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Core Operating Earnings (COE)

Last updated 29th Nov 2022


The term core operating earnings refers to a metric proposed by Standard & Poor's that adjusts operating earnings to bring clarity to a company's performance. Core operating earnings both includes and excludes items from operating earnings.


Core Operating Earnings = Operating Earnings + Additions - Exclusions


  • Additions include expenses associated with stock options, purchased R&D costs, restructuring charges associated with ongoing operations, costs associated with pension funds, and the write down of assets.
  • Exclusions include impairments of goodwill, losses and gains associated with the sales of assets, gains on pension funds, unrealized gains associated with hedging activities, costs related to mergers and acquisitions, and litigation and insurance costs.


Operating performance measures allow the investor-analyst to understand how well a company is performing with respect to sales, margins, and profits. One of the ways to measure the effectiveness of a company's core business is by calculating their core operating earnings.

A variety of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are used by management teams to mask the actual performance of their companies. To provide investors with insights into the performance of a company, S&P developed a metric known as core operating earnings (COE). As the name implies, the intention of this metric is to reveal the true performance of the company's core business operations. This adjustment is achieved by adding back certain expenses and excluding certain gains as shown in the calculation above.

While the metric is useful when trying to understand the true performance of the company relative to what was reported, it is a historical metric. As such, COE is not indicative of future results.


Company ABC's most recent annual report indicated earnings of $15,700,000. The following adjustments were made to derive the company's core operating earnings as shown in the table below.

Operating Earnings15,700,000Employee Stock Options200,000Purchased R&D300,000Pension Fund Expenses800,000Sale of Asset (Loss)-750,000Unrealized Gain From Hedging Activities-1,250,000Net Income15,450,000

Related Terms

operating leverage ratio, net income percentage, core growth rate, cash flow from operations ratio

Moneyzine Editor

Moneyzine Editor