How many employees work for a company?
This would appear to be a simple question. But perhaps not…
Although the company in question will have a more exacting answer as to values at any particular point in time, this would be considered commercially sensitive information. Therefore, values are typically made available at a single point in time, such as the end of the company’s reporting period. This is then accessible via a number of business databases.
Unfortunately, if you look in different databases, you tend to get different answers – for example, looking at Tesco PLC, which is a publicly quoted UK company, a number of values are specified depending on the database consulted:
This shows 386,086 employees and helpfully specifies a date point of 28 February 2015, but displayed in US date format [02/28/15]. This reflects Tesco’s reporting period dates – essentially the start of March to the end of February.
This gives a different value [506,984] but specifies the same date – the end of the reporting period.
Datastream (Thomson Reuters)
The datatype is ‘WC07011 – Employees’ and the definition notes: Employees represents the number of both full time and part time employees of the company. It excludes: Seasonal employees, Emergency employees. Footnotes: D. Average employees. This gives a value of 506,984.
This specifies a value of 386,086.
When searching for Tesco PLC, the ‘Number of Employees’ is stated as: 517,802.
Company Annual Report
Perhaps one way to obtain clarity is to look in the ‘Tesco Annual Report and Financial Statements 2015’, accessible through Thomson Research or PI Navigator databases, for example.
Page 20, shows the following breakdown, for a total of 517,802 (220,257 + 297,545).
If you were to stop at this point in the Annual Report, you would miss further details. Hence, on page 100, there are additional details:
This helps to show which values the various databases have selected. Thus, Capital IQ has used the combined values [220,257 + 297,545 = 517,802] from page 20 of the Annual Report, in contrast to the other databases.
Thomson ONE.com/Datastream have used the ‘Average Number of Employees’ measure [506,984] and Bloomberg/Fame have used the ‘Average Number of Full-Time Equivalents’ [386,086] for 2015 – that is, the end of the reporting period, specifically 28 February 2015.
The lesson to be drawn when using data from a particular database – always quote the source, to ensure clarity and remove uncertainty. In the case of Employee data, the company’s Annual Report is the ultimate source.
However, the difference in total values between page 20 [517,802 (220,257 + 297,545)] and those quoted on page 100 [506,984 and 386,086] is a mystery. Specifying a page number in your reference is therefore recommended!
Bloomberg Professional, Datastream, Thomson ONE.com, Thomson Research, Fame and Capital IQ are databases available to current students and staff of The University of Manchester.
For UK companies
In Fame, the date of incorporation in the Company report, under the Legal & accounts information section.
For US companies
Use Field-Ritter Dataset of Company Founding Dates (Firms going public in the US 1975-2014, last updated 14 April 2014)
For companies in any country
In Datastream, Use a Static Request and the Worldscope datatypes:
- WC18272 – Date Company Founded
- WC18273 – Date of Incorporation
In seeking out ratios for companies I would be reluctant to use free web-based services. The University of Manchester Library pays subscriptions to allow current students and staff to use numerous specialised financial databases. These are trusted sources, used for academic research and by commercial businesses.
The following databases are easy to use for obtaining ratio data.
Once a company has been searched for (see search box highlighted) and overview screen displayed, Key Ratios are shown. There is also a link for ‘All Ratios’.
It is preferable to select ‘Annual’ as Report Type – this selection option is revealed from the icon on the right of the screen. Ratios are grouped into a number of categories: Valuation Measures, Valuation, Enterprise Value, Credit Statistics, Liquidity Leverage, Profitability, Efficiency, Management Effectiveness, Dividend, Growth Rates and Stock Performance.
Search for a company and display the Report.
It is then a simple matter of scrolling down to the section on Ratios. These are grouped into a number of categories: Profitability, Operational, Structure and Per Employee.
On the command line (top left of the screen) type the company identifier (quote/ticker symbol: TSCO LN = Tesco PLC on the London stock exchange), category of information via yellow market sector key (F8/Equity – company related) and function code (FA for Financial Analysis), followed by the green Enter/GO key. Click on the ‘ratios’ tab.
TSCO LN F8/Equity FA ‘Ratios’ is further divided (e.g. Profitability displayed).
Hover over a ratio and right click, select ‘Definition’ for further detail (e.g. ‘Return on Common Equity’).
A different grouping of Ratios can be obtained from the Security Description [DES] function and the ‘Ratios’ tab.
It is also possible to obtain ratio details from Datastream, but is a little more involved than the databases noted above.
A basic breakdown of a few ratios are displayed from the ‘Overview of Company Performance’ analysis option for the Equities (Company) Data Category.
