Companies & Finance: Financials (and filings)

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Databases (easier)

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission logoOf course, there's always the SEC's own EDGAR database, and usually your company will post their current financials (at least) on their website.  But some of the databases below offer considerable advantages:

 –  Coverage of foreign companies
 –  Sophisticated screening (searching)
 –  Downloading data as a spreadsheet

Of the databases below, Refinitiv Workspace has the best coverage, but also requires registration for individual accounts and has a learning curve.

About annual reports

U.S. companies:

There are two types, and they have different intended audiences.  Although there is considerable overlap between the two types, there are is also some unique content in each.  The differences are likely to be most noticeable for larger, more consumer-oriented companies. 

  1. ARS, or Annual Report to Shareholders:  this report is sent to all current and potential investors.  It presents the company as the company wants to be seen. 
    ➤  Companies used to submit these to the SEC routinely (even though it was not required), but no longer do so consistently.  You may have to look for these on company websites.
  2. 10-K:   this report is the mandated disclosure document that the company files with the SEC.  Its organization and format are more functional and less aspirational.
Foreign companies:
  1. Non-US companies traded on a US stock exchange: this is usually done through the intermediary of a bank (the stocks are called ADR's, or American Depositary Receipts).  Their annual reports are have similar reporting requirements as ARS' and 10-K's; the reports are called 20-F reports.
  2. Non-US companies traded only on foreign exchanges: for these companies, the titles and content of their annual reports will depend on the requirements of their stock exchange and the reporting requirements of their country.

Financials vs. Filings


What is this term 'financials'?  It's a short-hand term for the numeric portions of a company's disclosure documents, or filings.  Basically, the numbers!  Here are some other keywords that encompass some of it ...

Annual reports to shareholders (ARS')
10-K and 10-Q reports
SEC filings, corporate reports
Balance sheet, income statement, cash flow ...
Sales, revenue ...


And what are 'filings'?  Those are the actual corporate documents which contain the financials, among other things.  They include ARS, 10-K's and 10-Q's, proxy statements, 8-K's, registration statements, various documents whose titles all start with 'schedule' ... and more.  The phrase 'filings' is a hold-over from the days when everything was on paper and filed at the SEC.

Although most people just want the financials, the numbers, sometimes you do need to read the actual filings.  In that case, use Thomson One or Mergent Online.

To learn more about individual filings, or forms, see the SEC link below.

WRDS (a harder database)

This website is a data-hosting and interface service from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.  It is a tool available to academics primarily.

Registering for a Day Pass.  All this means is that you provide your eMarq email address, and then WRDS will immediately send you an email containing a link to the service that is active for 24 hours.  If that is insufficient time, simply request another Day Pass.

The major datasets in WRDS are:

  • Audit Analytics (Audit & Legal; Corporate & Compliance)
  • CRSP (Center for Research in Securities' Prices - University of Chicago)
  • Compustat (Standard & Poor's):  includes the North America, Global and ExecuComp datasets
  • Eventus (a software add-on for use with CRSP)
  • RiskMetrics (Historical Governance and Directors data only; formerly IRRC, or Investor Responsibility Research Center)

Private company financials

For private companies, you're seriously limited in what you can hope to find. Because they're private, they don't have to disclose much financial information, so often all you can find will be sales or revenue estimates.

The databases below include information on US private companies (and Hoover's has some international companies, though not many).  Both will have estimated figures for either sales or revenue for some of these private companies.

Reading financial statements

If you're new to business and finance, some of these books may help ...

Finding historical company information

MicroficheFilings and financials:

Ok, so not the next, best thing since sliced bread!  This is pre-EDGAR content ...

Still, sometimes it is necessary to find older, not-online corporate documents or filings.  On microfiche, we have two large collections of annual reports (ARS), a smaller collection of 10-K reports, and a couple more small collections of registration statements and proxy statements.

So just what is microfiche?!?  It's a small, rectangular piece of plastic film with very small photographs of printed pages!  You need special microfiche reader machines in order to be able to read them -- fortunately, we have these machines:  they are located on the lower level of Raynor.

By the way, the publisher of all this microfiche, Disclosure, Inc.?  After a series of corporate acquisitions, they are now part of LSEG (London Stock Exchange Group), the folks who produce Workspace from LSEG

Location and retrieval:

The microfiche are now housed in a storage area: you will have to request that they be retrieved by Access Services staff . Allow some time for this.  The request form is linked below. 

Microfiche reader machine:

The microfiche reader is located on the 2nd floor of Raynor, south side of the floor, near the bathrooms.

Directories, sample financials:

If you need historical directory-type information, or a sample of historical extracted financial data for a company, try Mergent Archives.  It also contains the older Hoover's Handbooks of Private Companies (back to 1994), which offer information that can be very hard to find.