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Company and Industry Comparisons

Comparing a company to its industry is not always straightforward. There are many classification systems to group similar companies together. There are UK/US SIC [Standard Industry Classification] codes and an additional, separate one for North America [NAIC – North American Industry Classification] – just to muddy the waters! Oh, and there is another, International industry system: Global Industry Classification [GIC] developed by MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International and Standard & Poor’s).

Thomson ONE database shows a SIC of 5411 [Food Stores – Grocery Stores] for Tesco PLC, which is the US version (not specified) and also by economy Sector [Food & Drug Retailers] and Sub-sector [Food Retailers & Wholesalers] – this is categorised according to the ICB (Industry Classification Benchmark).


Thomson ONE allows companies to be searched for according to Industry codes: Screening & Analysis – Companies – Company Screener


Use the search window or expand the menu options:


Where a company competes against a select/limited group of competitors (which may be considered a Market – such as the UK Grocery Market), many databases provide quick quantitative comparisons.

For example, in the Fame database (UK & Ireland public/private companies), Tesco PLC has the SIC code 4711 [UK SIC (2007), Very Large Companies – retail sales in  non-specialised stores with food, beverages or tobacco predominating]. Selecting the ‘Peer Report’ (Table) function allows comparison with other similar companies.


This describes the comparison as: ‘Closest 10 companies according to Turnover, for the last available year amongst the standard peer group (UK SIC 4711, Very Large Companies) – retail sales in non-specialised stores with food, beverages or tobacco predominating’. Strangely, this list doesn’t include Sainsbury or Asda, which are clearly competitors – so caution is advised when using such functions.


Thomson ONE

Company Views – Fundamentals – Comparables

This gives a list of companies in the same Industry – but again a note of caution, as this list doesn’t include Lidl or Aldi, which are competitors. Note also the tabs for additional data.


Bloomberg has the RV (Relative Valuation) function which, according to the help screen definition allows you to perform a relative valuation analysis on a single company (e.g. Tesco PLC) by comparing (benchmarking) against comparable companies in the same Market/Industry.

On the command line, type: TSCO  LN  F8/Equity  RV  Enter/GO


Depending on the area, there may also be content in the following databases:

Passport, Frost & Sullivan, IHS Connect and Freedonia.

Market Research reports can provide a valuable comparison for a company in relation to an Industry/Market. For example, breaking down by market share: Tesco PLC is often quoted as having around one third of the UK Grocery Market. Such market research is available from a number of sources, such as:

Mintel (Reports – UK coverage)


‘All’ seems to shows a familiar market breakdown – Tesco PLC 1st, but recently has been losing market share to discounters, Aldi and Lidl, which has been accentuated since this research was conducted (December 2013).

The way that research is framed is also important in considering whether you are comparing on a like-with-like basis, or close to this. Fragmentation in the market research conducted (for example, market share at physical stores only or physical stores and Internet sales combined, when producing market share values for different companies) makes this more difficult – hence the benefit of locating a report which closely matches the area of research you are interested in.

In this Market Research report, Lidl and Aldi are included in the comparison, where they weren’t in the above comparisons.


KeyNote (Reports – UK coverage).

Thomson Research (Reports [Company/Industry] – International coverage) – this is particularly good for in-depth reports, at the Company and Industry level. These reports can include SWOT analysis and other factors influencing a company’s current and future performance.

Meeting student requirements.

There is often a mismatch between what a student requires and what is available in terms of resources (business databases). In these cases, providing a solution is not always easy or apparent.

In one example, where a student asked for data on the ‘pump, bearings and gears’ industry – how companies were performing in relation to the market as a whole in the UK. I had to explain that this area didn’t represent an ‘Industry’ and therefore there would be little if any market research available. It also didn’t represent a ‘Sector’ or ‘Sub-Sector’ of the economy.

This meant that there would be limited content from database sources, which tend to organise data by individual companies, industry or sector of the economy. In this case a compromise (in terms of the analysis conducted) had to be arrived at in consultation with the student.

In summary, getting the best approach boils down to what data is available from database sources and the possibility of a student having to modify the terms of their research. This highlights a key consideration, which is often ignored – how easy is it to obtain the data that I need for my research? See additional post on this area (Research Feasibility, dated 10th February 2015, also in this Business Research Plus blog.).

The databases noted above are available to use by current students and staff of the University of Manchester.

Further Information at:

NAIC (North American Industry Classification). (Used in Thomson ONE database).


Industry Classification Benchmark [ICB]. (Used in Thomson ONE database).


Global Industry Classification [GIC] (MSCI: Morgan Stanley Capital International / Standard & Poor’s). (Used in Thomson ONE database).


UK SIC. (Used in Fame database).




US SIC. (Used in Thomson ONE database).


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  1. 16 December 2016 at 5:55 pm
  2. 20 January 2017 at 5:15 pm

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