Web-based company directories have many advantages over their print counterparts, but in one area they frequently fall short; they rarely include historical information. Financial databases of public companies such as Bloomberg, Thomson One, and S&P COMPUSTAT will include extensive historical financial data, but if you are looking for a private company’s address, product line, or executive names as of 1995, you would do better with a 20 year run of a printed directory than with its current online counterpart. This pattern is changing as information vendors become aware of the market for historical company data. Two examples of corporate directory archives are the historical research sections of Corporate Affiliations and ReferenceUSA.
Corporate Affiliations shows the corporate structure of more than 1 million public and private companies world-wide with subsidiary listings and corporate linkage. For more information please see: Private Company Research Part 2: Corporate Affiliations. The Historical Research module of the database gives company addresses, products, SIC numbers, names of executives and directors, and key financial data for every year from 1993 to date. As the menu below indicates, you can search by company name, or screen by one or more variables. A company (ENRON, for example) does not have to be in business currently to be included in the historical file. To reach the Historical Search menu, follow this path from the main Corporate Affiliations’ menu:
Subscriber Tools => Historical Search
The record for Motorola Solutions, Inc. shows how the data is presented for a single company. Clicking on the date tabs (‘1993’ etc.) will include the data for that year in the output.
The historical treatment of changes in SICs and product descriptions will include as many as 14 SIC numbers and descriptions for each company.
The company record for all years and all variables can be downloaded as a text .CSV format which EXCEL will read.
Here is the result of a screen for companies in Philadelphia in 1993.
The WEB display of the results is only a small fraction of the EXCEL record, which will give details for all variables (SIC, executive name, financial data, etc.). If the entire date range is requested, the downloaded record will list the companies alphabetically and then give variable details for each year.
However, there is a display limit of 1,000 records per search. For example, a search for all companies in France with data for all years will produce a set of more than 1,000 records, but only 1,000 records from the set will be displayed.
ReferenceUSA’s current company directory contains 24 million U.S. company records plus records for an additional 1.5 million Canadian companies. The database’s historical businesses module contains 151 million U.S. company records from 2003 through 2013.
To see the menu below:
U.S. Historical Business Database => Custom Search
For example, a screen for breweries (Primary NAICS 312120) in Pennsylvania in 2003 will produce this display:
Clicking on an individual company name will display a record giving the 2003 address, phone, sales volume, employee size, SIC/NAICS codes, as well as graphs of sales volume and number of employees for all available years between 2003 and 2013.
Downloading the records in EXCEL and requesting “detail” will display all the variables available for the company for the given year. However, there is a limit of 250 records per download. Requesting all records for a company for the range of years (2003 – 2013) will give a line of data for each year. In this way, you can determine if a company changes its name during the ten year period. For example, the company listed as “Pittsburgh Brewing” from 2003-2008 is listed as “Iron City Brewing” between 2009 and 2012 and then as “Pittsburgh Brewing” again in 2013.
Companies can be mapped by number of locations, employee or sales size and displayed as “heat maps”. For example, the heat maps below show the doubling of the number of breweries in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2013 (from 27 locations to 69).
The availability of the “back files” of ReferenceUSA and Corporate Affiliations are an important step in filling the gap in digital historical directory information.
For additional information on company histories see this posting: Don’t Know Much About “Corporate” History.
Also see our Research Guides: Company Information and Business History Resources.