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Business *: Company Research

A guide to business research at USC.

Company Overviews & Current Financials - USC Databases

These databases are good places to start your company research:

Company Overviews - Public Web Sites

Finding Competitors

Each of these databases provide information on a company's competitors.  Be aware that competitors listed by these sources may not be the competitors you are looking for.  This is especially true when you are looking for a specific business sector within an industry.  Example, General Electric competes in several industries, aircraft engines, medical equipment and power, but some databases may list large conglomerates like GE as a competitor, when you may be looking for competitors for medical equipment, or more specifically, imaging equipment, so be aware!

Company Research

Photograph of an exterior view of the Bank of America building, ca.1955 (Los Angeles) From the USC Digital Library.

Overview of Company Information

It is easier to find information about public companies (those that sell stock to shareholders) than about private companies (those that are privately owned by an individual or a group).  Public companies in the United States are required by law to file documents with the Securities and Exchange commission (SEC).  These include the 10K (annual)and 10Q (quarterly) reports.  In addition, public companies issue an annual report to shareholders.

When looking for information about a company, consider both information from the company itself (e.g., the company website, SEC filings, press releases, etc.) as well as information about the company written by others (e.g., newspaper articles, analyst reports, articles by professors, etc.).

Finding information about a company includes the following steps:

  • Get an overview of the company, find out if it is public or private
  • Find the company website and review it carefully, particularly the sections for investors or media/press.
  • If the company is public, find relevant 10K and 10Q reports and annual reports to shareholders
  • Search for news, magazine and other periodical articles for information.  This may be the only way to find information on private companies.
  • If the company is public, search for analyst and brokerage reports. These sometimes contain an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT).
  • Identify competitors.

Company Web Sites

Company web sites can provide a wealth of information, particularly for public companies.  Look for press releases, investor information including presentations and events and filings such as SEC filings, annual reports or corporate social responsibility or "community" reports.  Use information from the company carefully and watch for bias or an overly-optimistic interpretation of factual data.

Historical Company Information, Annual Reports and SEC Filings

Stocks and Bonds

Historical stock data and more:

Analyst Reports and SWOT Analysis

Look here for expert opinions on companies:

Private Companies

Information on private companies can be sparse.  Private companies are not required to file any financial data in the U.S., with the exception of registration data filed with the Secretary of State, in the state where they are registered.  Databases like Hoovers and Reference USA have some basic data on private companies; Capital IQ (in-Library access only) also has some basic information Often 'local press' have more stories on a locally based company than national newspapers (e.g. San Jose Mercury News versus The New York Times).  Local newspapers can be found on ProQuest, LexisNexis Academic or Factiva. The PrivCo database covers many private companies in more detail, especially companies that are seeking funding or about to go public. 

 

Annual Reports - Public Web Sites

Try these sites if you cannot locate the annual report you need on the company's web site or using USC databases.  You may need to purchase the report from these sources.

Financial Ratios

These resources provide a range of financial ratios for companies and industries:

Betas

Betas can be found on 3 of USC's databases (see below), however Barra Betas are not available at this time.

Definitions:  Beta versus Barra Beta:

Beta is an estimated measure of the expected response of a stock, bond, or portfolio to the overall market. If a company has a beta of 1.3 has an expected excess return of 1.3 times the market excess return. Beta provides a means for measuring portfolio risk and provides a strong relationship of expected return.

Predicted beta, the beta BARRA derives from its risk model, is a forecast of a stock's sensitivity to the market. It is also known as fundamental beta, because it is derived from fundamental risk factors. In the BARRA model these risk factors include 13 attributes—such as size, yield, and price/earnings ratio—plus industry exposure allocated across a maximum of 6 of 55 industry groups. For additional information on Barra Beta:  Identifying the Drivers of Predicted Beta (published by MSCI, 2014)

Beta's can also be found on Bloomberg: See our Bloomberg Research Guide.  Instructions can be found under Sample Searches - EQUITIES BETA is the Mnemonic for Beta)