BUS 2000: How to "Shadow-A-Company"

Explore the company's website. On the homepage the company will be talking to its customers, marketing its products and services. To see what they are saying to their shareholders, look for the link that says "About Us" or "Investors" or "Investor Relations." On the Investor Relations page you will find Annual reports, the 10-K and other SEC filings, Conference Calls/Webcasts and Press Releases.


Public or Private

Public companies are listed on a stock exchange. They are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC, and must file periodic financial reports with them.

Private companies have no publicly traded shares and are not traded on an exchange. They do not have to file financial reports or make information about their operations available to the public. They often discourage any type of press coverage.

Annual Reports

Every public company produces an annual report at the end of its fiscal year.

The annual report is not a required SEC filing but is used by corporations to communicate directly with their shareholders. Annual reports often look like marketing brochures with many graphs, charts and photos.

Annual reports feature the CEO's Letter to the Shareholders.  Read this to understand the company's current strategy.

Annual reports always include financial highlights.Sometimes but not always, they include the company's 10-K filing.

Annual reports often include management biographies, product profiles, information on corporate philanthropy and community programs, and career opportunities.

10-K Reports

Public companies must file periodic financial reports with the SEC including -

10-K (Annual Report)

        Description of business (Item 1)

       The MD&A - Management discussion and analysis (Item 7)

        Audited financial statements (Item 8)

10-Q (Quarterly Report)

         Un-audited financial statements

         Comments on material events- updates the MD&A

8K (Significant Events)

         Reports material events as they occur  -  mergers, bankruptcy, changes in management, etc.

          Must be filed within four days of the event

Read Item 1 & 1A in the 10-K

What Business is the Company in?

Companies typically define their business in the opening section of their 10-K report. Read Item 1 and 1A from the report to find:

  • Description of the company's product lines and business segments
  • List of subsidiaries and geographic locations
  • Discussion of company strategy
  • Mention of contracts, raw materials used, and supplier or distribution channels
  • Names of the competition and discussion of competitive factors in the market
  • Mention of research and development or intellectual property issues that are important to company operations
  • Key government regulations in their industry
  • Outline of risk factors to consider in evaluating the company's business

Where to Find SEC Filings

Most  public companies provide copies of their SEC filings on the Investor Relations pages of their web site. The databases listed here also give access to company filings.

Conference Calls and Webcasts

Earnings calls, also known as conference calls,  are presentations by a company's top management, usually the CEO and CFO, to financial analysts, institutional investors and interested shareholders. The presentation by the CEO and CFO is followed by a question-and-answer session that allows analysts to gain additional information. Most conference calls are conducted immediately after the company releases its quarterly results in a press release or an 8-K filing with the SEC. 

You will find insight from management in the conference call.  The CEO and CFO offer details about the company's financial performance and discuss the factors influencing those results. They give their appraisal of current industry trends and often outline the company’s response to these conditions with short- and long-term strategies.

Look for the earnings calls on the company's Investor Relations pages. If you don't find them there, use the Seeking Alpha website.

Press Releases

Press releases are announcements issued by the company to the media in order to alert the public about important company developments. Press releases are issued by the company's public relations office so they can put a positive spin on the news. You can use press releases in your research to identify key events and to see the company's take on that event.