time. Depreciation is the allocation of costs to expenses for tangible assets – for example, if a company buys a piece of equipment for CHF 100,000 but it has a life span of five years, the depreciation expense is CHF 20,000 a year. Similarly, amortisation is the evaluation of intangible assets such as copyrights and trademarks.

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