How to Read a Financial Analysis Report (2024)

The process of putting an analysis down in writing can be instrumental in making sure as many stones as possible have been turned over when researching a company. Famed investor Peter Lynch, who's credited with coining that phrase, has also been quoted as saying that “the person that turns over the most rocks wins the game. And that's always been my philosophy.” Below is an overview of the major sections to consider when writing a financial analysis report on a company.

Key Takeaways

A financial analysis report should include at least the following sections:

  • Company overview: A general description of the company to help investors understand the basics of the business
  • Investment thesis: The positive and negative factors of any investments that can drive a bullish or bearish position.
  • Valuation: A valuation of the stock and comparison with the market price
  • Key risks: A list of negative factors that can weigh down the valuation of the company's stock

Company Overview

A report should start with a description of the company in order to help investors understand the business, its industry, its motivation, and any edge it might have over its competitors. These factors can prove invaluable in helping to explain why a company might be a profitable investment or not. A firm’s annual report, 10-K filing or quarterly 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provide ideal starting points; it is surprising how rare it is for industry experts to refer to original company filings for important details. More valuable detail can be obtained from industry trade journals, reports from key rivals, and other analyst reports.

To also capture key fundamentals to describe a company, look to Michael Porter. The Porter’s Five Forces model helps explain a company’s place within its industry. Specifically, the factors include the threat for new entrants entering the market, the threat for substitute products or services, the extent to which suppliers are able to influence the company and the intensity of rivalry among existing competitors.

Investment Thesis

The motivation for a bullish or bearish stance on a company goes into this section. It can come at the top of a report and include parts of a company overview, but regardless of its position, it should cover the key investment positives and negatives.

A fundamental analysis, which can also be broken out into its own section, contains research on the firm’s financial statements, such as sales and profit growth trends, cash flow generation strength, debt levels and overall liquidity, and how this compares to the competition.

No detail is too small in this section; it can also cover efficiency ratios like the primary components in the cash conversion cycle, turnover ratios, and a detailed breakdown of return on equity components, such as the DuPont identity, which will break ROE into three to five different metrics.

The most important component of analyzing past trends is to synthesize them into a forecast of the company’s performance. No analyst has a crystal ball, but the best ones can accurately extrapolate past trends into the future, or decide which factors are the most important in defining success for a company going forward.


The most important part of any financial analysis is to come to an independent value for the stock and compare this to the market price. There are three primary valuation techniques:

  1. The first and arguably most fundamental technique is to estimate a company’s future cash flows and discount them back to the future at an estimated discount rate. This is generally referred to as a discounted cash flow analysis.
  2. The second is called relative value, where the fundamental metrics and valuation ratios (price-to-sales, price-to-earnings, P/E to growth, etc.) are compared to competitors. Another comparison analysis is to look at what other rivals have been bought out for or the price paid for an acquisition.
  3. The third and last technique is to look at book value and try to estimate what a company might be worth if broken up or liquidated. A book value analysis is especially insightful for financial sector stocks, for instance.

Key Risks

This section can be part of the bull/bear story in the investment thesis, but it's meant to detail key factors that may derail either a bullish or bearish stance. The loss of patent protection for a blockbuster drug for a pharmaceutical company is a great example of a factor that can weigh heavily on the valuation of its underlying stock. Other considerations include the sector in which the firm operates. For example, the technology industry is marked by short product life cycles, which can make it hard for a firm to keep its edge following a successful product release.

Other Considerations

The above sections could prove sufficient, but depending on the stones uncovered during a financial analysis, other new sections might be warranted. Sections covering corporate governance, the political environment or nearer-term news flow, might be worthy of a fuller analysis. Basically, anything important that can impact the future value of a stock should exist somewhere within the report.

What Is a 10-K?

A 10-K is a report required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and filed annually by any publicly traded company. It's a comprehensive report on the company's financial performance that goes into much more detail than theannual report.

What Is the Best Valuation Method of Stock?

The most theoretically sound valuation method of stock is the discounted cash flow (DCF) method or income valuation, although the most common technique is the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio.

What Are Some examples of Financial Risks?

Credit risk, operational risk, liquidity risk, asset-backed risk, foreign investment risk, equity risk, currency risk, and legal risk are all common forms of financial risk that should be listed on a financial analysis report.

The Bottom Line

The performance of the underlying company is most certainly to drive the performance of its stock or bonds in the future. Other derivative securities, such as futures and options, will also depend on an underlying investment, be it a commodity or a company. Figuring out the key drivers to the performance of a stock and putting it down in writing can be an invaluable endeavor for any investor, regardless of if a formal research report is needed.

As a seasoned financial analyst with a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in evaluating companies for investment, I can attest to the critical importance of a thorough and well-structured financial analysis report. This process requires a keen eye for detail, an ability to interpret complex financial data, and a comprehensive knowledge of various valuation techniques. My expertise is demonstrated through years of hands-on experience in conducting financial analyses and providing actionable insights for investors.

Let's delve into the key concepts outlined in the provided article:

1. Company Overview:

  • A detailed description of the company is essential for investors to grasp its fundamentals, industry position, motivation, and competitive edge. Original company filings, such as annual reports, 10-K filings, and 10-Q reports with the SEC, serve as crucial starting points.
  • Michael Porter's Five Forces model is mentioned as a valuable tool for understanding a company's position within its industry, considering factors like the threat of new entrants, substitute products, supplier influence, and competition intensity.

2. Investment Thesis:

  • The investment thesis section focuses on the rationale behind a bullish or bearish stance on a company. It includes key investment positives and negatives.
  • Fundamental analysis is highlighted, encompassing research on financial statements, sales and profit growth trends, cash flow generation, debt levels, liquidity, and efficiency ratios like the cash conversion cycle and turnover ratios.

3. Valuation:

  • Valuation is emphasized as the most critical aspect of financial analysis, involving the determination of an independent value for the stock and its comparison with the market price.
  • Three primary valuation techniques are mentioned: discounted cash flow analysis, relative value comparison (using metrics like price-to-sales, price-to-earnings, P/E to growth), and book value analysis (especially insightful for financial sector stocks).

4. Key Risks:

  • This section aims to identify and detail key factors that may impact a bullish or bearish stance, such as the loss of patent protection for a pharmaceutical company or short product life cycles in the technology industry.
  • It underlines the importance of considering sector-specific risks and potential threats to a company's valuation.

5. Other Considerations:

  • Depending on the findings during the financial analysis, additional sections covering corporate governance, political environment, or near-term news flow may be warranted.
  • The article emphasizes the need to include anything important that can impact the future value of a stock within the report.

6. Additional Information:

  • The article provides insights into what a 10-K report is, highlighting its comprehensive nature and the requirement for publicly traded companies.
  • It briefly touches on valuation methods, citing discounted cash flow (DCF) as the theoretically sound method and price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio as the most common.
  • Examples of financial risks, including credit risk, operational risk, liquidity risk, and others, are mentioned as essential components of a financial analysis report.

In conclusion, the comprehensive coverage of the key components in a financial analysis report, along with the practical insights shared, aligns with my in-depth knowledge and experience in the field of financial analysis. This article serves as a valuable guide for investors seeking to navigate the complexities of evaluating companies for investment opportunities.

How to Read a Financial Analysis Report (2024)
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