Break-even Point

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Calculation of the point at which the gains equal the losses.

Break-even Analysis

The Break-even Point is, in general, the point at which the gains equal the losses. A break-even point defines when an investment will generate a positive return. The point where sales or revenues equal expenses. Or also the point where total costs equal total revenues. There is no profit made or loss incurred at the break-even point. This is important for anyone that manages a business, since the break-even point is the lower limit of profit when prices are set and margins are determined.

Achieving Break-even today does not return the losses occurred in the past. Also it does not build up a reserve for future losses. And finally it does not provide a return on your investment (the reward for exposure to risk).

The Break-even method can be applied to a product, an investment, or the entire company's operations and is also used in the options world. In options, the Break-even Point is the market price that a stock must reach for option buyers to avoid a loss if they exercise. For a Call, it is the strike price plus the premium paid. For a Put, it is the strike price minus the premium paid.

The relationship between fixed costs, variable costs and returns

Break-even analysis is a useful tool to study the relationship between fixed costs, variable costs and returns. The Break-even Point defines when an investment will generate a positive return. It can be viewed graphically or with simple mathematics. Break-even analysis calculates the volume of production at a given price necessary to cover all costs. Break-even price analysis calculates the price necessary at a given level of production to cover all costs. To explain how break-even analysis works, it is necessary to define the cost items.

Fixed costs, which are incurred after the decision to enter into a business activity is made, are not directly related to the level of production. Fixed costs include, but are not limited to, depreciation on equipment, interest costs, taxes and general overhead expenses. Total fixed costs are the sum of the fixed costs.

Variable costs change in direct relation to volume of output. They may include cost of goods sold or production expenses, such as labor and electricity costs, feed, fuel, veterinary, irrigation and other expenses directly related to the production of a commodity or investment in a capital asset. Total variable costs (TVC) are the sum of the variable costs for the specified level of production or output. Average variable costs are the variable costs per unit of output or of TVC divided by units of output.

The Break-even Point analysis must not be mistaken for the Payback Period, the time it takes to recover an investment.

In Value Based Management terms, a break-even point should be defined as the Operating Profit margin level at which the business / investment is earning exactly the minimum acceptable Rate of Return, that is, its total cost of capital.

Break-even Point calculation

Calculation of the BEP can be done using the following formula:



  • BEP   = break-even point (units of production)
  • TFC    = total fixed costs,
  • VCUP = variable costs per unit of production,
  • SUP   = selling price per unit of production.

Benefits of Break-even Analysis

The main advantage of break-even analysis is that it explains the relationship between cost, production volume and returns. It can be extended to show how changes in fixed cost-variable cost relationships, in commodity prices, or in revenues, will affect profit levels and break-even points. Break-even analysis is most useful when used with partial budgeting or capital budgeting techniques. The major benefit to using break-even analysis is that it indicates the lowest amount of business activity necessary to prevent losses.

Limitations of break-even analysis

  • It is best suited to the analysis of one product at a time;
  • It may be difficult to classify a cost as all variable or all fixed; and
  • There may be a tendency to continue to use a break-even analysis after the cost and income functions have changed.

Book: Marcell Schweitzer - Break-Even Analyses: Basic Model, Variants, Extensions -

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