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Doing Company Research

Financial Information

Annual report of the Illinois Mutual Fire Insurance Company. April 11th, 1843. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

This section deals with sources for financial information for a company as well as a few sources that can be used to compare and benchmark companies to their industry. Also, databases and sources for investment information can be helpful because they often contain financial information presented in a concise form.

Financial information can be found on the company's web page in Investor Relations where Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other company reports are often kept. The SEC has financial filings electronically available beginning in 1993/1994 free on their website. See EDGAR: Company Filings.

If you need to look for historical financial information on a public company keep in mind that the (SEC) did not start requiring companies to submit their filings electronically until 1994 (though there are some from 1993). Prior to that it will be necessary to consult paper copies or subscription based services from Thomson Reuters and Mergent Archives historical SEC fillings module (eventually will add all filings they have at their diposal, but currently only has 10Ks). The Library of Congress has a microfiche set covering the years 1978-1995.

Follow the Money

The detailed financial information for public companies comes from SEC filings. There are several filings that may be of interest, but the 10K and 10Q are the most common for this type of information. However, there are a few parts of the filings in particular in terms of content and what data may be found there. Each section contains very different information. This is just a quick overview for purposes of this guide, not a detailed or complete rundown.

Balance Sheet

The Balance sheet contains information on assets like goodwill, inventories, intangibles, accounts receivable, PP&E (property, plant & equipment), etc. and liabilities like tax information, accounts payable, financing, etc. See Investopedia External or the Accounting Coach External for information.

Income Statement

The Income statement contains information on revenue, expenses, R&D, marketing and SG&A (sales and general expenses). See Investopedia, External and TheStreet.com External have more information.

Cash Flow

The Cash Flow statement contains information on operations, inventory, financing, investments. Investopedia has a section in their "Introduction to Fundamental Analysis" devoted to the Cash Flow statement. External It includes general information and a sample.

Financial Footnotes

Financial footnotes give explanations as to accounting practices and other information to explain how they accounted for various elements in their financial statements. Investopedia includes a section devoted to Financial Footnotes. External

If you want to know more about the financial information in those filings, Investopedia has an Introduction to Fundamental Analysis External with information on many aspects of financial statements--Balance Sheet, Cash Flow, etc., and the Fool.com has Intro to SEC Forms External with links to information on the various aspects of the financial statements, some of which require registration. The Securities and Exchange Commission also offers an online filings search and a description of the various SEC filings [PDF].

Subscription & Internet Resources

Below we have included links to the SEC website as well as a few databases that contain more detailed financial information on public companies.  The information is often derived from SEC filings and can often be downloaded into spreadsheet format. Check your library for databases you may have access to. The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.