Annual Reports provide a snapshot of a corporation’s financial health at a particular point in time, giving insight into its performance, operations, cash flow, and overall conditions. Shareholders need them to make informed decisions about their equity investments, especially when it comes time to vote on corporate matters.
There are a variety of tools shareholders have at their disposal to make these equity evaluations. In order to make better decisions, it is important for them to analyze their stocks using a variety of measurements, rather than just a few. Some of the metrics available include profitability ratios, liquidity ratios, debt ratios, efficiency ratios, and price ratios.
What Is an Annual Report?
An annual report is a document that public corporations must provide annually to shareholders that describes their operations and financial conditions. The front part of the report often contains an impressive combination of graphics, photos, and an accompanying narrative, all of which chronicle the company’s activities over the past year and may also make forecasts about the future of the company. The back part of the report contains detailed financial and operational information.
What Does an Annual Report Contain?
Annual reports provide a significant amount of information for its readers who will be able to get a good overview of the company’s overall performance in the preceding year. It is important to note that many annual reports are not traditional reports with large amounts of text; many companies often incorporate a lot of graphics and images, resulting in a visually appealing document.
The structure of annual reports undoubtedly will vary according to each company, but most annual reports will generally contain the following:
- A letter from the president or CEO
- Performance highlights from the preceding year
- Financial statements
- Performance and outlook for future years
We will briefly go through each item in detail below:
Letter from the CEO
The letter from the CEO is addressed to shareholders and provides a summary of the company’s performance in the previous year. CEOs typically spend a lot of time on their letters to highlight the company’s achievements, as its performance is relative to the industry it operates in. The letter would likely mention the information of interest to shareholders since they are the primary readers of the report.
Annual reports usually dedicate a section to highlighting some of the company’s key achievements, such as special initiatives, goals reached, or awards received by the company or its employees. The main goal of the section is to ensure that shareholders are satisfied with their investment in the company and persuade potential investors to do the same.
Financial statements are a key component of the annual report and provide its users with quantitative data regarding specific aspects of its financial performance in the previous fiscal year.
Annual reports typically include financial statements, such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. In addition, there will often be graphs or charts included, helping break down the financials into easily readable information.
Outlook for Future Years
Annual reports typically include information regarding its future performance in order to provide shareholders with information on the company’s future goals and objectives. Investors are able to get a thorough understanding of the company’s current position in its respective industry and the company’s plans for future growth. The reports also include information regarding a company’s strategy and how it plans to implement that strategy in the coming years.
While hardcopy annual reports are still common, electronic versions are increasingly popular and can be found on the websites of many companies. Electronic versions allow the reports to be made accessible to a larger audience in PDF or other formats.
Increasingly common are interactive online reports, which allow users to virtually flip through the report and expand graphics, among other things.
Notes to Accounts
These non-financial notes relate to details about financial numbers and are extremely important for appropriate interpretation of the company’s financials.
“The purpose of the notes to accounts is to clarify and qualify the information provided in the accounts. Hence, reading these carefully along with the financial numbers is of utmost importance,” says Sudip Bandyopadhyay, managing director, and CEO, Destimoney Securities.
The auditor’s report is an essential tool for reporting financial information. Since many third-party users prefer certification of financial information given in annual reports by independent auditors to ensure it is authentic, many auditees rely on auditor reports to certify their information to attract investors, apply for loans and improve their image.
The auditors, when they are in disagreement with the management, qualify the report. It’s an independent source for verifying the correctness of statements and facts mentioned in annual reports.
The auditors also add notes to balance sheets that highlight lapses in compliance with rules or other abnormalities, deferred revenue expenses, wrong classification of expenses, and treatment of deferred revenue expenditure.
What is the Achievement Section of an Annual Report?
Annual reports provide information on the company’s mission and history and summarize the company’s achievements in the past year.
While financial achievements are included, other achievements also are noted, such as research advances, market share gains, or honors awarded to the company or its employees.
The achievement section also may include information on such things as sales increases or new machinery that increases profitability and productivity.
The chief purpose of the achievements section is to make shareholders and stakeholders feel good about their investments or participation in your company.
The annual report contains key information on a company’s financial position that can be used to measure:
- A company’s ability to pay its debts as they come due
- Whether a company made a profit or loss in its previous fiscal year
- A company’s growth over a number of years
- How much earnings is retained by a company to grow its operations
- The proportion of operational expenses to revenue generated
The annual report also determines whether the information conforms to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This confirmation will be highlighted as an “unqualified opinion” in the auditor’s report section.
Fundamental analysts also attempt to understand a company’s future direction by analyzing the details provided in its annual report.