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On financial websites such as Yahoo Finance, is the fundamental data generally comparable across companies? For example, is it reasonable to compare the net profit of PepsiCo, Inc. to the net profit of The Coca-Cola Company? If not, could you explain why the metrics are not comparable?

Would the answer change if PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were (hypothetically) incorporated/headquartered/listed in different countries (e.g. PepsiCo in country X, Coca-Cola in country Y)?

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Nominal amounts like net profit typically aren't comparable between companies of different size. What's more comparable within an industry are financial ratios like return on assets, net profit margin, etc.

Note that even then, one metric cannot be used alone to determine if one company is a better investment than the other. Many metrics must be considered since companies can have different management and financing philosophes (e.g. debt vs equity) that can some ratios in a way that makes the company look better but makes other ratios look worse.

Would the answer change if PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were (hypothetically) incorporated/headquartered/listed in different countries (e.g. PepsiCo in country X, Coca-Cola in country Y)?

Sure - differences in currencies, laws, regulations, markets, etc. can make large differences in how companies operate, which can be reflected in their financials.

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  • "Nominal amounts like net profit typically aren't comparable between companies of different size." — Why does comparability decrease when the company sizes are different?
    – Flux
    May 24 at 7:51
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    @Flux A small, family firm might have net profits of 50,000, whereas a multi-national company might have net profits of 50,000,000. Who's to say which is "better" without knowing the size? (Hence the use of ratios that D. Stanley mentions)
    – TripeHound
    May 24 at 8:29
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Generally analysts will use accounting metrics to compare similarly sized companies operating in the same industry and region, and in the same growth stage. The D/E of a financial company will look totally different than the D/E of a utility company, for example.

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