Gimmie that Old Time Financial Statement: Annual Reports to Shareholders

Company annual reports provide stock owners and potential investors with information about company performance and plans. US Company Annual Reports have much more flexibility in format and content than do the annual 10K reports that are required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  10K reports, on the other hand, offer much more detailed information on company history, company description, and financial data.

Annual reports are not always easy to find on the Internet, take Ford’s 2001 Annual Report to Shareholders (ARS) as an example. Try a Google search for Ford 2001 annual report. Unless you want a report on Henry Ford Elementary School, this search is not successful. Ford’s website looks promising, but the archive only goes back to 2002. If we search the SEC filings, we’ll find that the ARS wasn’t filed with them at all (only required to file 10-K). This isn’t the end of our search. The Penn Libraries subscribe to a number of databases that cover annual reports, both current and historical. Keep reading to find out where we can find Ford’s 2001 ARS.

The table shows a selection of resources available through the Penn Libraries for finding annual reports from the early 19th century to date.  With the exception of the Purdue Index to Annual Reports to Shareholders, all include the full-text.

Earliest Current Approx
Coverage Date Reports? Reports
 ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________ ___________ _______ _______ _______
Mergent World 1901 Yes 115,000
Proquest US 1844 Yes   42,000
Osiris World 1995 Yes   50,000
Thomson One US 1970 Yes 200,000
Lippincott US 1834 No       500
Purdue* World 1800 No 100,000
*Index Only

Mergent Archive provides worldwide coverage of annual reports to shareholders in PDF format, but also company profiles, financial statements, financial supplements, and information circulars; some 500,000 reports in total. The earliest reports are from 1901. There is a group of material in the database that is given the arbitrary date 01/01/1900 and the designation “Miscellaneous”. This material consists of company circulars from various unknown dates often describing the history of the company.

Proquest Historical Annual Reports Ford ARS 2001 only includes reports for U.S. companies. Proquest’s search interface allows searching by company, date or date range, financial variable, and industry. The earliest annual report is from 1844.  This is where you will find Ford’s 2001 ARS.

OSIRIS (Bureau van Dijk) is a database of  more than 65,000 listed and delisted companies from 190 countries.  In addition to detailed financial information, OSIRIS provides news, ownership, stock data, regulatory filings and much more for US companies. OSIRIS also provides PDF annual reports for many of the companies, with backfiles of up to 15 years. Major companies from non-English speaking countries often have reports in both English and their native languages.

Thomson One includes a module of SEC filings. An unusual aspect of this database is that it contains some SEC filings (including annual reports) before EDGAR began offering digital filings in 1993. Large U.S. companies such as GE and IBM often have digital annual reports (as well as 10-Ks) from the 1970’s to date.

Lippincott Historical Annual Reports  Ford ars 1960is a collection of historical annual reports that began as a project of Penn’s Lippincott Library. The collection consists of annual reports in PDF format from U.S. companies, and covers the period 1834 through 1955.  The entire collection is searchable by company or industry name, year, or words in the text. Each retrieved document is fully searchable as well.

Index to Annual Reports to Shareholders is an index managed by the Purdue University Library of annual reports held by the following universities: Columbia U., Cornell U., Harvard U., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue U., Stanford U., U. of Alabama, U. of California-Berkeley, U. of Pennsylvania, U. of Western Ontario, Yale U., and the Science/Industry/Business Library of New York Public Library.

For additional resources take a look at our Business FAQ Where can I find current and historical annual reports?

3 thoughts on “Gimmie that Old Time Financial Statement: Annual Reports to Shareholders

  1. Pingback: Don’t Know Much About ‘Corporate’ History: Historical Company Research | Datapoints: A blog from the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School of Business

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