Monday, September 28, 2009

How To Analyse An Annual Report

MANY of us receive a lot of annual reports every year.

Even though we are aware that there is a lot of important information in the reports, not many of us are willing to spend time going through those reports before buying stocks.

Besides, it is quite difficult for some investors, especially those who lack proper financial training, to analyse the financial information.

In this article, we will provide a quick guide on how to analyse an annual report.
Given that there are many ways to dissect an annual report, the following six pointers are just a quick check on the financial health of any listed companies.

Income statement is the financial statement that shows the effects of transactions completed over a specific accounting period.

In this statement, we have three key pointers: the current level of revenue; high growth in revenue; and the profits made in proportion to the level of revenue.

The current level of revenue indicates the size of a company. A company with revenue or sales of RM1bil is definitely bigger than one that has revenue of only RM100mil.

In Malaysia, companies with revenue of RM500mil and above should be considered as more established companies.

High growth in revenue implies that the company has been expanding over the past period.
Assuming the high growth in revenue will eventually translate into high growth in profits, we should invest in companies with higher growth in revenue because this may lead to higher stock prices.

If the overall economy is expanding, avoid those companies that are showing a decline in revenue.

This might imply that the overall operating activities of the companies are declining.

The profits made in proportion to the level of revenue indicates whether this company has high or low profit margins in its products. The profits here refer to the profit after tax or net income.

We should invest in high profit margin companies because high profit margins will provide a cushion to the sudden change in operating environment. A company with revenue of RM1bil and profits of RM10mil is more likely to face tougher challenges in a stiff price competition environment compared with a company with revenue of RM100mil and profits of RM10mil.

Balance sheet is the financial statement that shows a company’s assets, liabilities and owners’ equity at a point in time. The two main pointers in this statement are cash in hand and total borrowings.

Cash in hand refers to the cash or cash equivalent like fixed deposits. If possible, we should invest in companies with high cash in hand and zero borrowings. High cash in hand may imply that the company has high chances of rewarding shareholders with higher dividend payments.

Besides, companies with high cash in hand have more financial stability than companies with very tight level of cash. This explains why most investment gurus like to invest in cash-rich companies.

Total borrowings include the short- and long-term borrowings. Here, we should check whether the company has reported any sharp increase in borrowings during the financial periods. Most companies need to increase borrowings to support their capital expenditure on any business expansion.

However, if a company has been increasing its borrowings each year and the level has far exceeded one to two times the shareholders’ funds, unless its operating activities are able to support the repayments, the company faces very high financial risk.

Cash flow statement shows the sources and uses of cash over the period. One very important pointer in this statement is the operating cash flow.

High operating cash flow implies that the company is generating cash from its operating activities. A healthy company should show high operating cash flow because this number will indicate how much actual cash the company has generated from operations during the period.

We need to be careful of the companies that are showing profits but at the same time generating negative operating cash flows every year. This may imply that these companies have very high receivables. Any economic downturn may cause a sharp increase in provisions on bad debts.

Lastly, investors need to understand that the above six pointers are just a quick guide to analysing any annual report. Serious investors should not only analyse these six pointers. They are advised to scrutinise the reports further for more details.

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