information, it can be more than overwhelming. In fact, they're designed to be indecipherable
by the average human for a specific reason, Wall Street wants more of your money. Yes,
everything you ever wanted to know in the spirit of full transparency is readily available, but
you'll need to be trained in financial and managerial accounting to understand it. You'll also
need to have a wealth of experience with these reports in a specific industry to really be able
to delve in and read between the lines.
So what is the average investor to do with quarterly and annual reports, especially given the
time restraints of pouring through reports of many different companies in different industries.
Well, we need to figure out what parts of the report we can trust to the expert analysts, and
which parts we need to form our own conclusions from.
Quarterly and annual reports are
organized into Parts and items.
We'll be using quarterly reports as
an example for the rest of this
article, so please note that Annual
reports have a few more parts and
items. Part 1 is financial
information, and part 2 is generally
other information. Within part 1,
there are several items. Item 1,
financial statements is the meat of
the filing, but not necessarily where
we want to look first. The Income
Statement, Balance Sheet and
Statements of Cash-flow along with
notes are chopped up,
standardized, organized and
analyzed ad nauseam. The results
are available to investors in the form
of real time, easily comparable
valuation measurements and key
look like in the future, also stacked and categorized for your convenience. So although very
important, item 1 is not where we are going to find any market inefficiencies.
Condition and Results of Operations (Item 7 on Annual reports). Before we start reading,
however, note how far you had to scroll down, and how big the company is you are
researching. Notes to the financial statements should be comparable to the size of the
company. Bigger companies will inevitably have a ton of different financing, options,
preferred shares, recent acquisitions or mergers, judgments, tax issues and the list goes on
and on. A smaller company generally shouldn't have as much going on, and if your finger got
tired from scrolling, the company may be highly leveraged, or more interested in selling
shares than their product/service.
Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
leads to a deeper understanding of the financial statements. In fact, after reading one, you
will probably look at the financial statements and valuations for that company, as well as any
other stock in that industry, in a very different light. For example, you may find out that the
company experiences higher revenues during a certain time of the year, or that expenses go
up due to seasonal commodity price swings.
You'll also be able to see a breakdown of where all the revenues come from, how much is
from how many different customers, how much is foreign or domestic, what the different
growth rates and margins are, and similar breakdowns of expenses, research and
development and more. These figures are essential when trying to make comparisons to
What Item 2 also does is tell the story of the company in plain language. Why were our
revenues higher but our earnings were lower. Where was/wasn't the demand. Did we meet
the demand or fall short. Did we gain/loss market share. All of these questions are
addressed, if applicable, and the larger the company, the more we'll get.
Don't assume that spin doesn't exist in these reports. The smaller the company or newer the
industry, the more opportunities there will be for spin. Generally, however, the spin has
already been standardized by each industry, and has been in place for so long, the way they
break everything down cannot be changed from quarter to quarter. In fact, this part of the
quarterly or annual report can take a press release and give it a strong dose of Sodium
-In part three, we'll take a look at the risk disclosure and discover why it's a little bit different
than your standard fine print. We'll also discuss how to learn a lot about whats in a filing
simply based on the timing of it.
January 31, 2011 PSW Staff
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