Common Size Financial Statements

Common Size Financial Statements express line items as percentages of total revenue or total assets. They aid in comparison, trend analysis, and benchmarking, offering benefits like enhanced comparability but facing challenges due to potential oversimplification. Commonly used in investor analysis, credit assessment, and managerial decision-making.

Understanding Common Size Financial Statements:

What are Common Size Financial Statements?

Common size financial statements are a valuable financial analysis tool used to evaluate a company’s financial performance by expressing line items as a percentage of total revenue (income statement) or total assets (balance sheet). This standardization allows for meaningful comparisons between companies of different sizes or within the same company over time, facilitating in-depth financial analysis.

Key Components of Common Size Financial Statements:

  1. Income Statement: Common size income statements express each line item as a percentage of total revenue, helping to highlight cost structures, profit margins, and trends over time.
  2. Balance Sheet: Common size balance sheets represent each asset, liability, and equity account as a percentage of total assets, offering insights into a company’s asset composition and capital structure.

Why Common Size Financial Statements Matter:

Understanding the significance of common size financial statements is essential for investors, analysts, and stakeholders looking to assess a company’s financial health and performance accurately.

The Impact of Common Size Financial Statements:

  • Enhanced Comparability: Common size statements enable direct comparisons between companies or industries by eliminating the influence of scale.
  • Financial Analysis: These statements provide a clear picture of a company’s financial structure, cost management, and profitability, aiding in decision-making.

Benefits of Common Size Financial Statements:

  • Investor Insight: Investors can use common size statements to identify potential investment opportunities and assess a company’s ability to generate profits.
  • Strategic Planning: Companies can utilize these statements to identify areas for cost reduction, optimization, and growth.

Challenges in Implementing Common Size Financial Statements:

  • Data Quality: Accuracy in financial data is critical for meaningful common size analysis.
  • Industry Variability: Industry-specific accounting practices may require adjustments for effective comparison.

Purpose and Objectives:

  • Facilitating Comparisons: Common Size Financial Statements are primarily used to compare the financial performance of different companies within the same industry or a single company’s performance over multiple time periods. This comparison helps in understanding how efficiently a company utilizes its resources and where it stands relative to its peers.
  • Identifying Trends: By expressing financial data as percentages, this analysis method allows for the easy identification of trends in a company’s financial performance. For example, a consistent increase in the percentage of revenue allocated to research and development may indicate a focus on innovation.
  • Industry Benchmarking: Common Size Statements are valuable for benchmarking a company’s performance against industry standards. It helps in assessing whether a company is in line with industry norms or deviates significantly, highlighting areas that need attention.
  • Decision-Making Support: Managers use Common Size Statements to identify specific areas that require cost control or revenue generation efforts. For instance, if the percentage of administrative expenses is high, it may prompt managers to explore cost-cutting measures.

Components and Types:

  • Common Size Income Statement: In this type, all items on the income statement are expressed as a percentage of total revenue. This format allows for a comprehensive analysis of a company’s revenue structure and profitability drivers.
  • Common Size Balance Sheet: Here, items on the balance sheet, including assets, liabilities, and equity, are represented as percentages of total assets. It provides insights into the composition of a company’s assets and its financing structure.

Benefits and Advantages:

  • Enhanced Comparability: Common Size Financial Statements make it easier to compare companies of different sizes or within different industries. Investors and analysts can quickly spot differences or similarities in financial structures.
  • Simplified Analysis: The conversion of financial data into percentages simplifies the analysis process. It’s particularly useful for those with limited financial expertise to grasp key insights.
  • Effective Communication: When presenting financial information to stakeholders like shareholders, lenders, or potential investors, Common Size Statements offer a clear and concise way to convey a company’s financial health.

Limitations and Drawbacks:

  • Context Dependency: The effectiveness of Common Size Analysis heavily depends on the context. Certain industries may have unique financial structures that make direct comparisons challenging.
  • Loss of Detail: While percentages provide a high-level view, they can also lead to a loss of detail. Analysts need to balance the simplicity of the approach with the need for comprehensive insights.

Real-World Applications:

  • Investor Analysis: Investors use Common Size Statements to assess a company’s financial health and growth potential. For example, analyzing the percentage of revenue spent on marketing can reveal a company’s commitment to market expansion.
  • Credit Assessment: Creditors, such as banks or bondholders, utilize Common Size Analysis to evaluate a company’s ability to meet debt obligations. They assess the proportion of assets financed by debt and equity.
  • Managerial Decision-Making: Company managers rely on Common Size Statements to make informed decisions. For instance, if the percentage of inventory relative to total assets is high, managers may seek ways to optimize inventory management.
  • Strategic Planning: Common Size Financial Statements play a vital role in strategic planning. Companies can set targets to achieve specific percentages in different categories, guiding their financial goals.

Key Highlights of Common Size Financial Statements:

  • Comparability: Common Size Financial Statements facilitate easy comparisons of companies within the same industry or a single company over time. This comparability is crucial for assessing financial performance.
  • Trend Identification: By expressing financial data as percentages of total revenue or assets, trends in a company’s financial structure and performance become readily apparent.
  • Industry Benchmarking: These statements are valuable for benchmarking a company’s financials against industry standards, helping to gauge competitiveness and adherence to industry norms.
  • Decision Support: Managers use Common Size Statements to pinpoint areas of financial concern, guiding decisions related to cost control, revenue generation, and resource allocation.
  • Enhanced Communication: When presenting financial information to stakeholders, these statements offer a clear and concise means of conveying a company’s financial health and strategy.
  • Simplified Analysis: The conversion of data into percentages simplifies financial analysis, making it accessible to individuals with varying levels of financial expertise.
  • Investor Insight: Investors use Common Size Statements to assess a company’s growth potential, financial stability, and allocation of resources, aiding investment decisions.
  • Credit Assessment: Creditors rely on these statements to evaluate a company’s ability to meet debt obligations, particularly by analyzing the proportion of assets financed by debt and equity.
  • Managerial Decision-Making: Company managers utilize Common Size Statements to make informed decisions, especially regarding areas such as inventory management, cost reduction, and strategic planning.
  • Strategic Planning: These statements guide strategic planning by allowing companies to set specific percentage targets in various financial categories, aligning financial goals with overall strategy.

