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The Spire Project: Company Information
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Company information forms the backbone to the information industry. There is real money here. Investors are eager, customers & suppliers are eager, competitors are eager. As a result, a wide collection of very client-centered research resources have grown up to deliver to this market.

Your research may take you into competitive intelligence and private investigation - talking to competitors, customers, suppliers, past employees and more. Another direction leads to information specific to an industry: perhaps locating export logs or chemical patents. For the purpose of this article, let us restrict ourselves to public, general and readily available resources: publications from the company itself, government disclosure documents, directory information, business news articles, compiled company profiles, and related profiles like credit reports or investment profiles.


to article list Corporate Websites
Let's start with the obvious. Companies publish information about themselves - some of it quite useful and factual. Look for a company website.
webpage Use Altavista to find a specific commercial website. Specifically use the url:name function (like url:nike).
webpage Alternatively, use Debriefing, a meta-search engine optimized for finding names and named websites.
webpage If you still have difficulties, consider a local or national search engine. Use the SearchEngineWatch regional list, Search Engines WorldWide or SearchEngineCollossus.

to article list Government Disclosure Documents
Governments require all companies to release some information - some of this is made public. Much greater information is released from public companies.
EDGAR, produced by the (US) Securities and Exchange Commission, delivers all public US company submissions as required by law. The information is factual and numerical - and includes both current and past submissions. Further descriptions can be found from their website here or here. Access is free on the net.
database SEDAR (, produced for the Canadian Depository for Securities, is the Canadian counterpart to the US EDGAR database. SEDAR delivers the public securities filings and public/mutual fund profiles. SEDAR also includes some press releases. Further description is available as the SEDAR FAQ. The search is very user-friendly - start at their search page.
EDGAR (and presumably SEDAR) are also basic ingredients to other commercial databases like EDGAR Plus on Dialog or company profiles like Hoovers Company Profiles (see EBSCO). EDGAR Plus and Disclosure (see Dialog or FirstSearch) contain very similar data to the free EDGAR database but include better fields and standardized financials.


to article list Basic Directory Information
Address, contact numbers and basic size may be all you need initially. Such information can be found through numerous book directories. Most directories are created from questionnaires, so the information is suggestive - not absolute.

Directories come in different forms; general information, businesses in specific industries or regions, registers like American Export Register & Australian Exports, and serialized directories like Kompass & Who's Who (e.g. Who's Who of Business in Australia). The commercial databases to these directories usually cover a far larger area, and this may be very useful. Kompass comes in national directories; one of the databases covers S.E.Asia.

Every library will have numerous directory titles available, though not always the most recent editions. Especially in recent years, a vast collection of directories have emerged with titles like Lloyds Shipping Register, Radio Airtime Sales, and National Directory of Multicultural Research - clearly a great range exist.

webpage Some of the more popular directories have previously become available as commercial databases. A small collection of directories like Thomas Register of American Manufacturing, American Export Register and CompaniesOnline (Dun & Bradstreet with Lycos) are emerging free online.
webpage The humble phone book is certainly available. Another option is to reach for phone numbers on CD-ROM. Australian Businesses on CD, American Business Information - A Business Directory (Dialog) Compuserve BIZ-Phone Index and more.
Directories may also be used to determine what the companies produce and sell. The Kompass Directories index manufacturers by product. Australian Exports (by Austrade) lists exporters by product. Directories have other innovative uses too.
book Corporate structure can be found using, again, a collection of directories: America's Corporate Families and International Affiliates, Directory of Corporate Affiliations (Dialog), Who Owns Who (by Dun & Bradstreet)

to article list Company Annual Reports
Annual reports are brilliant at giving a concise review of a business or government operation and they usually don't lie too directly (though they do put quite a spin on the statistics from time to time).
webpage Annual reports will be found in one of four sources:
  State Public Libraries,
  Stock Exchange Libraries,
  Direct from the Company,
  Purchased through Annual Report Providers,
  Annual reports may also be published on the company website.
Wall Street Journal and Public Register's Annual Report Service - PRARS are reported as commercial annual reports providers.
webpage The Simon Fraser University Library has compiled a fine resource for company annual reports: Business - Annual Reports.


