Profitability Index (IP) Simplified

Profitability Index

Exploring Profitability Index (PI)

The Profitability Index (PI) is like a report card for investments. It helps decide if an investment is a good deal or not by comparing how much money it might make with how much it costs.

The profitability index (PI) is another capital budgeting technique that measures the profitability of a project or investment relative to its cost. It is calculated by dividing the project’s NPV (Net Present Value) by its initial investment cost. It assists in ranking projects by comparing the benefits relative to the costs.


PI = NPV / Initial Investment

What Does It Mean?
  • PI Above 1.0: If the PI is more than 1.0, it’s a thumbs-up! It shows that the investment might make more money than it costs. That’s a good sign to go for it.
  • PI Below 1.0: If the PI is less than 1.0, it’s a warning sign. This means the investment might not make enough money to cover its costs. It might not be the best choice.

Net Present Value (NPV) Simplified


The PI is a great way to compare different investment options. It’s like making a list of things you want to buy and then checking if you can afford them. It helps to pick the best one that’s worth the money.

Let’s Crunch Some Numbers!

Scenario 1: An investment of $20,000 might bring in an NPV of $25,000. Let’s calculate the PI.
  • PI = $25,000 / $20,000
  • PI = 1.25

This means for every dollar invested, you might get $1.25 back. Not bad!

Scenario 2: Another investment costs $30,000 but might only bring in an NPV of $25,000. Let’s calculate the PI.
  • PI = $25,000 / $30,000
  • PI = 0.83

Uh-oh! This shows that for every dollar invested, you might only get $0.83 back. It might not be the best move.

Scenario 3:

To illustrate the practical application of PI, consider a company contemplating investing in a new marketing campaign. The company estimates the following cash flows for the project over a three-year period:

Year | Cash Flow
0: -$50,000 (Initial investment)
1: $30,000
2: $40,000
3: $50,000

Assuming a discount rate of 12%, the NPV for this project can be calculated as follows:

NPV = -$50,000/1.12 + $30,000/1.254 + $40,000/1.44 + $50,000/1.60 ≈ $36,375.78

Next, calculate the PI by dividing the NPV by the initial investment:

PI = $36,375.78 / $50,000 ≈ 0.7275

Since the PI is less than 1.0, the company should reconsider investing in the new marketing campaign. The project is expected to generate a net negative cash flow, indicating that it may not be financially viable.

Scenario 4: An investment of $50,000 promises an NPV of $60,000. Let’s calculate the PI.
  • PI = $60,000 / $50,000
  • PI = 1.2

In this case, for every dollar invested, you might get back $1.20. It looks promising!

Scenario 5: An investment of $15,000 might bring an NPV of $12,000. Let’s calculate the PI.
  • PI = $12,000 / $15,000
  • PI = 0.8

Here, for every dollar invested, you might get back $0.80. It suggests that the returns might not cover the costs.

Scenario 6: An investment of $100,000 could yield an NPV of $90,000. Let’s calculate the PI.
  • PI = $90,000 / $100,000
  • PI = 0.9

This means for every dollar invested, you might only get back $0.90. It might not cover the full investment cost.

Advantages and Limitations of PI

The Profitability Index (PI) offers several advantages:
  • Simplicity and Interpretation: The PI formula is straightforward and easily interpretable, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
  • Relative Profitability Indicator: PI provides a relative measure of profitability, allowing businesses to compare and rank different projects based on their expected returns.
  • Focus on Initial Investment: PI directly relates the project’s profitability to its initial cost, providing insights into the efficiency of capital utilization.
Despite its advantages, PI also has certain limitations:
  • Ignores Time Horizon: PI does not consider the project’s lifespan, providing a snapshot of profitability at a specific point in time.
  • Discount Rate Sensitivity: PI is sensitive to the selection of the discount rate, which can impact the PI value.
  • Limited Information: PI solely focuses on profitability and does not consider other factors such as strategic fit, market competition, and technological advancements.


The Profitability Index (PI) serves as a valuable tool for businesses to assess the relative profitability of investment projects. By providing a simple and interpretable measure of profitability, PI allows businesses to make informed decisions about resource allocation and project prioritization. However, it is crucial to consider the limitations of PI and utilize it in conjunction with other decision-making tools for a comprehensive evaluation.

Photo credit: viarami via Pixabay

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