Information by and about companies is available to varying degrees. As a general rule the larger the company the more information there is likely to be available. The amount of information available will also depend on the type of company. For example, a sole trader, a builder working for himself, need only register with the Inland Revenue for tax and VAT purposes; whereas a Publically Limited Company (plc) is legally required to submit to Companies House data on major changes in shareholdings, names of company directors, and annual accounts among other things. As well as this the plc must produce an annual report.
An obvious place to start for information is the company's own website. Not all companies have websites, particularly very small companies. Company websites are either:
To create a company profile you should be using both the customer-facing and corporate websites. Most corporate websites are linked from the customer-facing pages, look for a link that says ‘Corp Info’ or ‘Investor relations’. It should be obvious from the look and from the content which site you are looking at. Compare the content of Tesco’s customer and corporate websites:
Annual reports give an overview of the previous year and comments on the health of the company, where they see the company growing in the coming year. Of course, as the annual report is written by the company itself it's content must be used with caution and wherever possible corroborated from an independent source.
Annual Reports websites:
It is always worth getting a second opinion. What are other people saying about the company? It is often different from what they are saying about themselves.
There are two databases that are particularly good at presenting analysis on companies, Business Source Complete and ABI/Inform Complete. Both have company information form various sources: academic journals, popular magazines, newspapers and trade journals.
A downloadable guide is available with tips on finding company information in these databases.
There are a number of websites that aggregate news items about companies. These can be a great way to find information on more obscure or local companies:
It can also be useful to investigate what products or services the company is involved with, apart from identifying peer groups this can be an indication of how products are developing, whether particular markets are buoyant or not. Apart from their own websites, there are two sites that help you assess what products a company makes: