Profit & Loss (P&L) Statement

What it is:

The profit & loss (P&L) statement is one of the three primary financial statements used to assess a company’s performance and financial position (the two others being the balance sheet and the cash flow statement). 
 

How it works/Example:

The profit & loss statement summarizes the revenues and expenses generated by the company over the entire reporting period. The profit & loss statement is also known as the income statement, statement of earnings, statement of operations, or statement of income.

The basic equation on which a profit & loss statement is based is Revenues – Expenses = Profit.

All companies need to generate revenue to stay in business. Revenues are used to pay expenses, interest payments on debt, and taxes owed to the government. After the costs of doing business are paid, the amount left over is called net income. Net income is theoretically available to shareholders, though instead of paying out dividends, the firm’s management often chooses to retain earnings for future investment in the business.

Profit & loss statements are all organized the same way, regardless of industry. The basic outline is shown in the following example:

Profit & Loss Statement for Company XYZ, Inc.
for the year ended December 31, 2008

Total Revenue                        $100,000

Cost of Goods Sold               ($ 20,000)
Gross Profit                             $ 80,000

Operating Expenses    
 Salaries          $10,000   
 Rent               $10,000
 Utilities            $  5,000
 Depreciation   $  5,000
Total Operating Expenses    ($ 30,000)
Operating Profit (EBIT)           $ 50,000

Interest Expense                    ($ 10,000)
Income before taxes (EBT)     $ 40,000

Taxes                                        ($ 10,000)
Net Income                                $ 30,000

Number of Shares Outstanding      30,000

Earnings Per Share (EPS)             $1.00
 

Why it Matters:

Anyone interested in active investing, picking stocks or investigating the financial health of a company must know how to read financial statements, including the profit & loss statement. The importance of the information contained in the profit & loss statement cannot be overemphasized.
 
A firm’s ability or inability to generate earnings over the long term is the key driver of stock and bond prices. Operating profit (EBIT) is the source of debt repayment, and if a company can’t generate enough EBIT to pay its debt obligations, it will have to enter bankruptcy or sell itself. Net income is the source of compensation to shareholders (owners of the company), and if a company cannot generate enough profit to compensate owners for the risks they’ve taken, the value of the owners’ shares will plummet. Conversely, if a company is healthy and growing, higher stock and bond prices will reflect the increased availability of profits.

Please note that earnings/net income/profits are not the same as cash or cash flow. It is possible for a firm to be profitable on the profit & loss statement, but not be generating cash flow, and vice versa. To see a company’s cash flow, you will need to examine its statement of cash flows.

Best execution refers to the imperative that a broker, market maker, or other agent acting on behalf of an investor is obligated to execute the investor's order in a way that is most advantageous to the investor rather than the agent.