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MARK 3300 Research Guide: Public vs Private Companies

A guide to doing research in international marketing


When choosing a company to research one important factor to consider is whether or not it is privately owned or if it is a publicly traded company.  Publicly owned companies have a statutory obligation to share their financial information.  Privately owned companies have no such obligation and it can be very challenging to locate any information about the company. 

Sources for Publicly Traded Companies

  • SEDAR:  Contains Canadian securities filings and may be used to find public company profiles and annual reports.
  • EDGAR: Company filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Annual Reports:  The annual reports of primarily US public companies. 
  • The corporate website/investor relations section of the company you are researching. 
  • MarketLine Profiles:  Search or browse for profiles of US Companies; large Canadian & International firms. **Usually includes a SWOT analysis**
  • Hoover's: From the Business Market Research Collection - search for profiles for US companies, and large/top-performing Canadian and international firms. **Usually contain recent financial information**

Privately Owned Companies

As privately owned companies are not obligated to share their financial information it's extremely difficult to analyze them for financial health, to make a SWOT analysis or even to be 100% certain who their main competitors are.   You may find that you have to make a series of educated guesses:

  • Get a sense of the company's size and market penetration by looking at where the company is based and seeing if there are subsidiaries in other regions and countries - how many other countries?
    • Now see if you can find a publicly traded firm of a similar size and context and check out its financials and SWOT analyses.  Is your private company considered a competitor?  If yes, you may be able to make some generalizations about your private company, based on what its public competitor's situation is like. 
  • Conduct an industry analysis for the country/countries where your private company trades.  You can use this information to get a sense of the overall health of the industry. 
  • Check out the company in the news and business magazines.   You may find that company representatives have been interviewed or profiled and may have information that you can use.  For Canadian companies the database CBCA is an excellent source for business news and magazine articles;  for US & International companies try Business Source Ultimate.