What is Corporate Profit?

Corporate profit, also called net income, is the amount remaining after all costs, depreciation, interest, taxes, and other expenses have been deducted from total sales. Profit is also referred to as the bottom line, net profit or net earnings. The formula for profit is:

Total Sales - Total Expenses = Corporate Profit

Note that preferred stock dividends are typically included in the traditional net income calculation, but common stock dividends are not.

How Does Corporate Profit Work?

Here is some information about Company XYZ for last year:

Corporate Profit(1)

Using the formula and the information above, we can calculate that Company XYZ's corporate profit was:

$1,000,000 - $500,000 - $300,000 - $100,000 - $5,000 + $1,000 - $10,000 - $10,000 = $76,000

This means that Company XYZ made $76,000 of corporate profit last year.

Why Does Corporate Profit Matter?

Philosophically speaking, corporate profit is what motivates industry, entrepreneurship and innovation. Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, said, 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Corporate profit is one of the most analyzed numbers a company can produce, and it plays a part in many other financial measures. It is important to understand that profit is not a measure of how much cash a company earned during a given period. The income statement, and hence net income, typically includes noncash expenses, such as depreciation. It is also important to understand that changes in accounting methods can greatly influence profit, and these changes may have little to do with a company's actual operations.

Changes in corporate profit are the subject of much analysis. In general, low profit could suggest myriad problems, ranging from inadequacies in customer or expense management to unfavorable accounting methods; however, some companies strive to minimize taxes and will therefore intentionally minimize net income.

Corporate profit varies greatly from company to company and from industry to industry. Because profit is measured in dollars and companies vary in size, it is often more appropriate to consider profit as a percentage of sales (profit margin) when comparing one company to another. Care should also be taken when comparing profit over time, as many companies and industries are cyclical and/or seasonal. This is why comparisons are generally most meaningful among companies within the same industry, and the definition of a 'high' or 'low' net income should be made within this context.