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US multinationals

A query about finding the top 30 US multinational companies from 1975 onwards has turned out to be very difficult.

Since we are looking at US companies WRDS is the place to start. CRSP Compustat Merged (CCM) provides both the stock price data (from CRSP) and the accounting data (from Compustat) and provides excellent historical data.

However, after some investigation we could find no easy way of finding multinational companies using WRDS-CCM or WRDS-Compustat. We were looking to be able to rank the companies on foreign/international sales and then select the top 30 for each year.

Thsomson Reuters Datastream does provide a foreign/international sales dataype (WC07101). As a test of large US companies we select a historical S&P 500 constituent list (LSP500I0901 – S&P 500 constituents September 2001) and get sales, international sales and foreign/international sales % of total sales for 31 December 2001.

US cos International Sales 2001 (click to expand)

US cos International Sales 2001 (click to expand)

This screenshot shows the results ordered by international sales and certainly has companies that we would recognise as large US multinationals. However, scanning the results include many companies where there are no sales figures and some where only (total) sales available.

Further tests for international sale and total sales for the September 2001 S&P 500 constituents (LSP500I0901) shows that Datastream has no data before 1980. Further checking has shown that there is another better S&P 500 constituents list with 12 additional years of historical data (LS&PCOMP0989 – September 1989, LS&PCOMP0901 – September 2001) see notes below. (However, the results in terms of sales and international sales data are the same.)

In summary,  Datastream has some useful data but it is incomplete, and only goes back to 1980.

Returning to CRSP Compustat Merged on WRDS (CCM) and selecting a small number of companies by hand we can check that CCM does have total sales from 1975 onwards

CCM (WRDS) historical sales (click to expand)

CCM (WRDS) historical sales (click to expand)

By now we have realised that something that sounds easy, finding large quoted multinational companies, is not. If US companies only have to report total sales in their accounts then databases such as Compustat and Worldscope/Datastream will only have foreign/international sales if the companies choose to report this. We can check this by getting the annual reports for individual companies.

If something is harder then expected it is also worth looking at related work to see exactly how they have identified US multinational companies.

As a check I had a look at Capital IQ. This was similar to Compustat in terms of the datatypes (variables) available, which is not surprising as they are both products from Standard and Poors (S&P), but more limited than Compustat in terms of the historical data available.

Bloomberg – I have still to check – however I don’t expect it to be better than Datastream in terms of historical data or in terms of the not available data.

S&P 500 Constituents

While preparing this post, I have discovered that there is more that one S&P 500 constituent list on Datastream.

  • LS&PCOMP from Standard and Poor’s, LS&PCOMP is the current constituents, LS&PCOMP0989 is the September 1989 constituents (oldest available), LS&PCOMP0901 is September 2001, and LS&PCOMP0714 is July 2014 (newest on 4 August 2014)
  • LSP500I (no source provided), date is unclear since several members are acquired, merged or delisted. LSP500I0901 looks to be a correct constituents list for Sept 2001.

Datastream changes: S&P Historical Indexes (posted June 2010 Financial Databases and Research) confirms that LS&PCOMP is the best constituent list for the S&P 500.

Compustat – North America – Index Constituents on WRDS will also give the S&P 500 constituents – use GVKEYX 000003 or TIC  I0003. Historical data is available from March 1964. See Constituent list in Compustat (posted September 2010 Databaser blog) for more details.


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