One of the most common and reliable sources for obtaining corporate financial statements is directly from the company itself. Most public companies are required by law to file annual (10-K) and quarterly (10-Q) financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These disclosures contain detailed income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, footnotes, and other important information. Companies also typically make recent financial statements available on their investor relations website.
For public companies in the U.S., you can access EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system), the SEC’s electronic public database that contains registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms submitted by companies. On EDGAR, you can search for a company by its ticker symbol or CIK number to find and download its financial statements going back several years. This direct source from the SEC provides assurance that the financials have been reviewed and deemed acceptable by regulatory authorities.
Another valuable source for public company financials is commercially available databases like Compustat, provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Compustat contains financial metrics and statements for both U.S. and global public companies standardized into uniform accounts. The database goes back decades, allowing for trend and ratio analysis over long time periods. While not a direct SEC source, Compustat applies standardized adjustments and classifications to the raw data for easier comparison across firms.
For private companies, the availability and reliability of financial statements may vary significantly. Financials are often only provided to potential investors and not publicly disclosed. Sources to consider include: asking the company directly, checking business information providers like Dunn & Bradstreet, searching corporate filings if the company has ever gone public before, or tapping professional network contacts to see if anybody has access. State business registrations may also publish limited private company financial data.
Another option is to back into private company financials by compiling income statements estimated from industry ratios/benchmarks and filling in balance sheet accounts based on known operating metrics. This requires making assumptions but can at least provide a starting point when actual statements are not available. Consulting private company databases like PitchBook or Closely may also turn up some useful historical financial snapshots.
For foreign public companies, their local stock exchange websites often house recent annual reports containing home-country GAAP financial statements along with English translations. Other country-specific sources include commercial registries, regulator filing repositories, and local databases analogous to EDGAR or Compustat. Language barriers may be an issue, so using translation tools and searching in the company’s native language can help uncover more information.
Industry trade associations are another worthwhile resource as they may publish aggregate financial benchmarks and data useful for analyzing trends within a given sector. Speaking with investment banks that specialize in M&A advisory within an industry can also potentially connect you with private company client financials. And valuation industry participants sometimes sharestatement sanitized private transaction comps among each other for comparative modeling purposes.
Secondary sources offering company overviews and research reports may round out your diligence. Providers like FactSet, Bloomberg, Morningstar, and Capital IQ summarize key financial metrics. Reading sell-side analyst initiation reports can provide insights as the analysts have scrutinized full financials as part of their due diligence. And valuation service firms like Houlihan Lokey publish quarterly and annual research on public comparable company trading multiples bankers use for valuation benchmarks.
Gaining access to high quality financial statement information, especially for private companies, may require tapping multiple sources and creative problem-solving given availability limitations. But thorough financial analysis grounded in reliable statements remains essential for conducting accurate company valuation work. Let me know if any part of the process would benefit from additional details or examples.