A company's annual report is the most important single regular release of information to investors.
Even though companies release a lot of information through other channels, the annual report is unique:
- It is detailed.
- It is audited.
Listed companies will have disclosed most of the information in an annual report well before it becomes available. The annual results announcement will have contained most of the information, and much of the rest is likely to have been in trading statement and other releases.
Although the results announcement is available earlier, the annual report is, once available, preferable. It does have some additional information (both financial and non-financial) and is usually better presented.
Other information released during the course of the year is usually unaudited. These include presentations and trading statements that sometimes give information not in the annual report. The annual results announcement usually is audited, but nothing else usually is.
One opportunity to get more detailed information than is available in the annual arises during IPOs. The prospectus issued before an IPO is usually extremely detailed as it needs to contain information that would already have been disclosed over the period of time for a company that is already listed. There is also more pressure for good disclosure when a company with no track record as a listed company is trying to win investor's confidence.