John Cassidy of The New Yorker took a deep dive into the balance sheets of both Apple and Goldman Sachs to see which company offers the best return on the capital it employs. Using the latest earnings reports from the two American companies, Cassidy calculates that the two firms share similar profit margins but vastly different economic returns. Cassidy looked at each company's return on assets (ROA) and calculated that Apple is 20 times more profitable than Goldman Sachs.
According to Cassidy, Apple is more profitable than Goldman Sachs because it makes a line of extremely desirable products that people want to buy. The demand for its products allows Apple to charge an amount that is well over the cost of manufacturing. For each iPod touch, iPhone or iMac sold, Apple is making a lot of money.
Apple also reportedly pays its employees significantly less. Apple does not publish its labor costs but Simply Hired, a job search website, calculated that Apple pays its employees an average of $46,000 per year. This figure includes employees both in the Cupertino headquarters and in Apple's retail stores.
Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, pays its 35,700 employees an average salary of $430,700. Though Apple has a similar profit margin and generates a much higher return than Goldman Sachs, the Cupertino company pays it employees significantly less than its fellow American company. Before you start finger-pointing at Apple, keep in mind that the high executive pay at Goldman contributes to that average salary. Apple also employs a lot of mid to low-wage employees like janitors, sales associates and others.