A. What firm-specific and industry-specific factors might be used to explain differences among giant corporations in the amount of revenue per employee and profit per employee?
B. A multiple regression analysis based upon the data contained in Table 7.6 reveals the following (t statistics in parentheses):
Profit/Emp.= $1,269.016 + 0.220 Ind. Profit/Emp. + 0.084 Rev./Emp. + 0.004 Ass./Emp.
(0.17) (2.33) (8.22) (1.20)
R2 = 89.7 percent, F statistic = 75.48
Interpret these results. Is profit per employee more sensitive to industry-specific or firm-specific factors for this sample of giant corporations?

Traditional measures of firm productivity tend to focus on profit margins, the rate of return on stockholder’s equity, or related measures like total asset turnover, inventory turnover, or receivables turnover. Profit margin is net income divided by sales and is a useful measure of a company’s ability to manufacture and distribute distinctive products. When profit margins are high, it’s a good sign that customer purchase decisions are being driven by unique product characteristics or product quality rather than by low prices. When profit margins are high, companies are also able to withstand periods of fluctuating costs or weak product demand without devastating consequences for net income. While high profit margins have the potential to attract new competitors, they also act as credible evidence that a firm offers a hard-to-imitate combination of attractive goods and services.
Return on equity (ROE), defined as net income divided by the accounting book value of stockholder’s equity, is an attractive measure of firm performance because it reflects the effects of both operating and financial leverage. When ROE is high, the company is able to generate an attractive rate of return on the amount of money entrusted to the firm by shareholders in the form of common stock purchases and retained earnings. High profit margins give rise to high ROE, as do rapid turnover in inventory, receivables and total assets. Rapid inventory turnover reduces the risk of profit-sapping product closeouts where slow-moving goods are marked down for quick sale. Rapid receivables turnover eases any concern that investors might have in terms of the firm’s ability to collect money owed by customers. High total asset turnover, defied as sales divided by total assets, documents the firm’s ability to generate a significant amount of business from its fixed plant and equipment.
Despite these obvious advantages, each of these traditional firm performance measures suffers certain shortcomings. Profit margins are strongly influenced by industry-related factors that might obscure superior firm productivity when firms from different industries are compared. For example, the automobile industry is huge and net profit margins for mediocre performers are commonly in the 2.5-3 percent range. Even standout performers, like Toyota, struggle to earn 6 percent on sales. Meanwhile, even mediocre banks commonly report profit margins in the 15-20 percent range. Similarly, and despite obvious advantages, ROE suffers as a performance measure because steep losses can greatly diminish retained earnings, decimate the book value of stockholder’s equity, and cause ROE to soar. When companies buy back their shares in the open market at prices that greatly exceed accounting book values, the book value of shareholder’s equity also falls, and can unfairly inflate the ROE measure. For these reasons, some analysts look to the growth in net income as a simple and less easily distorted measure of accounting profit performance.

  • CreatedFebruary 13, 2015
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