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Company & Industry Research

A detailed guide to conducting research on companies, nonprofits, charities, and industries. Look up NAICS codes, find competitors, industry profiles, financial ratios by industry.

Is the Company Public or Private?

Before you start searching for information on a company, you need to determine if the company is Public or Private. Typically, there is much more information, including financial information, available on public companies. So, if you are given a list of companies to choose for a research project, my advice is to always choose a public company.

  • What is a public company?
    • A company is public if it has shares that are traded on a stock exchange such as the Toronto Stock Exchange or the New York Stock Exchange. Companies are required to file annual reports and other documents with regulatory bodies such as the Ontario Securities Commission or the Securities & Exchange Commission.
  • What is a private company?
    • A company is private if it is closely-held (typically family owned or through private equity). It is not possible for the general public to buy shares. In most jurisdictions (e.g., Canada or the United States), private companies do not need to file annual reports or disclose financial information to the public.
  • How can I tell if a company is public or private?
    • Search the Mergent Intellect or Mergent Online library databases, which include information on both public and private companies.
    • Search the Factiva database.
      • Choose Company from the Companies/Markets tab to find companies by company name. The Company Snapshot indicates the ownership type (Lists or Unlisted).

Library Database Links:

Finding Public Company Annual Reports and Financial Statements

Recent annual reports (10-Ks), quarterly reports (10-Qs), and other securities filings for publicly traded companies are usually posted on a company's web site in an area labeled Investor Relations. For a good example, see Apple's Investor Relations site. If you require access to older reports or financial statement data, you should consult one of the following sources: