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Operating Loss (OL)


Operating Loss (OL) refers to a situation where a company’s operating expenses exceed its revenues, indicating that the company did not make profit from its regular operations. It’s calculated by subtracting the total operating expenses, including overheads, salaries, and cost of goods sold, from the company’s gross income. An operating loss does not take into account interest expenses or profits from non-operational activities.


The phonetic spelling for “Operating Loss (OL)” would be: Oper-ay-ting Lawss (Oh-el)

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Operating Loss (OL) happens when a company’s operating expenses exceed its gross profits. This indicates that the company is not able to generate enough revenue to cover its operational costs, which can include the cost of production, marketing, and administrative expenses.
  2. Implications: A continuous operating loss is a sign of trouble for a company. It may suggest that the company’s management is not effective, or that its products or services are not appealing enough to customers. Prolonged OLs necessitate strategic change such as reducing expenses, increasing sales, or even potentially restructuring the business to regain profitability.
  3. Effects on Investors: An OL is a red flag for potential investors or lenders. It suggests risk, because it indicates a lack of profitability. This could lead to stock price decrease, difficulty securing new debt, or obtaining additional financing. However, it’s important to look at operating loss within context, such as industry trends or broader economic conditions, before making decisions based on this metric alone.


Operating Loss (OL) is a crucial term in business and finance as it directly reflects a company’s operational efficiency. It refers to the situation when a company’s operating expenses exceed its gross profits, essentially indicating that the prime activities necessary for its functioning are not generating enough revenues to cover the operational costs. This measure is significant for both internal and external stakeholders. Internally, it assists management in identifying inefficiencies, forming strategic decisions, and paving the path toward profitability. Externally, investors and creditors use it to assess the company’s performance, financial health, and potential risks, influencing their decisions about investment or extending credit. Therefore, an operating loss can have substantial implications for a company’s survival and growth.


Operating Loss (OL) represents a key measurement in financial analysis because of its significant role in revealing the profitability of a company’s core business operations. Its purpose is to indicate whether a company can generate enough revenue from its primary business operations to cover its direct costs and operating expenses. By uncovering inefficiencies, assessing the profitability at the operational level, and tracking the cost of goods sold, it becomes feasible to detect profitability trends in the primary business on a consistent basis.When a company reports an operating loss, it signifies that the company’s operating expenses, both fixed and variable costs, surpass its gross profit. OL is essentially used to examine the direct operational performance before accounting for taxes and interest payments. Investors and stakeholders utilize this information to understand the operational health and efficiency of the business. A consistent pattern of operating losses might indicate severe issues within the company’s business model, potentially triggering strategic adjustments to improve operational profitability.


1. Uber’s 2019 Financial Report: In 2019, Uber reported an operating loss of $8.5 billion, considerably higher than the previous year due mainly to stock-based compensation expenses connected with its Initial Public Offering (IPO). The company’s expenses exceeded its turnover, creating a negative operating income or an operating loss.2. General Electric’s 2017 Report: General Electric (GE) reported an operating loss of $8.6 billion in 2017. The company’s core businesses didn’t generate enough revenue to cover operating expenses, which included costs related to sales, administrative tasks, and overheads. This also included a major goodwill impairment loss that year, further widening the operating loss.3. Snapchat’s 2017 Results: Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, reported an operating loss of $3.4 billion in 2017, largely due to expenses connected to its IPO. The company was in the growth phase and was investing heavily in sales and marketing, research and development, and infrastructure, all of which increased its operating expenses and consequently, its operating loss.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Operating Loss (OL)?

An operating loss (OL) is the result when a company’s operating expenses exceed its gross profits during a particular period. It means the company has spent more on operating costs like salaries, rent, supplies, etc., than it has made from its core operations.

What Causes an Operating Loss?

There can be various reasons for a company to suffer an operating loss, which could include a decrease in sales revenue, an increase in cost of goods sold, or high operating expenses. It can also occur in a new business that’s still investing in its establishment and is yet to achieve sufficient sales.

How is Operating Loss calculated?

Operating loss is calculated by subtracting the company’s total operating expenses from its gross income. If this calculation results in a negative number, the business has recording an operating loss.

How does an Operating Loss affect a business?

Operating loss is a signal warning that the company is not performing well. It erodes the company’s reserves and could lead to bankruptcy if it persists for a prolonged period. It may also affect the company’s reputation, credit rating, and potential borrowing power.

Can a company survive if it has an Operating Loss?

Yes, a company can survive with an operating loss in the short-term. However, long-term losses may lead to insolvency unless the company finds a way to increase its revenues or decrease its expenses to shift to profitability.

Is Operating Loss the same as Net Loss?

No, they are not the same. Operating loss refers only to the profitability from a company’s core operations, while net loss takes into account all revenues and all expenses, including taxes, interest expense, and non-operating income and expenses.

How can a company reduce its Operating Loss?

A company can reduce its operating loss by increasing its sales, reducing its cost of goods sold, controlling its operating expenses, improving its operational efficiency, or a combination of these strategies.

Can Operating Loss be beneficial for a company in any way?

While it’s generally viewed negatively, an operating loss can reduce a company’s taxable income, leading to lower tax liabilities. It also provides crucial insight into a company’s performance, helping management diagnose problems and implement corrective strategies.

Related Finance Terms

  • Net Loss
  • Fixed Costs
  • Revenue
  • Operating Expenses
  • EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes)

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