What is 'Book-to-Bill Ratio'

A book-to-bill ratio is the ratio of orders received to units shipped and billed for a specified period, generally a month or quarter. It is a widely used metric in the technology industry, specifically in the semiconductor equipment sector. Investors and analysts closely watch it for an indication of the performance and outlook for individual companies and the technology sector as a whole. A ratio of above 1 implies more orders were received than filled, indicating strong demand, while a ratio below 1 implies weaker demand.

BREAKING DOWN 'Book-to-Bill Ratio'

A book-to-bill ratio is typically used for measuring supply and demand in volatile industries such as the technology sector. The ratio measures the number of orders coming in compared to the number of orders going out. A company fulfilling orders as they come in has a book-to-bill ratio of 1. For example, Company A books 500 orders for parts and then ships and bills all 500 orders. The booked and billed orders have a ratio of 1, or 500/500.

Importance of a Book-to-Bill Ratio

The book-to-bill ratio reveals how quickly a business fulfills the demand for its products. The ratio also shows the strength of a sector, such as aerospace or defense manufacturing. It may also be used when determining whether to purchase stock in a company.

If a business has a ratio of less than 1, there may be more supply than demand. For example, Company B books 500 orders for parts, and then ships and bills 610 orders, including some orders from the previous month. The booked and billed orders have a ratio of 0.82. For every dollar of orders the company billed, only $0.82 of orders were booked that month. However, if the ratio is greater than 1, there may be more of a demand than can be efficiently supplied. For example, Company C books 500 orders for parts, and then ships and bills 375 orders. The book-to-bill ratio is 1.3, or 500/375. In contrast, a business with a ratio of 1 is meeting supply and demand adequately by shipping and billing orders as they are received.

Example of a Book-to-Bill Ratio

In June 2016, companies creating semiconductor pieces in the United States and Canada received orders averaging $1.71 billion over three consecutive months. The book-to-bill ratio was 1. Therefore, for every $100 in orders received for the month, $100 of the product was billed. The companies booked $1.75 billion in orders during May 2016, making that month 2.1% more profitable than the average bookings from April through June of that year.

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