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 an expert in financial analysis and investment strategies, I have a deep understanding of the principles and methodologies that go into evaluating companies for investment purposes. My experience spans various sectors, and I've successfully applied my knowledge to generate profitable investment outcomes. One of the key aspects of my expertise lies in the meticulous process of translating complex financial data into actionable insights, a skill honed through years of practical application.

Now, let's delve into the concepts covered in the provided article:

1. Company Overview: The article emphasizes the importance of providing a comprehensive description of the company in a financial analysis report. It rightly points out that details from a firm’s annual report, 10-K filing, or quarterly 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are essential starting points. Furthermore, the mention of industry trade journals, reports from key rivals, and other analyst reports adds depth to the company overview. The reference to Michael Porter's Five Forces model is a valuable addition, highlighting the significance of understanding a company's position within its industry.

2. Investment Thesis: The article stresses the need for a clear investment thesis that includes both positive and negative factors driving a bullish or bearish position. It recommends a fundamental analysis, breaking down a firm’s financial statements to assess factors such as sales and profit growth trends, cash flow generation strength, debt levels, liquidity, and efficiency ratios. The incorporation of forecasting past trends into future performance and the identification of key success factors showcase a thorough understanding of investment strategies.

3. Valuation: The most critical part of any financial analysis, according to the article, is determining an independent value for the stock and comparing it to the market price. Three primary valuation techniques are outlined: discounted cash flow analysis, relative value comparison, and book value analysis. Each method is explained succinctly, offering a comprehensive overview of how investors can assess a company's true worth.

4. Key Risks: The article emphasizes the importance of identifying key risks that could impact a company's valuation. It recommends integrating this section into the investment thesis and provides examples such as the loss of patent protection for a pharmaceutical company or the short product life cycles in the technology industry. This highlights a nuanced understanding of the multifaceted nature of risk in financial analysis.

5. Other Considerations: The article acknowledges that depending on the findings during a financial analysis, additional sections might be warranted. It suggests sections covering corporate governance, the political environment, or nearer-term news flow as potential areas of analysis. This reflects a holistic approach to financial analysis, considering any factor that could impact a company's future value.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive guide to writing a financial analysis report, touching upon crucial elements that contribute to informed investment decisions. The inclusion of additional information on a 10-K report, valuation methods, examples of financial risks, and a reminder of the underlying drivers of securities performance further enhances the depth of the content.

How to Read a Financial Analysis Report (2024)
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