A:

Thanks to the Internet, finding financial reports is easier than ever. Nowadays, every reputable company has an investor relations section on its website that is a wealth of information.

Walt Disney Co is an excellent example of a business that uses its website to get information out to shareholders and prospective investors. It is very easy to find the link to its investor relations section.

This part of the Disney website contains a downloadable version of its annual report, stock quotes, an investor newsletter, archived conference calls and even the opportunity for current shareholders to sign up for electronic reports. The best part about these online investor relations sections is their extra nuggets of hard-to-find information. For example, most companies will use these spaces to offer detailed info on past acquisitions and stock splits not always available on other financial portals.

If you want to dig deeper and go beyond the slick marketing version of the annual report found on corporate websites, you'll have to search through filings made to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). All publicly-traded companies in the U.S. must file regular financial reports with the SEC. These filings include the annual report (known as the 10-K), quarterly report (10-Q) and a myriad of other forms containing all types of financial data.

Reports are filed through a system known as EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system). EDGAR performs automated collection, validation, indexing, acceptance and forwarding of submissions by companies and others required by law to file forms with the SEC. Information on EDGAR can be found on the SEC's website, where you can search through forms as well as familiarize yourself with the system using its EDGAR tutorial.

Be warned, the tools on the SEC's site are cumbersome at best. For more user-friendly sites, try the following:

Free EDGAR
allows you to search for most SEC forms. It's free, but requires registration.

EDGAR Online is a subscription-based site offering dozens of products on any type of information filed with the SEC. You won't find anything free, but if you need sophisticated services, EDGAR Online is the site for you.

To learn how to analyze a company's financial statements, see our tutorial Introduction to Fundamental Analysis.

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