retained earnings

  

Definition

Profits generated by a company that are not distributed to stockholders (shareholders) as dividends but are either reinvested in the business or kept as a reserve for specific objectives (such as to pay off a debt or purchase a capital asset).

A balance sheet figure shown under the heading retained earnings is the sum of all profits retained since the company's inception. Retained earnings are reduced by losses, and are also called accumulated earnings, accumulated profit, accumulated income, accumulated surplus, earned surplus, undistributed earnings, or undivided profits. See also retention ratio.

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