Definition: The form on which a publicly-held company reports its business performance and financial condition following the end of every year. The performance is reported for both the last quarter (ie: three months) of the year and for the entire year. The form is then sent to the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the government agency which requires it and which keeps it on line for investors to examine.
Investeach explains: The most important resource that an investor can have is information. Thankfully, the government requires publicly-held companies to complete form 10-Q each quarter so that we never go longer than three months without knowing how a company is doing. The 10-K provides information for the last quarter and the entire year so investors don’t have to combine 10-Qs themselves. The 10-K is also audited, meaning that an independent firm formally examines the company’s activities and makes sure that its business activities have been properly accounted for.
The deadline for filing the 10-K is 60 days for companies with over $700 million of public float (ie, stock in ordinary investors’ hands). For companies with public float between $75 and $700 million, the deadline is 75 days. For companies with less than $75 million of public float, it is 90 days.
Why look up a company’s 10-K? Simply because it contains a wealth of information about the company, from financial statements to management’s discussion of the business. It even contains a list of risks, in the Risk Factors section, that could derail the company. The reason the company is so honest about what could bring it down is that this makes it immune from being sued by investors who lose money because one or more of the possibilities it warned about actually happened.
Finally, companies may select a fiscal year (ie, 12 consecutive months that it will add up and report about) that is different than the calendar year. A good way to think about this is to consider the grade school year. It usually begins in late summer, not January!
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