# Apple vs. Alphabet: Horizontal And Vertical Analysis Of Income Statements

How To Perform Horizontal And Vertical Analysis Of Income Statements by John Szramiak was originally published on Vintage Value Investing

As an investor, you should be digging in to a company’s income statements.

However, you can’t look at these financials in isolation – it’s important to compare a company’s results to other companies in the selected industry, companies outside of the industry, and against other years to determine whether or not that company might actually be an attractive investment.

Seth Klarman’s 2021 Letter: Baupost’s “Never-Ending” Hunt For Information

Baupost's investment process involves "never-ending" gleaning of facts to help support investment ideas Seth Klarman writes in his end-of-year letter to investors. In the letter, a copy of which ValueWalk has been able to review, the value investor describes the Baupost Group's process to identify ideas and answer the most critical questions about its potential Read More

This causes difficulties, since it’s hard to compare companies of different sizes. For example, if Company A has \$3,000,000 of debt outstanding and Company B has \$30,000,000 of debt outstanding, is Company A less risky than Company B? We have no way of knowing, because we don’t know the cash positions of Companies A and B, how profitable Companies A and B are, etc.

Fortunately, there are two forms of analysis that we can perform that will help us look at income statements and balance sheets of different sizes, so that we can compare apples-to-apples – they are: horizontal analysis and vertical analysis.

### What is Horizontal Analysis Of Income Statements?

Horizontal analysis, also called time series analysis, focuses on trends and changes in numbers over time. Horizontal allows you to detect growth patterns, cyclicality, etc. and to compare these factors among different companies.

As an example, let’s take a look at some income statement items for Apple and Google.

It’s almost impossible to tell which is growing faster by just looking at the numbers. So we have to do some calculations. We can perform horizontal analysis on the income statement by simply taking the percentage change for each line item year-over-year.

By using horizontal analysis, we can now clearly see that Google’s revenue, gross profit, and EBITDA grew faster than Apple’s in every year except for 2015. We can even take this one step further by calculating the compound annual growth rate for each line item from 2012 to 2016 (you can do this in Excel by using the function: =rate(nper, pmt, pv, fv)) – this tells us the average rate the companies grew in each year.

Our horizontal analysis (time series analysis) is now officially complete.

### What is Vertical Analysis?

Vertical analysis, also called common-size analysis, focuses on the relative size of different line items so that you can easily compare the income statements and balance sheets of different sized companies.

Let’s go back to our income statement items for Apple and Google. Through our horizontal analysis, we know that Google has been growing at a faster and more sustained rate than Apple… but is it a relatively more profitable company? Do both companies profits seem to be sustainable?

To perform vertical analysis (common-size analysis), we take each line item and calculate it as a percentage of revenue so that we can come up with “common size” results for both companies.

Here are just the numbers once again. I’ve added a line for research & development costs as well.

Now, let’s divide each line item by revenue.

So what does this tell us?

For starters, in 2016, Apple generated \$0.39 for every \$1 dollar in sales it made. Google did much better, generated \$0.61 for every \$1 in sales it made. However, Google’s other costs (such as sales, marketing, general & administrative, and R&D) are much higher, since Google’s EBITDA margin was 33.7%, compared to Apple’s 34.0%.

We can also look at trends within this vertical analysis. For example, Apple’s gross profit has declined from 43.9% in 2012 to 39.1%, while its R&D expenses as a percentage of revenue have increased from 2.2% to 4.7% over the same time period. This could suggest that Apple is facing tough competitive pressures. Why?

• Trends in gross margin generally reveal how much pricing power a company has. Because Apple’s gross margin is declining, this probably means that (a) Apple is dropping the price of its products to match lower cost competitors, (b) Apple’s costs to produce its products are increasing and Apple is unable to increase prices to offset this, or (c) a combination of both.
• This increase in R&D suggests that Apple is doubling down its efforts to create new, innovative products to offset its competition.

### Horizontal and Vertical Analysis of the Balance Sheet

Just like we performed horizontal and vertical analysis on the income statement, we can also run these calculations on the balance sheet (when performing vertical analysis of the balance sheet, line items are usually taken as a percentage of total assets). The process to calculate these ratios is similar to the examples we went through above and are fairly straight forward.

