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Financial Ratios: Industry Ratios

Sources for financial ratios for companies and industries.

Industries Covered

It won’t always make sense to judge companies in an industry subgroup by ratios for the larger industry grouping covered.

When using  a specific source to make a company versus industry comparison, you should point out significant differences between the definition of the industry for which ratios are stated and the type of operations and environment characteristic of your company.

  • Databases do not cover all industries in equal proportions, favoring various kinds of manufacturing over retail or financial industries, for example. 
  • They may not cover industries that generate relatively little revenue (e.g. pencil manufacturers). Each one defines the list of companies included in an industry differently from other databases. 
  • In the NetAdvantage database, for example, information about industry subgroups (e.g. car mufflers) will typically be embedded in entries about the larger industry (e.g. after-market auto parts).
  • IbisWorld covers small industry segments like artificial turf and chocolate stores. It gives financial data for only the 4 or so industry leaders and not the entire industry.

Custom Company Comparisons

In the    Lexis Nexis research database, ratios for any group of publicly traded companies can be compared by searching in the Company Dossier portion of the site. Click here to see a screenshot of the landing page.

Search strategy:

  • In Easy Search mode, click on the Company Dossier  link at the bottom of the center-screen GET COMPANY INFO search box.
  • Consult a list of top competitors from any company snapshot; and click on the Compare Companies link at the bottom of the company snapshot screen. On the next screen key in ticker symbols for as many of those companies as you want to compare. 

  • After entering all the tickers for your set of companies, you will retrieve a Company Financial Comparison giving balance sheet and income statement items, followed by the header Ratio Analysis. Here you'll find a long list of ratios.  Click here to see an example comparing ratios for Target, Costco, and Wal-mart.

NOTE: This will work best with companies who are direct competitors in the industry (i.e. they have the same primary NAICS code that your company has). Comparing two companies with diversified operations may be of limited value. For example, Apple and Motorola are competing for mobile phone business; but each one competes in a good many other product markets as well. So ratios for the whole company do not give a very clear or complete picture of how they fare in the cell phone market.