Connected Financial Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

What is a Moat

Economic or market moats represent the long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is a form of investing skewed toward high-risk bets, that are likely to fail. Therefore venture capitalists look for higher returns. Indeed, venture capital is based on the power law, or the law for which a small number of bets will pay off big time for the larger numbers of low-return or investments that will go to zero. That is the whole premise of venture capital.

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment occurs when an individual or business purchases an interest of 10% or more in a company that operates in a different country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage implies that the investor can influence or participate in the management of an enterprise. When the interest is less than 10%, on the other hand, the IMF simply defines it as a security that is part of a stock portfolio. Foreign direct investment (FDI), therefore, involves the purchase of an interest in a company by an entity that is located in another country. 


Micro-investing is the process of investing small amounts of money regularly. The process of micro-investing involves small and sometimes irregular investments where the individual can set up recurring payments or invest a lump sum as cash becomes available.

Meme Investing

Meme stocks are securities that go viral online and attract the attention of the younger generation of retail investors. Meme investing, therefore, is a bottom-up, community-driven approach to investing that positions itself as the antonym to Wall Street investing. Also, meme investing often looks at attractive opportunities with lower liquidity that might be easier to overtake, thus enabling wide speculation, as “meme investors” often look for disproportionate short-term returns.

Retail Investing

Retail investing is the act of non-professional investors buying and selling securities for their own purposes. Retail investing has become popular with the rise of zero commissions digital platforms enabling anyone with small portfolio to trade.

Accredited Investor

Accredited investors are individuals or entities deemed sophisticated enough to purchase securities that are not bound by the laws that protect normal investors. These may encompass venture capital, angel investments, private equity funds, hedge funds, real estate investment funds, and specialty investment funds such as those related to cryptocurrency. Accredited investors, therefore, are individuals or entities permitted to invest in securities that are complex, opaque, loosely regulated, or otherwise unregistered with a financial authority.

Startup Valuation

Startup valuation describes a suite of methods used to value companies with little or no revenue. Therefore, startup valuation is the process of determining what a startup is worth. This value clarifies the company’s capacity to meet customer and investor expectations, achieve stated milestones, and use the new capital to grow.

Profit vs. Cash Flow

Profit is the total income that a company generates from its operations. This includes money from sales, investments, and other income sources. In contrast, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of a company. This distinction is critical to understand as a profitable company might be short of cash and have liquidity crises.


Double-entry accounting is the foundation of modern financial accounting. It’s based on the accounting equation, where assets equal liabilities plus equity. That is the fundamental unit to build financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement). The basic concept of double-entry is that a single transaction, to be recorded, will hit two accounts.

Balance Sheet

The purpose of the balance sheet is to report how the resources to run the operations of the business were acquired. The Balance Sheet helps to assess the financial risk of a business and the simplest way to describe it is given by the accounting equation (assets = liability + equity).

Income Statement

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at profit or loss (also called P&L statement).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct or indirect.

Capital Structure

The capital structure shows how an organization financed its operations. Following the balance sheet structure, usually, assets of an organization can be built either by using equity or liability. Equity usually comprises endowment from shareholders and profit reserves. Where instead, liabilities can comprise either current (short-term debt) or non-current (long-term obligations).

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure or capital expense represents the money spent toward things that can be classified as fixed asset, with a longer term value. As such they will be recorded under non-current assets, on the balance sheet, and they will be amortized over the years. The reduced value on the balance sheet is expensed through the profit and loss.

Financial Statements

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory to companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Financial Ratio



The Weighted Average Cost of Capital can also be defined as the cost of capital. That’s a rate – net of the weight of the equity and debt the company holds – that assesses how much it cost to that firm to get capital in the form of equity, debt or both. 

Financial Option

A financial option is a contract, defined as a derivative drawing its value on a set of underlying variables (perhaps the volatility of the stock underlying the option). It comprises two parties (option writer and option buyer). This contract offers the right of the option holder to purchase the underlying asset at an agreed price.

Profitability Framework

A profitability framework helps you assess the profitability of any company within a few minutes. It starts by looking at two simple variables (revenues and costs) and it drills down from there. This helps us identify in which part of the organization there is a profitability issue and strategize from there.

Triple Bottom Line

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is a theory that seeks to gauge the level of corporate social responsibility in business. Instead of a single bottom line associated with profit, the TBL theory argues that there should be two more: people, and the planet. By balancing people, planet, and profit, it’s possible to build a more sustainable business model and a circular firm.

Behavioral Finance

Behavioral finance or economics focuses on understanding how individuals make decisions and how those decisions are affected by psychological factors, such as biases, and how those can affect the collective. Behavioral finance is an expansion of classic finance and economics that assumed that people always rational choices based on optimizing their outcome, void of context.

Connected Video Lectures

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger

Read Next: HeuristicsBiases.

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