Companies often experience changes in their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) margins due to external factors that they do not control. The most prominent factors that influence the EBITDA margin are inflation or deflation in the economy, changes in laws and regulation, competitive pressures from rivals, movements in market prices of goods and services, and changes in consumer preferences.
Inflation and Deflation
The company can experience rising costs of goods sold due to inflation, which causes the prices of materials and labor that go into the production of goods and services to rise. If the company is unable to pass through rising costs by raising its prices, the EBITDA margin declines. The opposite is true with deflation. If the prices for the company's factors of production decrease and the company is able to raise its prices, the EBITDA margin improves.
For example, in 2015, many general and grocery retailers began experiencing shortages of qualified labor; as a result, they began raising hourly wages for employees. If such wage raises are not mitigated by the increase in prices of retailers' merchandise, the EBITDA margin may decline.
Laws and regulations represent another external factor that can affect the company's EBITDA margin. For example, if the state or federal laws raise minimum wages, companies that rely most on a low-skilled labor may experience declines in their EBITDA margins, unless they pass on all of the wage increases to the consumer by raising prices for goods and services.
Another example of regulation affecting EBITDA margins is heavy compliance costs. Coal producers in the United States experienced rising compliance costs as environmental laws require reduction in the emission of carbon dioxide.
A company may experience a decline in its EBITDA margin if new rivals emerge that challenge the status quo of the company. If the new rivals can offer better and cheaper products and services, the company may lose its market share and its sales may begin to decline. If the company does not address competitive pressures and does not decrease its fixed costs embedded in its production processes, the EBITDA margins may begin to decline.
Market Price Movements
The company may experience shifts in EBITDA margin if the price of the product it sells shifts as a result of market forces over which the company has no control.
For instance, the rising oil price subsequent to 2009 was a boon for oil producers, and their EBITDA margins increased significantly. However, as the price of oil plunged in 2014, many energy producers witnessed a decline in their revenues and EBITDA margins.
Shifts in consumer preferences can either improve or deteriorate the EBITDA margin by either increasing or decreasing demand for the company's products and services.
For instance, health products and food have become especially popular among consumers. As a result, health food stores and health goods producers such as Whole Foods Market and the Hain Celestial Group have experienced significant improvement in their EBITDA margins.