Return on Assets (ROA) or Return on Total Assets (ROTA)

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This article offers a comprehensive overview of the concept of return on assets (ROA). In this article the following will be covered:

  1. What Is Return on Assets (ROA) or Return on Total Assets (ROTA)?
  2. Calculating ROA
  3. Examples of ROA
  4. Limitations of ROA
  5. ROA vs Other Financial Metrics

What Is Return on Assets (ROA) or Return on Total Assets (ROTA)?

Return on assets (ROA) is a vital financial metric that reveals a company's profitability in relation to the average value of its total assets. This ratio is a crucial yardstick for assessing a company's financial well-being and is indispensable for corporate managers, investors, analysts, and various stakeholders.

Typically presented as a percentage, the proximity of this value to 100% signals a company’s level of profitability. A diminished ROA can raise concerns about how effectively the company utilizes its assets.

To illustrate ROA more clearly, let’s consider the following example of a company engaged in manufacturing engines. This company holds multiple elements in its asset portfolio, including manufacturing plants, production machinery, raw materials, components, unsold engines, proprietary engine designs, and maintained cash reserves. Together, these form the company's assets.

The company's net profit emerges after accounting for various factors such as sales revenue, material costs, and salaries. The ROA (or ROTA where T stands for “total”) is then calculated by dividing this net profit by the aggregate value of the company's assets.

For investors, ROA holds substansial significance. It acts as a gauge for potential earnings they could generate from their investments. Essentially, a higher ROA anticipates enhanced returns for the same investment sum, establishing it as a pivotal metric for investor decision-making.

Calculating ROA

Now take a look at the ROA formula. To calculate return on assets (ROA) we should divide the company's net income (NI) by its total assets (TA).

ROA (%) = NI / TA x 100

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Net income represents revenue minus expenses over a given period, while total assets indicate the overall value of a company's resources. To illustrate the significance of this formula in assessing business efficiency, it's important to note that high net income alone doesn't paint the full picture.

An Example of ROA

Consider a simplified example that underscores why return on assets can provide a more insightful measure of efficiency than net income alone.

Let's say Mark and Betty are skilled photographers and want to embark a career. Mark invests $8,000 in camera equipment, studio lighting, and builds a photo studio for $22,000, totaling $30,000 in assets. Betty starts with less capital, spending $5,000 on equipment and $1,000 to convert a room into a makeshift studio, amounting to $6,000 in total assets.

After a month of dedicated work, Mark generates a net income of $6,000, while Betty earns $1,800. Evaluating their efficiency, Mark's business ROA computes to $6,000 / $30,000 x 100 = 20% – a respectable outcome. In contrast, Betty's venture ROA calculates to $1,800 / $6,000 x 100 = 30% – a remarkable result. Despite Mark's earnings being $4,200 higher than Betty's, her business demonstrates superior efficiency.

This example underscores how ROA serves as a more insightful efficiency metric than net income alone. For an investor, Betty's venture seems more promising, generating 30 cents from every dollar compared to Mark's 20 cents. Relying solely on income figures can lead to misconceptions over time, underscoring why savvy investors prioritize ROA as a valuable indicator.

Limitations of ROA

When evaluating Return on Assets (ROA), it's essential to grasp that there's no one-size-fits-all standard. ROA values can greatly vary based on factors like industry and geographic location. It's insightful to compare ROA scores of companies within the same sector and analyze a company's ROA over different timeframes. However, using ROA for comparisons beyond these contexts can yield uncertain conclusions.

Experts highlight that the ROA formula is particularly precise for banks. This is due to banks valuing their balance sheets at real market values, accounting for both interest income and expenses. Yet, for other entities, the distinction between debt and equity can blur. Interest expenses represent returns for debt providers, while net income signifies returns for equity investors. This intricacy might render ROA less accurate.

To counteract the impact of asset value fluctuations on ROA, a modified formula is used by some. It factors in changes in asset value over time. For example, when calculating the ROA for a year, the average asset value (AA) of that year is employed:

ROA = NI / AA x 100

ROA vs Other Financial Metrics

A substantial metric to consider is return on equity (ROE). ROA and ROE diverge in how they incorporate borrowed assets. While ROA considers borrowed assets as part of total assets, ROE solely focuses on the return on a company's equity, excluding liabilities. As a result, as a company's debt increases, its ROE typically surpasses its ROA.

Image source: Business Insider

Another metric gauging business efficiency is the profit-to-revenue ratio. This helps determine a company's expenses relative to its revenue or profits, whereas ROA assesses a company's aptitude in utilizing its assets. Moreover, this ratio offers a tangible figure for comparing companies based on efficiency. The profits-to-revenue ratio is also useful for intra-company comparisons.


ROA is a valuable metric for investment decisions, whether in traditional companies or blockchain-based platform tokens. However, due to inherent limitations, it's prudent to employ ROA thoughtfully and complement it with other efficiency indicators. This balanced approach provides a more comprehensive understanding of a company's financial health and prospects.


How do investors utilize ROA?

As said above, ROA measures the ability of the company to squeeze profits out of the used assets (including investments and borrowed funds). By examining the ROA amount you can evaluate the returns of your investment if you decide to invest in the company.

Moreover, ROA shows if the company is spending money wisely or not. Tracking a company's ROA trend—whether it's ascending or descending—can signal the company's market potential or challenges. It's imperative to reiterate: refrain from directly comparing the ROA of companies across different sectors. Due to unique sectoral dynamics, a 10% ROA in one industry might differ in significance from a 15% ROA in another. If comparing two such companies, evaluate their ROA trajectories, observing which company improves its ROA more rapidly.

What is a good ROA?

Generally, a 5% ROA is deemed decent, while 20% or higher is exceptional. However, it's vital to juxtapose a company's ROA against its industry peers. A 10% ROA might not be commendable if most sector contemporaries consistently achieve 15% or more. Conversely, a company with a 4% ROA outperforms rivals with only 2 or 3%.