A quarterly report is a document that nearly all publicly-traded companies must file that details important pieces of financial information vital to the health of the business. These pieces of data include major categories such as balance sheets, statements of earnings, and cash flow. Companies also include various other notes that help to provide some insight into the company’s operations and future plans. These reports are generally delivered on what is known as Form 10-q, which is an unaudited document.
Companies must submit reports on a quarterly basis if they issue public stock, but these reports remain unaudited, which is an important thing for investors to remember. Therefore, the financial results contained in them should be carefully scrutinized. While it is against the law to deliberately falsify any financial report, mistakes in a quarterly report may not be caught as easily. Companies submitting quarterly reports also submit an annual report on Form 10-K, which does include audited information.
In the majority of cases, a quarterly report is due within 40 days after the end of a fiscal quarter. Determining the fiscal quarter can only be done once a company has set its fiscal year, and there generally are no rules for setting a year. Many companies begin their fiscal years in the summer or early fall, thus affecting when the reports are due each quarter. Fortunately for investors, many major companies release reports at approximately the same time, which can make it easier to analyze and compare, but there are always exceptions.
One of the major pieces of information on any quarterly report is the listing of assets, along with liabilities and shareholders’ equity. This shows where money is being spent over the long term, and where the company has invested its money. These listings are often referred to as balance sheets, because the assets must equal the liabilities, plus the shareholders’ equity. In other words, the separate lines listing total assets, and the combined total liabilities and shareholders’ equity should have the same number.
Additional major pieces of information on the report are the operating expenses and revenue, including gross and net profit. These go along with the earnings, per share, achieved for shareholders. Many investors compare numbers within the same company, to the same quarter in previous years to determine which direction the company is going.
Other statements on a quarterly report may provide some insight into the way in which the company’s management foresees the company's outlook. Generally, the quarterly report may include a basic description of the business and then provide some brief plans about competition, the market, and the future. Some businesses may use these reports to announce acquisitions, or report on how recent acquisitions are doing, for example.