Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Profitability Index (PI): Definition, Components, and Formula


The Profitability Index (PI), also known as the profit investment ratio (PIR) or value investment ratio (VIR), is a financial metric that calculates a project’s potential profitability by comparing its present value of future cash flows to its initial investment cost. It serves as a tool for ranking the attractiveness of investment projects. The formula is calculated by dividing the present value of future cash flows by the initial investment cost.


The phonetics for “Profitability Index (PI): Definition, Components, and Formula” are:Profitability Index (PI): /ˌprɒfɪtəˈbɪlɪti ˈɪndɛks/Definition:/dɛfɪˈnɪʃən/Components:/kəmˈpoʊnənts/And /ænd/Formula:/ˈfɔːrmjʊlə/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: The Profitability Index (PI), also known as Profit Investment Ratio (PIR), or Value Investment Ratio (VIR), is a financial tool used to identify the value created per unit of investment from a business venture, project, or initiative. It helps decision-makers prioritize projects by calculating the ratio of payoff to investment.
  2. Components: The main components of PI include the present value of future cash inflows and the initial investment outlay. Future cash inflows are the money earned from the project in the future, discounted back to present value. The initial investment outlay is the upfront cost required to start the project or business. The relationship between these two components is critical in determining the profitability or feasibility of a project.
  3. Formula: The formula for Profitability Index is PI = PV of Future Cash Flows / Initial Investment Outlay. If the PI is greater than 1, it indicates that the project is expected to generate more profits relative to its costs and hence can be considered profitable. If the PI is less than 1, it means the project might result in a loss and may need reconsideration.


The Profitability Index (PI) is a crucial business and finance term that signifies the relationship between the costs and benefits of an investment project. It plays a fundamental role in capital budgeting decisions by providing a quantitative measure of the expected return per dollar invested. This index is computed by dividing the present value of expected future cash flows by the initial investment cost. Its components mainly include expected future cash flows and the discount rate reflecting opportunity cost of capital. The importance of the PI lies in its ability to guide management in selecting investment projects. A PI greater than 1 indicates that the project is likely to be profitable, whereas a value below 1 signals that the project may yield less than the initial investment, potentially leading to a financial loss. Therefore, the PI serves as a vital decision-making tool in helping businesses maximize their profitability and utilize their resources efficiently.


The Profitability Index (PI), also known as Profit Investment Ratio (PIR) or Value Investment Ratio (VIR), is a finance tool that businesses use to identify the potential value of an investment or project. The main purpose of PI is to calculate the value that an investment will return per unit of investment. It’s a useful method for determining whether to proceed with a specific project or investment based on the potential profitability. Simply put, it helps investors and management to understand the level of returns they can expect from each unit of investment. Moreover, the Profitability Index is particularly handy when businesses need to select between multiple projects or investments, especially when resources are limited. It aids in figuring out which projects are likely to generate the highest return, thus allowing for the most effective allocation of resources. The PI formula (PI = (Present Value of Cash Inflows/Cost of Investment) helps, by revealing a ratio that predicts the potential of a project. A PI greater than 1 indicates a good investment, whereas a PI less than 1 signals a poor investment. Thus, PI acts as a guide in decision-making, maximizing profit margins, and ensuring financial stability.


1. Investment in Real Estate Project: Assume a real estate developer is considering investing in a new complex. The initial investment might be $10 million, including the cost for land procurement, permits, construction materials, and labor. The net cash inflows that the project is expected to generate over time, discounted at the suitable rate, are predicted to be $13 million. Using the Profitability Index (PI) formula (PI = Present Value of Future Cash Flows / Initial Investment), the PI would be 1.3 (13 million / 10 million). A PI of greater than 1 indicates that the project’s present value of future revenues exceeds the initial cost, making it a potentially profitable investment.2. Tech Start-up Investment: When a venture capital firm is deciding whether or not to invest in a promising software start-up, they could use PI as an evaluation tool. The start-up might need $500,000 in investment for operating expenses and expanding its team. Its anticipated discounted future cash flows are valued at $750,000. Accordingly, the PI is 1.5 (750,000 / 500,000), implying that the investment could yield a decent return.3. Manufacturing Company Investment: For example, a company in the manufacturing sector needs to install new machinery. The cost of this machinery is $100,000, and it is anticipated that this machine will bring $150,000 in discounted net future cash flows. Here, the PI would be 1.5 (150,000 / 100,000). This suggests that the machinery could be a profitable investment, as the benefits over time outweigh the initial expenditure.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Profitability Index (PI)?

The Profitability Index, also known as Profit Investment Ratio or Value Investment Ratio, is a financial tool used to identify the feasibility of an investment. It helps companies determine whether a particular project would be profitable or not.

What does the Profitability Index value mean?

A Profitability Index of 1 indicates a break-even situation, implying the present value of the project’s cash inflows is equivalent to the initial investment. A PI value greater than 1 indicates a profitable project, whereas a value less than 1 suggests the project may not be profitable.

What are the components of the Profitability Index?

The two main components of PI are the present value of future cash flows and the initial investment.

How does one calculate the Profitability Index?

The Profitability Index is determined by dividing the present value of future cash flows by the initial investment needed for the project. The formula is: PI = (Present Value of Future Cash Flows / Initial Investment).

Is Profitability Index widely used in business finance?

Yes, the Profitability Index is a commonly utilized concept in corporate finance and capital budgeting. It assists companies in ranking projects based on their profitability potential.

What are the key advantages of using the Profitability Index?

The main advantages of PI include consideration of all cash flows throughout the project, time value of money and relative profitability. It can be used to compare and prioritize different projects based on their profitability.

Does Profitability Index have any limitations?

As with any financial tool, PI also has its limitations. It assumes cash flows are consistent, and disregards factors like financing and risk which can affect a project’s feasibility. It also requires an accurate estimation of future cash flows, which can be difficult.

Can PI be utilized for multiple projects comparison?

Yes, PI is often used as a comparative metric between different projects. It provides insight about which project can provide the highest value. However, it should not be the sole deciding factor and should be used in conjunction with other financial metrics.

Related Finance Terms

  • Net Present Value (NPV): This refers to the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a period of time. NPV is used in capital budgeting and investment planning to analyze the profitability of a projected investment or project.
  • Discount Rate: It is the interest rate used in the calculation of the present value of future cash flows. It plays a crucial role in the formula of Profitability Index as it determines the present value of future returns.
  • Initial Investment: This is the money spent to start a business or an investment. For PI, it refers to the cash outflow at the beginning of an investment or project.
  • Calculation of Profitability Index: The PI is calculated as the present value of future cash flows divided by the initial investment. It assists in identifying if an investment will yield profit or not.
  • Investment Decision: Once the PI is calculated, if it is greater than 1, then the investment is considered profitable and it should be pursued. Conversely, if the PI is less than 1, the investment may not be worth pursuing.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More