Volume 14, No. 3

A User's Guide To Annual Reports, 2004  If you think reading annual reports is a dull, unsavory chore for the analyst or investor, consider the alternative: ignorance. That might be exciting. It's certainly easier to achieve. It's plenty easier to think about opening day at the ballpark instead of thinking about opening an annual report. Or a stack of annual reports. The rewards are far greater, though. It's the only time of year you get such a dense dose of information about a firm. Understood properly, digesting the annual report can help you define the risks you're willing to take by letting your capital hitch a ride with the firm's management. The objective is not to simply identify a magical disclosure or two that will tell you at a glance that a company is heading for the skids: the purpose of reading the annual report, if you've already invested in a firm, is to get your bearings as to how the company now fits the investment criteria you've set for it. If you haven't committed capital to the firm, spending quality time with the annual report is how you understand what you're getting into. Simply grinding through an annual report is not enough: you need to figure out just what you want to get out of this year's annual reports for your relevant companies. You need a strategy, and if you're going to look at a lot of annual reports, you need a process. Get that process in place now before the deluge, and get ready to make the most of the annual report season. This report presents a suggested strategy for handling the new annual reports, with an overview of current reporting issues.

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