However, I’ve found that horizontal and vertical analysis of the balance sheet is much less helpful than on the income statement (ratios and YoY growth rates are basically requirements when analyzing any income statement) and can often be distorted by accounting policies (for example, is a debt-to-equity ratio really useful if the equity number used is simply a result of various accounting choices made over the years?).

Rather than calculate a “pure ratio” of the balance sheet, we can instead calculate “mixed ratios” – such as an interest coverage ratio (operating income / interest expense), leverage ratio (debt / EBITDA), or even efficiency ratios like days sales outstanding (DSO) and days payable outstanding (DPO).

### The Value Investing 101 Series

For more great how to articles in our Value Investing 101 series, be sure to check out:

How To Perform Horizontal And Vertical Analysis Of Income Statements” by John Szramiak was originally published on Vintage Value Investing

Updated on

Ben Graham, the father of value investing, wasn’t born in this century. Nor was he born in the last century. Benjamin Graham – born Benjamin Grossbaum – was born in London, England in 1894. He published the value investing bible Security Analysis in 1934, which was followed by the value investing New Testament The Intelligent Investor in 1949. Warren Buffett, the value investing messiah and Graham’s most famous and successful disciple, was born in 1930 and attended Graham’s classes at Columbia in 1950-51. And the not-so-prodigal son Charlie Munger even has Warren beat by six years – he was born in 1924. I’m not trying to give a history lesson here, but I find these dates very interesting. Value investing is an old strategy. It’s been around for a long time, long before the Capital Asset Pricing Model, long before the Black-Scholes Model, long before CLO’s, long before the founders of today’s hottest high-tech IPOs were even born. And yet people have very short term memories. Once a bull market gets some legs in it, the quest to get “the most money as quickly as possible” causes prices to get bid up. Human nature kicks in and dollar signs start appearing in people’s eyes. New methodologies are touted and fundamental principles are left in the rear view mirror. “Today is always the dawning of a new age. Things are different than they were yesterday. The world is changing and we must adapt.” Yes, all very true statements but the new and “fool-proof” methods and strategies and overleveraging and excess risk-taking only work when the economic environmental conditions allow them to work. Using the latest “fool-proof” investment strategy is like running around a thunderstorm with a lightning rod in your hand: if you’re unharmed after a while then it might seem like you’ve developed a method to avoid getting struck by lightning – but sooner or later you will get hit. And yet value investors are for the most part immune to the thunder and lightning. This isn’t at all to say that value investors never lose money, go bust, or suffer during recessions. However, by sticking to fundamentals and avoiding excessive risk-taking (i.e. dumb decisions), the collective value investor class seems to have much fewer examples of the spectacular crash-and-burn cases that often are found with investors’ who employ different strategies. As a result, value investors have historically outperformed other types of investors over the long term. And there is plenty of empirical evidence to back this up. Check this and this and this and this out. In fact, since 1926 value stocks have outperformed growth stocks by an average of four percentage points annually, according to the authoritative index compiled by finance professors Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago and Kenneth French of Dartmouth College. So, the value investing philosophy has endured for over 80 years and is the most consistently successful strategy that can be applied. And while hot stocks, over-leveraged portfolios, and the newest complicated financial strategies will come and go, making many wishful investors rich very quick and poor even quicker, value investing will quietly continue to help its adherents fatten their wallets. It will always endure and will always remain classically in fashion. In other words, value investing is vintage. Which explains half of this website’s name. As for the value part? The intention of this site is to explain, discuss, ask, learn, teach, and debate those topics and questions that I’ve always been most interested in, and hopefully that you’re most curious about, too. This includes: What is value investing? Value investing strategies Stock picks Company reviews Basic financial concepts Investor profiles Investment ideas Current events Economics Behavioral finance And, ultimately, ways to become a better investor I want to note the importance of the way I use value here. It’s not the simplistic definition of “low P/E” stocks that some financial services lazily use to classify investors, which the word “value” has recently morphed into meaning. To me, value investing equates to the term “Intelligent Investing,” as described by Ben Graham. Intelligent investing involves analyzing a company’s fundamentals and can be characterized by an intense focus on a stock’s price, it’s intrinsic value, and the very important ratio between the two. This is value investing as the term was originally meant to be used decades ago, and is the only way it should be used today. So without much further ado, it’s my very good honor to meet you and you may call me…

No posts to display