An overview of Company Annual Report, it’s meaning, purpose, contents and more: You might not be surprised to know that Warren Buffett, the third most richest person on this planet and one of the most successful investor of our time, reads over 500 pages each day. Most of the time, he’s busy reading the annual reports of different companies that either he’s planning to invest or already invested in. And believe me, reading the annual report of multiple companies is not an easy task as each report easily consists of 200-300 pages or more.
“So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” – Warren Buffett
In this article, we are going to discuss what is a company annual report, its meaning, purpose, why investors read annual reports and finally how to read annual reports efficiently. Let’s get started!
What is a Company Annual Report?
While some companies publish their Annual Reports to provide necessary information about its company’s financial performance and to comply with the statutory requirements, there are some other companies that use the Annual Reports as a tool to advertise their products and services and that is reasonable too.
The Annual Report is the medium of communication between the company and its shareholders, investors and other readers. It is the best source to know about any company’s operations, services along with its financial performance in the past, present and what are its upcoming plans and goals.
Moreover, the Annual Report is a statutory compliance every company must adhere to. It is a single source of highly useful information that is used differently by a different set of users such as Shareholders, Income Tax Authorities, Investors, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), etc. Be it either financial statements or corporate governance, or company vision and mission or ratio analysis, everything is compiled and presented in an Annual Report. The financial health is measured from these reports.
What is Purpose of the Annual Reports?
Basically, the purpose of issuing an Annual Report is to communicate to the shareholders, stakeholders, media and other relevant authorities that how the company performed in the financial year, its vision and mission, whether the company is working towards its set targets, what all are its assets, liabilities, what are their main areas of operations and what other activities they are doing. The ultimate purpose is to showcase the financial performance and provide an assurance that the company’s financials have been audited by the professionals and they represent true and fair financial statements in all manner.
Contents of the Annual Report
Whilst the fundamental purpose of publishing the Annual Report is to provide company information, financial performance, significant accounting policies and related notes and future goals to its shareholders, investors and other related users, many companies use Annual Report to advertise their products and services and other achievements along with the basic necessary information as discussed above. We will be highlighting the critical and important contents of every Annual Report that is required by every company by some of the other regulatory body.
(Example: Asian Paints Annual Report for Year 2018/19 – Source)
— Director’s Report
The Director’s Report is a letter from the Board of Directors of the company to its shareholders and other investors and readers about a brief of the company’s main activity, financial performance, management’s responsibility in preparing the books of accounts and financial statements and appointment or re-appointment of auditors in the annual general meeting of the company along with other particulars of major accounting policies followed in the recently completed financial year.
The report will also communicate details if the company is planning anything major that will impact significantly on shareholders’, investors’, its payables’ or receivables’ decisions such as any merger or acquisition, or any other occurrence of extraordinary event. The Directors will also communicate the reasons if the company had losses during the financial year and their plan to recover or make it profitable.
— Auditor’s Report
The Auditor’s Report is a letter of auditor’s opinion about the truthfulness and fairness of the financial statements and that the financial statements comply with generally accepted accounting principles and any other recognized accounting standards. Auditors address the shareholders of the company and express their opinion about the financial statements to them.
Auditors are the professional Chartered Accountants recognized and authorized by the professional bodies and government authorities to issue and certify such reports. The auditor’s report contains auditor’s opinion on the financial statement, the basis of the opinion, auditor’s responsibility to carry out the audit and to issue such report, management’s responsibility and any other reporting responsibility such as compliance to legal and regulatory requirements.
For the readers of the financial statement, an auditor’s report and his opinion provide very crucial details. The opinion can be unqualified opinion, qualified opinion or the auditors may give a disclaimer of opinion.
The unqualified opinion means that in an auditor’s opinion, the financial statements give a true and fair view of the financial statements. Whereas, the qualified opinion means the auditors believe that the company has deviated from its mandatory compliance to represent true and fair financial statements or certain accounting policies and principles are not complied by the company. The disclaimer of opinion represents that the auditor is not able to give any opinion on the financial statements for certain reasons such as, the management might not allow them to qualify the report or they were refrained to carry out the audit as per their satisfaction or any other such matter.
