What Is Operating Income?

Operating income is an accounting figure that measures the amount of profit realized from a business's operations, after deducting operating expenses such as wages, depreciation, and cost of goods sold (COGS).

Operating income–also called income from operations–takes a company's gross income, which is equivalent to total revenue minus COGS, and subtracts all operating expenses. A business's operating expenses are costs incurred from normal operating activities and include items such as office supplies and utilities.

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Operating Income

Understanding Operating Income

Operating income is a measurement that shows how much of a company's revenue will eventually become profits. Operating income is similar to a company's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and is also referred to as the operating profit or recurring profit. The one big difference between operating income and EBIT is that EBIT includes any non-operating income the company generates.

Analyzing operating income is helpful to investors since it doesn't include taxes and other one-off items that might skew profit or net income. A company that's generating an increasing amount of operating income is seen as favorable because it means that the company's management is generating more revenue while controlling expenses, productions costs, and overhead.

Key Takeaways

  • Operating income measures the amount of profit realized from a business's operations.
  • Operating income takes a company's gross income, which is equivalent to total revenue minus COGS, and subtracts all operating expenses.
  • Analyzing operating income is helpful to investors since it doesn't include taxes and other one-off items that might skew profit.

How to Calculate Operating Income

The operating income formula is outlined below:

Operating Income=Gross IncomeOperating Expenses\text{Operating Income} = \text{Gross Income} - \text{Operating Expenses}Operating Income=Gross IncomeOperating Expenses

Operating expenses include selling, general, and administrative expense (SG&A), depreciation, and amortization, and other operating expenses. Operating income excludes items such as investments in other firms (non-operating income), taxes, and interest expenses. In addition, nonrecurring items such as cash paid for a lawsuit settlement are not included. Operating income is required to calculate the operating margin, which describes a company's operating efficiency.

Operating income is the amount of income a company generates from its core operations, meaning it excludes any income and expenses not directly tied to the core business.

Operating Income Examples

Many companies focus on operating income when measuring the operational success of the business. For example, Company ABC, a hospital and drug firm, reports an operating income rise by 20% year-over-year to $25 million during the first two quarters of its fiscal year. The company realized an increase in revenue and operating income due to an increase in patient volume over the two quarters. The rise in patient visits was driven by two of the company's new immunotherapy drugs: One treats lung cancer and the other treats melanoma.

In another example, we have Company Red, which reports financial results for the first quarter of its fiscal year. The company saw operating income rise by 37% when compared with the same period in the previous year. The report of the increase in operating income is especially important because the company is looking to merge with Company Blue, and shareholders are slated to vote on the potential merger next month. While Company Red's first-quarter sales did fall by 3%, its operating income growth could potentially give Company Blue shareholders confidence in voting to merge the two companies.

How to Find Operating Income

The example below highlights how to find and calculate operating income using the income statement for Apple Inc. (AAPL). The figures are from the quarter ending June 29, 2019, as filed in the company's 10-Q report.

  • Operating income for June 2019 was $11.5 billion (highlighted in green).
  • Operating income is calculated before, or located slightly above, net income.
  • We can see that operating income is the result of gross income–or gross margin on Apple's income statement–of $20.2 billion minus operating expenses of $8.6 billion.
Apple Inc Income Statement
Example of Operating Income from Apple's Income Statement.  Investopedia

It's important to note that operating income is different than net income as well as gross profit. Operating income includes more expense line items than gross profit, which primarily includes the costs of production. Operating income includes both COGS or cost of sales as well as operating expenses (highlighted in red above). However, operating income does not include items such as other income, non-operating income, and non-operating expenses. Instead, those figures are included in the net income calculation.