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What Kind of Company?
In general, it's easier to find information companies that trade on a stock exchange (public companies) or companies with large public profiles. The business databases will include articles about all types of companies.
Public companies and Subsidiaries
- Consider the public company Nestle SA.. You may be more familiar with its subsidiaries, Purina, Gerber, Nespresso or Neslte Waters.. There should be plenty of articles about these subsidiaries with their large public profiles.
- Public companies issue annual reports to shareholders. These reports are usually posted on company websites, on the website for the Securities and Exchange Commission (look for company filings). Some multinational corporations, such as Toyota or Tata Steel, are listed on a North American stock exchange; others such as Astra International trade on other stock exchanges. Nestle SA trades on a number of other stock exchanges.
- Subdiaries don't usuallly offer separate reports
- Check the Investor Relations section of the company webpage to locate reports such as the annual report to shareholders. Many companies will provide several years of reports.
- Private companies don't have to issue annual reports and often can be more difficult to research. An example of a large private enterprise is Perdue Farms, Inc. Some information about private companies can be found in directories such as RefUSA, Hoover's Academic and LexisNexis Academic.
- There are sources that track non-profit organizations such as GuideStar
- It is easier to find information on non-profit organizations with large public profiles
- Non-Profits are also included in some of the business directories
What are primary sources?
Primary sources of information on companies include documents such as Annual Reports, SEC filings, (10-K, 10-Q, 20-F, Prospectuses, Proxy Statements), News Releases, Company documents and corporate webpage. This information may include presentations, interviews, videos and promotional materials in addition to financial statements. Note that SEC filings will only be available for public companies. International companies trading on a North American stock exchange file a form 20-F instead of the 10-K. Look for Investor Relations, Employment, Press Kits as well as statements concerning ethics, sustainability, partnerships.
Examples of primary sources:
Use these sources for a quick overview of a company.
Company Profiles (through Business Source Premier)
Profiles from Datamonitor available through the Business Source Premier database.
LexisNexis Academic Company Snapshot
Although this includes both public and private companies, more information will be available on public companies.
Hoover's provides detailed information on 40,000 public and non-public companies.
Includes international companies as well as First Research industry reports.
International Directory of Company Histories
Online from volume 139, 2012 to the present, this source provides detailed accounts of company histories. Volumes 1 through 138 are available in Reference - call number Ref HD2721 .I58
Mergent Online ( Available through November 2014)
Mergent is a good source for US and international public companies. It includes company histories in addition to current and historical financial statements. Financial data is easily downloaded into a spreadsheet.
In addition to finding an overview of a company, Ref USA also allows you to make lists of companies based on several criteria such as location or industry. RefUSA also tracks parent and subsidaries. Focus is on US and Canadian companies; however US subsidiaries of foreign corporations will also be included.
Industry Content in Databases
Information about a company's competitive environment can often be found in industry reports. These reports can sometimes be found using the industry codes for a company (SIC, NAICS). These codes are often listed in the company databases.
Includes Industry Reports from Frist Research and Business Monitor. Select "Industry Report" as a document type and then search by Country/Region and industry name. For example, search for Indonesia Telecommunications to locate reports on that industry.
Business Source Premier
Includes SWOT Reports for major companies and industries from Datamonitor and other sources.
Includes basic descriptions of many international corporations as well as industry reports from First Research.
IBISWorld Comng Soon
Focus is on US companies but the database does include industry reports.