Understanding a Company’s Income Statement

An income statement, also known as a profit and loss statement or P&L, is a financial report that presents a company’s revenues, expenses, and net income over a specific period. It provides insights into a company’s profitability and financial health. This article will break down the key line items in an income statement and discuss the importance of financial ratios. We will also explore examples of healthy and struggling companies and how their income statements reflect their financial health.

Breaking Down the Income Statement

An income statement typically consists of several line items:

  1. Revenue: Also known as sales, it represents the income generated from the company’s core business activities.
  2. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): The direct costs of producing the goods or services sold by the company.
  3. Gross Profit: Calculated as revenue minus COGS, it represents the company’s profit before accounting for operating expenses.
  4. Operating Expenses: General expenses related to running the business, such as salaries, rent, utilities, and advertising.
  5. Operating Income: Also known as operating profit, it is calculated as gross profit minus operating expenses.
  6. Interest Expense: The cost of borrowing money, such as interest paid on loans or bonds.
  7. Taxes: The income taxes owed by the company.
  8. Net Income: The bottom line, calculated as operating income minus interest expense and taxes. It represents the company’s profit after all expenses are accounted for.

Assessing Financial Health with Ratios

Financial ratios can help investors evaluate a company’s financial health. Here are some key ratios to consider:

  1. Gross Profit Margin: Gross profit divided by revenue, indicating the proportion of each dollar of revenue that remains after accounting for the cost of goods sold.
  2. Operating Margin: Operating income divided by revenue, revealing the proportion of each dollar of revenue that remains after accounting for operating expenses.
  3. Net Profit Margin: Net income divided by revenue, showing the proportion of each dollar of revenue that remains as profit after all expenses are accounted for.

A healthy company generally has stable or increasing margins, while a struggling company may have declining margins.

A Tale of Two Companies: Apple and Kodak

Apple Inc. (historical example)

Apple’s journey from near-bankruptcy in the late 1990s to its current status as a tech giant is a classic example of a company that turned its financial health around. In the late 1990s, Apple’s income statement showed declining revenue and negative net income. The company’s introduction of the iPod, iPhone, and other innovative products, combined with strategic leadership changes, helped transform its financials. Today, Apple’s income statement reflects robust revenue growth and high net profit margins.

Eastman Kodak Company (bankruptcy example)

Kodak, once a dominant player in the photography industry, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Despite a seemingly healthy income statement with positive net income, Kodak struggled to adapt to the digital era and failed to invest in innovation. As a result, the company’s revenue and net income eventually plummeted, leading to bankruptcy.


Understanding a company’s income statement is critical for assessing its financial health. By examining key line items and financial ratios, investors can gain valuable insights into a company’s profitability and overall performance. The contrasting stories of Apple and Kodak illustrate the importance of staying nimble and embracing innovation to maintain a healthy financial position.