More specific searches are possible for multiple Series (companies) and Datatypes (various ratios, for example) from the Excel Add-In version of Datastream.
For students at the University of Manchester we run regular Datastream training courses and other support material is available in the Database Suite.
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.
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).
With the referendum on Scottish independence this Thursday (19 September 2014) there is much news and debate on the potential impact on businesses of a yes vote (BBC News, 2014a, 2014b). To research further you could use the Fame database to identify Scottish companies.
FAME, from Bureau van Dijk, covers UK public and private companies and has a very good search interface for selecting companies. We can select companies by location and one of the options for giving a location is country.
We select “Scotland” as the country. The country search page clarifies that this means companies with a registered office address or a primary trading address in Scotland. (These defaults can be changed – for example if we only wanted companies with their registered address in Scotland.)
From a Fame search the largest Scottish companies by operating revenue (turnover) are given in the screenshot below.
FAME uses a standard set of variables and orders then by operating revenue as its default view of a result list. This can be changed by adding extra variables as required, and by selecting the arrows next to the variable names to reorder. In the screenshot two extra variables have been added: Listed/Unlisted/Delisted and BvD independence indicator.
The Listed/Unlisted variable shows the companies that are Listed (Public) companies – that is have shares/stocks traded on a stock exchange – and those that are Unlisted (Private) companies. The largest private Scottish company is Arnold Clark Automobiles Limited – eighth largest by operating revenue. One of the strengths of FAME is that it includes both public and private companies.
This search also used “Ownership – BvD independence indicator” to refine the search and remove subsidiaries from the results list. An ownership search criteria was added to the Scottish location criteria. This was that companies had to have a BvD independence indicator of A or B, or be listed companies.
BBC News (2014a) “Scottish independence: Price warning letter due as business row intensifies”, Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29169114 (Accessed 15 September 2014)
BBC News (2014b) “Scottish independence: Business row marks weekend campaign”, Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-29186106 (Accessed 14 September 2014)
A researcher asks to “identify UK companies that have successfully entered international markets within 3 years of setting up”. There is no database that will give a direct answer to this, like so many interesting questions from researchers, but we can use Fame to get an approximate answer,
FAME, from Bureau van Dijk, covers UK public and private companies and has a very good search interface for selecting companies.
The first simplification is to look one year at a time – companies with an incorporation data in 2009 that have an overseas turnover in 2012.
Scanning the results there were some companies created as international companies – for example Essar Energy PLC was incorporated as a UK company in December 2009 but most of its turnover was overseas from the first year.
This led to a refined search for companies that also did not have any overseas turnover in 2010.
The Fame search in the screenshot above is:
(Incorporation date in 2009) AND (Overseas turnover >= £10,000 in 2012) AND (Overseas turnover < £10,000 in 2010)
Obviously, to cover a greater time period you need to repeat this search for several years, and the history available is limited as Fame has the most recent 10 years of accounts.
A researcher might choose to vary the choice of £10,000 overseas turnover as an indication of successful entry into international markets, or change the Fame default of only searching current active companies.
You want to find the company behind a website. Sometimes there will be an “About us” page – often there will be a footer at the bottom of the pages – and any ‘terms and conditions’ can also be useful.
What you are looking for is the official name of the company, and ideally a company registration number.
For our example www.clickandbuy.com the “About us” page includes a footer that mentions “ClickandBuy International Limited is authorised by the Financial Services Authority” and the terms and conditions include
the Service, is operated by ClickandBuy International Ltd (“Us” / “We” / “Our“), a company registered in England with company number 5661160
This means that we can check a UK company database:
- How to Research UK Company Data (posted June 2102)
For a non-UK company there is Orbis:
- Fame and Orbis for company identification (posted June 2012)
For quoted (public) companies there are additional options:
- Researching a global company using Bloomberg (posted Nov 2012)
- Researching a UK company – reports and data (posted Oct 2012)
- Company Financial Analysis (global companies) (posted Oct 2011)
For going from company to website, databases Fame and Orbis include a website variable.
You can try using the website name as a search variable in Fame, but the legal structure of companies can be complex. For example, search for “pizzaexpress.com” will give several results. The global ultimate owner (GUO) is GONDOLA INVESTMENTS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP INCORPORATED is whose subsidiaries PIZZAEXPRESS HOLDINGS LIMITED is the direct owner of PIZZAEXPRESS (FRANCHISES) LIMITED and PIZZAEXPRESS LIMITED is the direct owner of PIZZAEXPRESS (RESTAURANTS) LIMITED. [Fame database accesses 26 March 2013]