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Company and Industry Research: Companies

Online Resources for Company Research

The Library subscribes to the online resources below to assist in doing company research. If you are using these databases from off-campus, you will be required to log in with your RU ID starting with 23311.


SEC 10K & Annual Reports

The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US government regulates securities markets.  The commission ensures that potential investors have enough accurate information on which to base their investment decisions.  Therefore, the SEC requires that large US public companies (more than 500 investors and more than $10 million in assets), produce certain types of reports on an annual basis.  The most useful to researchers are the 10K and the annual report to stockholders.  These reports are freely available to the public from most US public companies.

The 10K is the official annual financial document which public companies must file with the SEC.  This report is divided into two sections, financial data and supporting data.  The financial data includes a summary of operations from the last five years, any legal proceedings in which the company has been involved, and lists of parent and subsidiary holdings.  The supporting data contains a list of principal stockholders, an account of the management’s security holdings, and a list of directors with biographical information.  Also included in the report are an overview of the company and the “letter to stockholders” which analyzes the company’s performance, business strategies, and plans for the future.

The 10K report is filed electronically with the SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system (EDGAR). Companies were brought into the system from 1993-1996, therefore, most companies have filings with EDGAR dating back to the mid-1990s.  LexisNexis has filings back to 1987.

The Annual Report is the official document which companies are required to distribute to their shareholders.  These reports include financial statements, highlights, and a management discussion of the previous year.  The length and content are not regulated by the SEC, hence, they can vary from company to company.  Graphs and charts are often added to give the document a more polished appearance.  The annual report is briefer and often easier to understand than the 10K.  These reports provide researchers with a quick overview of the company.  Many companies post their current and recent past annual reports on their website.  Whether it is available online or merely in print, it is usually free to the public upon request.  Annual Reports, as well as 10-Ks, are also available through our Mergent Online database.

How to Find Information on a Company

The first step to doing company research is to determine some basic facts about the company in question.  Is it publicly or privately owned?  Is it a parent company or a subsidiary, affiliate, or division of a larger corporation?

Public Companies
Public companies sell stock to the public and are held accountable to their stockholders.  They are required to report on many aspects of their business.  It is often easier to find financial information about public companies than for private companies.

Private Companies

The majority of US businesses are privately owned, which means that they do not sell stock to the public.  They are not required to make detailed reports to the US government, therefore, it is harder to find information about private companies.  Fortunately, the vast majority of these private companies are small, home-based initiatives with few if any employees aside from the owner.


Historical Financials

Standard & Poor’s Industry Surveys (AUD REF HC106 .6 .S74) Available in book form at the Library, the S&P Industry Surveys are a 2-volume set which is printed quarterly, with information for each report updated twice annually.  Includes tables at the end of each industry's survey which provide 5 years of year-end data for the individual companies profiled in the report.  This historical data includes the following measures:  Operating Revenues, Net Income, Return on Revenues, Return on Assets, Return on Equity, Price/Earnings Ratio, Dividend Payout Ratio, Dividend Yield, Earnings per Share, Tangible Book Value per Share, and high/low Share Price for the year.

Mergent Online also allows you to find historical company financial information on individual publicly-traded companies.  Search for your company, either by its name or ticker symbol, then choose the "Company Financials" tab.  Choose from Balance Sheet, Segments, and Ratios, using the drop-down menus to show up to 15 years of historical information.  Downloadable into an Excel spreadsheet.

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Tips on Improving One's Financial Literacy

Current financial information dashboards on markets and the economy are published in many print sources, including the British Financial Times' "Companies & Markets" daily section, the weekly Barrons "Marketguide" section, and the daily Wall Street Journal "Marketplace" section.

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Company Research at Other Universities

Bond Rating Agencies

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