A profitability index attempts to identify the relationship between the costs and benefits of a proposed project. The profitability index is calculated by dividing the present value of the project's future cash flows by the initial investment. A PI greater than 1.0 indicates that profitability is positive, while a PI of less than 1.0 indicates that the project will lose money. As values on the profitability index increase, so does the financial attractiveness of the proposed project.

The PI ratio is calculated as follows:

PV of Future Cash Flows
Initial Investment


A ratio of 1.0 is logically the lowest acceptable measure for the index. Any value lower than 1.0 would indicate that the project's PV is less than the initial investment, and the project should be rejected or abandoned. The profitability index rule states that the ratio must be greater than 1.0 for the project to proceed.

For example, a project with an initial investment of $1 million and present value of future cash flows of $1.2 million would have a profitability index of 1.2. Based on the profitability index rule, the project would proceed. Essentially, the PI tells us how much value we receive per dollar invested. In this example, each dollar invested yields $1.20.

The profitability index rule is a variation of the net present value (NPV) rule. In general, if NPV is positive, the profitability index would be greater than 1; if NPV is negative, the profitability index would be below 1. Thus, calculations of PI and NPV would both lead to the same decision regarding whether to proceed with or abandon a project.

However, the profitability index differs from NPV in one important respect: being a ratio, it ignores the scale of investment and provides no indication of the size of the actual cash flows.

The PI can also be thought of as turning a project's NPV into a percentage rate.

(Find some profitable ideas in 8 Ways To Make Money With Real Estate and Outside The Box Ways To Get Money.)




Capital Budgeting

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    An Introduction To Capital Budgeting

    We look at three widely used valuation methods and figure out how companies justify spending.
  2. Managing Wealth

    What's a Hurdle Rate?

    Hurdle rate has two meanings. In the business world, a business typically makes a decision on a capital project based on the net present value approach. To determine the net present value, the ...
  3. Financial Advisor

    A Guide on the Risk-Adjusted Discount Rate

    When a project or investment faces higher amounts of risk or uncertainty, it may be appropriate to utilize the risk-adjusted discount rate.
  4. Small Business

    What Exactly Do Project Managers Do?

    While supervision is one important part of the job, a lot more goes into project management than just watching everyone work.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Understanding Net Present Value

    Learn how this value is used to determine the worth of a project.
  6. Investing

    Calculating Economic Profit

    Economic profit is the difference between the revenue a firm earns from sales and the firm’s total opportunity costs.
  7. Investing

    What is an Index?

    An index is a statistical means of calculating a change in an economy or market.
  8. Personal Finance

    10 Ways to Improve Cash Flow in Construction

    Improving cash flow in construction requires some sector-specific strategies.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is the difference between yield and return?

    While both terms are often used to describe the performance of an investment, yield and return are not one and the same ...
  2. What are the Differences Among a Real Estate Agent, a broker and a Realtor?

    Learn how agents, realtors, and brokers are often considered the same, but in reality, these real estate positions have different ...
  3. What is the difference between amortization and depreciation?

    Because very few assets last forever, one of the main principles of accrual accounting requires that an asset's cost be proportionally ...
  4. Which is better, a fixed or variable rate loan?

    A variable interest rate loan is a loan in which the interest rate charged on the outstanding balance varies as market interest ...
Trading Center