to article list News Coverage and Press Releases
Many newswires contain copious amounts of information about companies - and describe products, mergers and fiascoes. Prominent newspapers specialize in covering business. In active research, this means searching the commercial databases of past & recent news. This is described in more detail in our Newswires and News Databases article.
webpage News is generated locally, then distributed globally through the newswires. Associated Press, Reuters, or the top of the line Bloomberg Business News each deliver business news targeted to the investor.
Press releases are released through BusinessWire (see also Dialog) and PR Newswire (See also Dialog) and a selection of national wire services. Current press releases are usually free online but past news is indexed into commercial databases. This information is also rather ubiquitously used in the preparation of company profiles.
webpage Prominent business investigation also occurs through specific newspapers. The financial times or the wall street journal can be very useful resources. Of course, these newspapers are also available as searchable databases. Business Electronic Newspapers lists many of the business-related electronic news sources available on the internet.

to article list Business and Trade Articles
Companies are also profiled in the trade periodicals. There are three ways to approach this. Firstly, you can attempt a broad search for articles about a company in a wide collection of commercial article databases. Secondly, you can seek articles in specific, topical trade publications by searching databases specific to the field the company works in. Thirdly, you can use what is close at hand, perhaps access to ABI/Inform or another popular business article database, and see what appears.

These alternative approaches each have pros & cons. ABI/Inform has a deep North American bias (as do many commercial databases) and indexes many of the more trashy/newsy local business magazines. Tightly focused databases may simply have nothing on the target company - or have only technical matters. Certain databases will allow you to specify during the search exactly what company you are interested in: you will read of these in the database descriptions.

webpage To find trade periodicals, consider searching on a broad business database, then noting the titles which repeat themselves.

to article list Commercial Company Profiles
A wide range of potted histories, financial histories and current information is available. The market is not necessarily centered in the US but North American products are better promoted. This information comes in the form of small reports about a given business, prepared with investors in mind.

Hoover's Online (
Standard & Poor
Dun & Bradstreet
Moody's - Moody's Corporate Profiles (see Dialog)
Disclosure (
Value Line Investment Survey

webpage For a fine, European dominated list of country profile retailers, read Sheila Webber's article: Company Profiles and Financial Information.

to article list A Holistic Approach
webpage The more powerful tools present a variety of resources for your attention.

Lexis-Nexis Company Library
Dow Jones News/Retrieval Service

Dun and Bradstreet credit reports can be purchased on the web.
TRW Business Credit Profiles (is this the Experian?)

webpage Investext ( - provides in-depth business research - access to collections of investment research, market research, and trade association research, authored by analysts at investment banks, brokerages and related consulting firms. The work is also available through EINS, Dialog & Datastar.


Company research need not stop here. There are many avenues of further research:
  • Directly ask the company for sales literature: catalogue, price list, local sales agents,
  • Monitor company employment advertisements,
  • Articles in the trade and specialized press,
  • Company registers: in addition to anonymous statistical compilations, the national statistical bureau will also have a register of businesses - by name - with address coded by industry code. This is used firstly with site analysis but may also be useful for geographical analysis of businesses.
  • Background information on company leaders: their history, experience and age,
  • Patent research.
  • Industry-level research - see Industry Research,
  • Large international firms may have books written about them - consider a book search,
  • Interview past employees of the company,
  • Interview their suppliers or customers,
  • Local newspapers where the firm is located.
  • Further Assistance
    webpage For a fine alternative look at the field of company research, visit Business - Company Information thanks to Simon Fraser University Library.
    to article listThe Spire Project - better ways to find information.
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