Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation (EBITDA) is a widely used financial metric in evaluating cash flows and profitability of a business. Market participants closely track EBITDA and apply it in decision making extensively.
Although conventional investors like Charlie Munger had raised concerns over the use of EBITDA, it is very popular in markets, and M&A transactions are mostly priced on EBITDA-based valuation like EV/EBITDA (x).
EBITDA is not recognised by IFRS and GAAP but is used extensively in the Corporate Finance world. It is now a mainstream financial metric that companies look to target. EBITDA depicts operational cash generation capacity of a firm in a given period.
It acts as an alternative to financial metrics like revenue, profit or earnings per share. EBITDA allows to evaluate a business operationally and outcomes of operating decisions. Non-operating items are excluded to arrive at EBITDA.
EBITDA excludes the impact of capital structure or debt/equity, and non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortisation. A particular criticism of EBITDA has been the inappropriate outlook of capital intensive businesses, which incur large depreciation expenses.
Business with large assets incurs substantial costs related to repair and maintenance, which are not captured in EBITDA because depreciation expenses are accounted to calculate EBITDA. Meanwhile, EBITDA can paint an appropriate picture for asset-light business with lower capital intensity.
While revenue, profit and earning per share remain sought-after headline generators for corporates, EBITDA has also found its growing application in the corporate finance world and is now a mainstream metric to evaluate a business financially.
Perhaps the growth of asset-light business models has also added to the use of EBITDA. Its debt-agnostic approach to evaluate businesses has given reasons to investors, especially for high growth firms during capital expenditure cycles.
But EBITDA has been present for close to four decades now. In the 1980s, the growth in corporate takeovers through leverage buyout transaction was on a boom. EBITDA grew popular to value heavy industries like broadcasting, telecommunication, utilities.
John Malone is credited for coining this term. He was working at TCI- a cable TV provider.
Since EBITDA has remained an important metric to determine purchase price multiples and is highly used in M&A transactions. EBITDA’s application in large businesses with capital intensive assets that are written down over a long period has been a source of concern for many investors.
Although EBITDA is an effective metric to evaluate the profitability of a firm, it does not reflect actual cash flow picture of a firm during a period. Also, it does not account for capital expenditures of the firm, which are crucial in successfully running a business.
EBITDA does not give a fair cash flow position because it leaves out crucial items like working capital, debt and interest repayments, fixed expenses, capital expenditure. At the outset, there can be times when EBITDA may overstate performance, value and ability to repay debt.
NPAT: Net Profit after tax is the amount reported by a firm in the given period. It is present on the income statement of the firm and is used in the calculation of earnings per share of an entity. To calculate EBITDA, interest expense, tax, depreciation and amortisation are added to NPAT.
Interest Expense: Firms can employ debt in their capital structure, and interest expense is funds paid to lenders as interest costs on principal debt. Most companies have different financing structure, and excluding interest payments enable comparing firms on operating grounds through EBITDA.
Tax: Firms also pay income tax on profits. Excluding taxes gives a fair picture of the operating performance of the business since tax vary across jurisdictions, and sometimes according to size of business as well.
Depreciation: Depreciation is the non-cash expense to account for the steady reduction in value of tangible assets. Firms can incur depreciation expense on machinery, vehicles, office assets, equipment etc.
Amortisation: Amortisation is the non-cash expense to account for the reduction in the value of intangible assets like patents, copyrights, export license, import license etc.
Operating Profit: Operating profit is the core profit of a firm generated out of operations. It includes cash and non-cash expenses of a firm, excluding income tax and interest expenses. Operating Profit is also called Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT).
Read: EBIT vs EBITDA
Trailing Twelve Months (TTM) or Last Twelve Months (LTM) EBITDA represents the EBITDA of the past twelve months of the firm. It allows to review the last operation performance of the business. Whereas NTM EBITDA represents 12-month forward forecast EBITDA of the firm.
NTM EBITDA is also one-year forward EBITDA. Market participants are provided with consensus analysts’ estimates for a firm, which also include NTM EBITDA, NTM EPS, NTM Net Income or NPAT.
EBITDA margin is the percentage proportion of a firm EBITDA against total revenue. It indicates the operational profitability of the firm and cash flows to some extent. If a firm has a higher margin, it means the level of EBITDA against revenue is higher.
It is widely used in comparing similar companies and enable to evaluate businesses relatively. If a firm has a total revenue of $1 million and EBITDA is $800k, the EBITDA margin is 80%.
Adjusted EBITDA is calculated to provide a fair view business after adding back non-cash items, one-time expenses, unrealised gains and losses, share-based payments, goodwill impairments, asset write-downs etc.