## Operating Leverage: Definition

Leverage that is associated with investment activities or asset acquisition is called **operating leverage**.

In fact, the relationship between sales revenue and EBIT is referred to as operating leverage because when the sales level increases or decreases, EBIT also changes.

This means that operating leverage measures the relationship between sales revenue and EBIT.

### Key Points

- The relationship between sales revenue and EBIT is known as operating leverage
- EBIT may vary directly in proportion to sales
- EBIT may vary disproportionately to sales
- Operating leverage is also calculated as a ratio of contribution to sales

## Formula for Operating Leverage

## Operating Leverage: Explanation

Whether an enterprise has fixed operating expenses in its income is the factor that determines operating leverage. Normally, the operating cost of an enterprise falls into one of three categories:

- Fixed cost
- Variable cost
- Semi-variable cost or semi-fixed cost

Fixed costs do not vary with the volume of sales, whereas variable costs vary directly with sales volume.

Semi-variable or semi-fixed costs are partly variable and partly fixed. This means that they are fixed up to a certain sales volume, varying to higher levels when production and sales volume increase.

If the semi-variable or semi-fixed costs can be apportioned appropriately into variable and fixed components, then the costs of the firm remain of two categories: fixed and variable.

In fact, operating leverage occurs when a firm has fixed costs that need to be met regardless of the change in sales volume. The enterprise invests in fixed assets aiming for the volume to produce revenues that cover all fixed and variable costs.

After calculating the leverage by applying the formula, if the result is equal to 1, then the operating leverage indicates that there are no fixed costs, and the total cost is variable in nature. This means that EBIT varies in direct proportion to the sales level.

## Example

EREHWON Ltd sold 200 units at $200 per unit with a production cost of $140 per unit. The total cost is variable in nature. The point of the company is equal to 200 (200-140) = $12,000 (EBIT).

Suppose that the company increases its sales by 20%, resulting in sales of 240 units. Then the EBIT value increases to 240 x (200-140) = $14,400.

**Note:** In this example, EBIT varies directly in proportion to sales.

**Required: **Suppose that the company has fixed costs of $10,000, along with the variable cost of 140 per unit. What are the present and expected costs and EBIT? What is the operating leverage?

For answers, see the tables below.

### Solution

## Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL)

In the above example, EBIT varied disproportionately to sales. This variation of one time or six-time (the above example) is known as degree of operating leverage (DOL).

The DOL at any particular sale volume may also be calculated as a ratio of contribution to the EBIT. In other words:

In the above example, DOL is calculated as follows:

This information shows that at the present level of operating sales (200 units), the change from this level has a DOL of 6 times.

However, if the company’s expected sales are 240 units, then the change from this level would have a DOL of 3.27 times. This example indicates that the company will have different DOL values at different levels of operations.

One important point to be noted is that if the company is operating at the break-even level (i.e., the contribution is equal to the fixed costs and EBIT is zero), then defining DOL becomes difficult.

For example, if both the contribution and fixed costs are $12,000, then EBIT is zero (12,000 – 12,000 = 0).

Therefore,

Analyzing operating leverage helps managers assess the impact of changes in sales on the level of operating profits (EBIT) of the enterprise. Higher DOL means higher operating profits (positive DOL), and negative DOL means operating loss.

## Operating Leverage in a Nutshell

- Operating leverage arises due to fixed costs in an organization’s cost structure. If there are no fixed costs, there is no operating leverage because the percentage change in EBIT will be the same as the percentage change in sales (i.e., one time).
- If the contribution is equal to fixed costs, the degree of leverage remains undefined.
- If the company operates above the break-even level, then DOL is considered positive (both EBIT and sales vary in the same direction).
- If the company operates below the break-even level, DOL is considered negative (the contribution is less than the fixed costs).
- If the company operates with fixed costs that are fixed and variable costs that vary with sales volume, then DOL will vary disproportionately at different levels of operating sales.

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