In celebration of March Madness, the Motley Fool is pitting 16 editor-selected companies in a fierce Stock Madness bracket ... and we’re down to 8! For each matchup, we will show you how the companies rank based on five key metrics, but your votes will determine the winner.  

This matchup is Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE: PBR) vs. General Electric (NYSE: GE). Using five short-of-scientific-but-carefully-chosen criteria, let's determine which is the better buy according to the numbers:



Petroleo Brasileiro

General Electric


(P/E ratio)




(5-year growth rate)




(net margin %)



Balance Sheet

(debt/equity ratio)



CAPS Rating

(scale of 1 to 5 stars)

5 Stars

4 Stars

Round 1: Cheapness
Advantage: Petroleo Brasileiro. Cheapness is determined by P/E ratio. The lower the better. Be careful of earnings near zero that skew the ratio, one-time gains and losses, and pasts that aren’t indicative of futures (the more dynamic the industry, the more this is true).

Round 2: Growth
Advantage: Petroleo Brasileiro. Growth here is the trailing-five-year EPS growth rate. This trailing earnings growth helps put notoriously optimistic Wall Street projections in perspective.

Round 3: Operations
Advantage: Petroleo Brasileiro. Net margin percentage shows how efficiently a company turns revenue into profit. The more similar the business models, the more relevant the comparison.

Round 4: Balance sheet
Advantage: Petroleo Brasileiro. As with net margins, the debt-to-capital ratio is most relevant when comparing companies in similar industries. In this battle, we give the nod to the lower-debt company, but attention should also be paid to the cost of debt, interest coverage ratios, and the stability of the business (the more stable a company’s operations, the more debt it can safely carry).

Round 5: CAPS rating
Advantage: Petroleo Brasileiro. A company’s CAPS rating is our community’s opinion of the stock. You can get more information on your stocks -- and our community’s opinions of those stocks -- by clicking over to CAPS area.

Each of these five rankings needs more context -- for example, how these companies stack up against their potential foes in the next round, Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL). But these basic numbers suggest that Petroleo Brasileiro is a better buy. It’s up to you, though. Vote for the winner in the poll located below the bracket.