The information described in Section 3.1 is generally provided to shareholders at least annually. In addition, companies also provide information on management and director compensation, company stock performance, and any potential conflicts of interest that may exist between management, the board, and shareholders. This information may appear in the company’s annual report or other publicly available documents. Public companies often provide this information in proxy statements, which are statements distributed to shareholders about matters that are to be put to a vote at the company’s annual (or special) meeting of shareholders.
Interim reports are also provided by the company either semiannually or quarterly, depending on the applicable regulatory requirements. Interim reports generally present the four basic financial statements and condensed notes but are not audited. These interim reports provide updated information on a company’s performance and financial position since the last annual period.
Companies also provide relevant current information on their websites, in press releases, and in conference calls with analysts and investors. One type of press release, which analysts often consider to be particularly important, is the periodic earnings announcement. The earnings announcement often happens well before the company files its formal financial statements. Such earnings announcements are often followed by a conference call in which the company’s senior executives describe the company’s performance and answer questions posed by conference call participants. Following the earnings conference call, the investor relations portion of the company’s website may post a recording of the call accompanied by slides and supplemental information discussed during the call.
When performing financial statement analysis, analysts should review all these company sources of information as well as information from external sources regarding the economy, the industry, the company, and peer (comparable) companies. Information on the economy, industry, and peer companies is useful in putting the company’s financial performance and position in perspective and in assessing the company’s future. In most cases, information from sources apart from the company is crucial to an analyst’s effectiveness. For example, an analyst studying a consumer-oriented company will typically seek direct experience with the products (taste the food or drink, use the shampoo or soap, visit the stores or hotels). An analyst following a highly regulated industry will study the existing and expected relevant regulations. An analyst following a highly technical industry will gain relevant expertise personally or seek input from a technical specialist. In sum, thorough research goes beyond financial reports.
The next section presents a framework for using all this information in financial statement analysis.