Going over stacks of old annual corporate reports probably isn’t your idea of a fun way to spend a weekend. Some investors just look at current annual reports and let it go at that when scoping out possible investments. However, reviewing old annual reports can make you a smarter investor. Comparing that old information to recent reports gives you a sense of a company’s long-term performance and trends. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires publicly traded companies to publish annual reports and include balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements and other material that you can use to make better investment choices,
Look for old annual reports on a company’s investor relations website. Many publicly traded companies post their annual reports as downloadable files online. Companies, like IBM, keep old annual reports online in an archive section for the convenience of shareholders and potential investors. If you don’t find the old annual report you need, investor relations websites also provide contact information for the company’s shareholder services office. You can contact the office directly to order the annual report you need.
Find old and new annual reports using the SEC’s online Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system. EDGAR is a free database of documents, including annual reports, which publicly traded corporations are required to file with the SEC.
Tap into the historical records collections at university libraries. Because annual reports provide so much information, they are useful for students and faculty members doing research related to business and economics. This is especially true for universities with strong business schools. Many universities have procedures that you can follow to access their records collections, as well as trained reference librarians to help you find what you need.
Contact the secretary of state’s office in the state where the company is registered. Each state has its own procedures and regulations for submitting reports. Generally, the state agency where the business is registered requires companies to file their annual reports; the agency can tell you where to locate these documents.