— Statement of Financial Position or Balance Sheet
The statement of financial position is a balance sheet of a company as on the last date of the financial year. The balance sheet contains assets, liabilities and shareholders’ funds or equity. This statement will indicate what are the Non-current assets, current asset a company holds, how much non-current or current liabilities a company needs to settle and how much is shareholders fund including accumulated profits and reserves.
— Statement of Income and Comprehensive Income
This is the statement where readers of the Annual Report will find financial performance during the year for a company. The statement contains Income, Expenses and other extraordinary income or expense made by the company during the financial year. The income and expenditure from operations and major services and other general, sales and distribution expenses are covered under the first part of the income statement that will give the net income or net profit during the year. The second part will include details of unrealized income, foreign currency transaction loss or gain, dividend, transfer to reserves under comprehensive income statement.
— Statement of Cash Flow
The Income statement will include only the income and expenses of that year for a company which may also include such income or expenses that are accrued but actually not paid. For example, the receipt of payment for the revenue booked in the last week of the financial year might be pending. Hence, it may happen that actual cash has not been received or paid but it is booked as it relates to that year and to comply with the accounting principles. However, from the statement of cash flow, the readers can understand that how much cash inflow or outflow has been made by a company from operational, financial and investing activities.
— Notes Accompanying to Financial Statements and Significant Accounting Policies
This portion of an Annual Report will contain company basic information about the activities, its date of incorporation, its license number and the shareholding pattern. The significant accounting policies will contain the company’s policies for accounting income, expense, recognizing asset or liability or any other such policy as approved and issued by the relevant accounting bodies for companies to mandatorily follow. The notes will also include off-balance-sheet items such as contingencies from which the information regarding the company’s liability or gain can be guessed based on its possibility to occur.
Types of Readers of an Annual Report and their Purposes
The different kind of audience of an Annual Report would fetch different information and the focus of information will also be changing depending on who is reading the financial statement.
Shareholders: Shareholders of the company would want to know from the company’s Annual Report whether the money they invested is being utilized properly or not, whether the company is adequately utilizing its resources and utilizing them for the main activities of the company keeping in mind the vision and mission of the company and if it makes enough profits to pay dividends.
Investors: The investors would want to know whether the company is making money if they invest into their company’s stocks, what are company’s future plans that will raise its market value so that if they invest now, they can get more return, is the company paying the dividend to its shareholders.
Employees: Employees would read the Annual Report to understand how much company as a whole has performed during the financial year and if the company is making necessary profits to pay their salaries and other benefits in future. Many times, employees are working at some remote location where the corporate offices are not located, when they read the Annual Report, they can understand the ‘big picture’.
Customers: Customers would focus on the quality and new additions to the products and services. The Annual Report will provide and highlight these details and ensure the sustainability of the business.
Apart from the above, there are other readers too such as suppliers who would focus on company’s business progress and how quickly they can repay their dues and receivables would focus on whether to continue buying from them as a trusted supplier or not.
Quick Note: If you want to download the annual report of any specific publicly listed company, you can check the stock page of our Stock analysis and research portal here.
Other Key Information Provided in Annual Reports
- The off-balance-sheet items in the notes to accounts will provide how much liability or any unrealized income company has which has yet not been effected into the financial statements since its possibility to occur or not to occur is remote.
- The notes will also contain whether corporate governance is maintained or not and if there are deviations to it then what caused such deviations.
- Audit Report’s other regulatory and legal reporting section shall provide the company’s adherence to such other statutory compliances.
- The notes will also reveal if the company has changed any particular accounting policy and if the change is made then to what extent it has impacted the financials.
- The notes will also communicate whether the company is undergoing any legal proceedings or not that any potential investor would want to know.
The risk analysis is also given in the notes from where various associated risks such as credit risk, interest risk, foreign currency risks are detailed. The company will also mention what steps are taken to mitigate such risks.