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How do I find a company's financial information?

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Introduction

This playbook provides information and resources for conducting research about a company's financial profile.

Some Useful Terms

Being familiar with the following terms may be useful as you conduct company research.

  • Company
    • A company is an organization that conducts business and is structured as a corporation, a partnership, or a sole proprietorship. Categories of companies include: public, private, non-profit, parent, subsidiary, and division.
    • Companies that sell securities (tradable financial assets) and that are of a certain size are obligated to file financial documents with regulatory organizations (such as the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S.). These companies, whose shares of stock are traded on stock exchanges,  are known as  publicly traded, publicly held, or publicly listed.
    • Private companies are not obligated to disclose financial information, and so information about these companies may be harder to find or not available.
  • Corporation
    • A corporation is a legal entity created through the laws of the state where it incorporated. The law considers a corporation a legal "person" that can sue or be sued and that is distinct from its stockholders. A corporation's stockholders are not held personally liable for corporate debts. The legal "person" status of corporations gives the business perpetual life; deaths of officials or stockholders do not alter the corporation's structure.
    • Corporations may be profit (seeking to earn profit) or non-profit (created for the public good, such as educational, charitable, religious, or scientific organizations).
  • Partnership
    • A partnership is a formal arrangement where two or more parties (partners) agree to manage and operate a business and share in its profits.   The two most common types of partnerships are general, where all partners share liabilities and profits equally,  and limited, where partners have limited liability.
  • Sole Proprietorship
    •  A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities.
  • Parent Company
    • The term parent company refers to any company which directly or indirectly controls any other company or companies.
  • Subsidiary
    • The term subsidiary refers to any company which is owned or controlled directly or indirectly by another company.  The subsidiary may have a different name than the controlling corporation. When 100 % of the company's stock or assets have been acquired by the parent company, the subsidiary is referred to as a wholly owned subsidiary.

       

Sources: sba.gov; law.cornell.edu

What Information is Available?

The amount of information available about a company depends on the type of company being researched:

  • There is more information available about companies that are
    • Public
    • Parent
    • Established
    • Large
    • U.S.
  • There is less information available about companies that are
    • Private
    • Subsidiary
    • New
    • Small
    • International

Public Companies

Public companies must adhere to strict reporting regulations, and so there is a lot of available information about these companies, such as SEC filings, annual reports, analysts' reports, news, books, case studies, etc.

Private Companies

Much less information about private companies is available, as these companies are not required to report to the federal government. Some information about private companies may be found at the state level (see the attached document for links to business divisions and search tools in all 50 states).

International

Information about international companies varies. If the company trades on the U.S. exchanges, it must file annual reports (form 20-F) with the SEC.  Other information may be found on the company's website, news articles, and databases.

Non-Profit

Financial and other information for non-profits can be found in Form 990, which non-profits must file annually with the IRS.  Some of the information can also be found on GuideStar, and some may be found in the the non-profit's website as well as in library databases.

 

Unavailable information

Proprietary information such as trade secrets and other private business or internal information is kept confidential and not disclosed outside of specific groups or individuals inside the company.

Where Does the Information Come From?

Available information about a company comes from documents filed with the government, from the company's self-presentation, and from third parties. 

Company information disclosed to the SEC

Publicly held companies are mandated to file certain financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), such as

  • the 10-K, which is an annual report that provides in depth information about a company, in much more detail than the annual report that is sent to investors.The company information in the 10-K includes relevant data on history, organizational structure, financial statements, earnings per share, subsidiaries, executive compensation, etc.
  • the 10-Q,  a comprehensive quarterly report submitted to the SEC for the first 3 quarters of the company's fiscal year, which includes unaudited financial statements and provides a continuing view of the company's financial position during the year.. Companies must file their 10-Qs 40 to 45 days after the end of their quarters. There is no 10-Q for the fourth quarter; the 10-K is submitted instead.

The company's website

Many companies maintain websites where they showcase products and services as well as their mission, vision, and values. Many of these websites include company history and investor information such as annual reports. Look for this information under sections titled "About Us," "Investor Information," "Mission and Vision," and similar. Remember this type of information is self-reported, so it's likely to be subjective.

Information from third parties

Third party information about companies can be found in sources such as

  • books
  • research articles
  • market research
  • analyst reports
  • industry and trade reports
  • news
  • blogs

Sources: investor.gov; sec.gov; investopedia.com

Where to Search for Information

See the links below for places to find information about companies.