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An annual report outlines an organization's financial and corporate conditions. Publicly traded companies are required by law to publish an annual report. Universities, government bodies, and non-profit organizations also produce annual reports. This guide is intended as a brief introduction to various methods of obtaining annual reports.
Annual reports are good sources of information about a company's business history and current performance. They can be used to learn about an organization's financial health or patterns of spending or growth, and they often describe new programs or initiatives undertaken by the organization. Indirectly, annual reports indicate what is important to the organization through the topics included in the report and the way in which the information is presented.
A few sites with basic tips on reading annual reports:
- How to Read Annual Reports (YouTube video from The Investor Channel)
- How To Efficiently Read An Annual Report (via Investopedia)
- How to read annual reports (via IBM)
- Tips for Reading an Annual Report (brief tips via the Annual Reports Library)
- Annual reports 101: [What the numbers and the fine print can reveal about the true health of a company] (an ebook published by the American Management Association - SFU access only)
The following sections of this guide list resources for finding annual reports. Most of these resources focus on the reports generated by publicly-traded companies.
Not all organizations are required by law to make their annual reports available to the public. If you are researching a private company, especially one in North America where the public filing requirements are very weak, you will likely not be able to find a published annual report. Privately-held companies are not legally required to publish such information.
In such cases, check to see if a significant portion of the private company is owned by a publicly-traded company as you can sometimes uncover some information through a parent company's annual reports.
Always start by searching the organization's site to find the most recent annual reports published by corporations, government departments and agencies and nonprofit organizations.
Some older reports for government departments and nonprofit organizations are also available in the Library collection. Search using the organization's name as the author in the Library Catalogue and the Canadian Research Index database.
For registered Canadian Charities, see this Canada Revenue Agency site.
For corporate annual reports and/or financial data, try the following resources:
Includes the Mergent Historical Annual Reports collection: over 1 million annual reports from 1844 to the present -- 150,000+ from Canadian organizations, 370,000+ from the US, and the remainder from a wide range of countries.
Available on one computer near the scanners and photocopiers on the main (3rd) floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby). See these FAQs for help guides and for details on how to log into this database.
S&P Capital IQ
Includes annual reports (and much more) from most publicly-traded firms worldwide. Note that you need to be on campus when you first create your CapIQ account, but that you can access it remotely once you have your own ID.
Thomson Reuters Eikon + Datastream
Available on one computer in each SFU Library branch. Provides detailed financial information on over 70,000 companies from around the world. Includes filings such as annual reports.
One-stop shopping for annual reports of publicly-traded Canadian companies. All such companies are required to file with the Canadian Depository for Securities, the creators of this site, so the selection is extensive. Click on "Company Profiles" to start your search.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) database of corporate filings. Contains annual reports, press releases, and other public documents for most public companies in the US. Note that annual reports are "10-K" forms for the SEC.
- There are also many sites such as Rank and Filed or SecInfo that offer access to the same EDGAR information with different search and display options. In addition, some of the Library's databases such as MINT Global provide access to recent SEC filings, along with simplified access to data extracted from various SEC reports.
Start by searching within the files for the SEC Form 10-K and (less commonly used by most companies) the Annual Report Report to Shareholders.
This short list of annual reports is intended only as a set of examples (Canadian and American) that you can use to get a better idea of the nature of annual reports. Use the resources and search tips within this guide to look for a specific organization's report.
- Air Canada
- Ballard Power Systems
- Bank of Canada
- BCE Inc.
- Canada Post Corp.
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- Canadian Tire Corporate Information
- Rogers Inc.
- Starbucks Coffee Company