Sample Company Article

As a rule of thumb with content on Wikinvest articles, ask yourself, "if I were investing in this company, would I need to know this? How important would this piece of knowledge be to me?" Don't get bogged down in useless specifics. It is fine to tell the "story" of a company if it adds to an investor's understanding of the company's vision, policies, or traditional expectations. But don't get carried away.

The introduction is the most important part of the article and should allow the reader to truly understand the company’s story. The first two, maybe three sentences should be interesting facts about the company that also give a good sense of exactly what the company DOES. Zero in on the most important data and avoid generic numbers like market cap or revenues (unless, for example, there's been significant revenue growth in the past year). Also do not discuss segments in the intro.

The rest of the intro should be about the trends and forces that affect the company, what the company is doing to react, and how the company's reaction is working out. Make sure you support these with definitive, important facts - again, the most important/meaningful facts should appear in the intro AND later in the article. It's a good thing to have this important information in your article twice.

It is especially important that you make every word count here. Avoid lists in the introduction. Focus on the most important issues rather than being thorough -- that's what the rest of the article is for. The introduction should give the reader an accurate portrayal of the entire company in a very compact form (200-250 words).

For examples of exceptional articles, see BP, Pfizer, or Best Buy.

Company Overview

Start with a couple sentences stating what the company does and how its results have changed in the past 3 to 5 years. Do not describe the company’s history (IE, founded in such and such year… that is a snore). Include one graph and one table in these sections, in the business segments and Business and Financial Metrics section, respectively.

In general, this section should answer the very important question, how does the company make money?

Business and Financial Metrics

2007 Sales by Segment
2007 Sales by Segment[1]
2007 Sales by Region
2007 Sales by Region[2]
  • You should use prose to explain the meaning behind a company's financial metrics. The text of this section should explain trends in the company's financial status:' 2007 net income increased by 40%, mainly due to the sale of the company's widgets business to Company Y for $2.3 billion.
  • You should also strongly consider including a table with at least one key operating metric. These are data measurements used by companies within an industry to measure performance. For a good example of operating metrics in the Company Overview, see MetroPCS.
  • Any graphs you include should be displayed as thumbnails with a citation. Where appropriate, display values for all data points (this is an option in Excel). Align larger graphs (images bigger than 400 px) to the center, and smaller or mid-size graphs to the right, so that text flows around it on the left. If graphs are too big or too many and flow into the Trends and Forces section, make them smaller on the page by changing the thumbnail size. Make fonts big and legible on a 300px thumbnail.
  • Avoid language that refers to graphs (automated or embedded by you), like "From the pie graph to the right..." or "See the chart below for revenue information." It should be immediately apparent what a chart is for, or there's something wrong with the chart itself.

A note on Tables

  • All tables other than smaller, number focused tables should be pushed as far down in the article section as is possible, ideally to a new subsection titling the table at the end of its current section.
  • All tables should have a greater number of rows than of columns. Pushing article text DOWN does not create display issues in the same way that pushing article text ACROSS does.
  • Unless they are extremely thin, all tables should be aligned center so that text does not wrap.
  • As a general rule of thumb, a table appearing before the "Trends and Forces" section should contain no MORE than four columns and should use abbreviated text if at all. For example:
BP Historical Performance[citation needed]
2005 2006 2007 2008
Crude Oil Production
(Thousand barrels per day)
2,562 2,475 2,414 3,838
Natural Gas Production
(Million cubic feet per day)
8,424 8,417 8,143 8,334
Refinery Throughput
(Thousand barrels per day)
2,399 2,198 2,127 2,155
Refinery Capacity Utilization 88% 78% 84% N/A
Number of Retail Sites 25,200 24,600 24,100 N/A

Instead of

BP Historical Performance[citation needed]
Fiscal 2005 Fiscal 2006 Fiscal 2007 Fiscal 2008
Crude Oil Production
2,562 thousand 2,475 thousand 2,414 thousand 3,838 thousand
Natural Gas Production
8,424 Million cubic feet per day 8,417 Million cubic feet per day 8,143 Million cubic feet per day 8,334 Million cubic feet per day
Refinery Throughput
2,399 Thousand barrels per day 2,198 Thousand barrels per day 2,127 Thousand barrels per day 2,155 Thousand barrels per day
Refinery Capacity Utilization 88% 78% 84% N/A
Number of Retail Sites 25,200 24,600 24,100 N/A


The below is a good example of a summary table that is both concise and contains a lot of information:

Company 2005 2006 2007
Revenue ($M) $47,200 $51,900 $58,300
Number of Sneeds Sold (thousands) 4,700 4,947 5,382
Truffla Land (thousands of acres) 3,000 2,293 1,428

Business Segments

Most companies are divided into business segments. Unless your company makes only a single product, break down the company’s revenues by product or service segment, showing the percentage in parentheses next to the header for each segment – like this:

  • Widget X (41% of sales, 23% of net income): Description and analysis


  • Widget Y (26% of sales, 46% of net income): Description and analysis


  • Widget Z (21% of sales, 29% of net income): Description and analysis


  • Other (12% of sales, 2% of net income): Description and analysis

Even if your company makes only one product, you can typically break down revenue by things like geography (e.g. US, Europe, and Asia) or type of client (e.g. Institutional Clients and Retail Clients). Think critically about this section.

Key Trends and Forces

This is where you demonstrate that you understand both the company and its market. Think about what major market forces are affecting the company, how and why.

Write a good headline

  • Make the headline a key takeaway. Rather than "Exchange rates," say "Weak dollar boosts exports and reduces debt." It should be clear from the headline alone what the T/F is and how the company will be affected.
  • The title of each trend should be a third level subheader, and should indicate how the trend affects the company specifically (e.g. === US airways labor coalition pushes for higher wages ===

Only include trends that are actually significant to the company

  • In addition to describing the trend, you need to explain how this trend affects the company. Quantify the impact: How has the company's revenue been affected? How has strategy changed?
  • You should pick the most important trends and forces affecting the company at the time you’re writing the article. A company’s 10-K will often cite many “risk factors” – some of them are good trends/forces, but be wary because the company often lists every possible risk and you’ve got to parse this to figure out what’s most relevant.

Link and footnote liberally

  • Link each of these Trends / Forces to the relevant concept page – for example use [[Oil Prices|oil prices]] to make the link oil prices.
  • The market trend you discuss is usually a macroeconomic idea and doesn't need to be footnoted. But the data you use to support and prove the point should be footnoted - and it should come from publicly available sources.

Rank your Trends and Forces

  • Rank T/Fs by decreasing amount of impact - the most important should come first in the section, and the least important should go last. Keep in mind though, that what's unimportant shouldn't make the cut at all.

T/Fs are external, unpredictable, and influential

  • External to the company--management does not and cannot control them. The weather is external. Legislation is external. The course of technological development is external. Consumer preferences, to the extent they cannot be shaped by the company, are external. Company X's decision to switch to upgrade to a more efficient manufacturing process is not a T/F, but rising costs of the raw material that prompted this decision is.
  • Variable--trends and forces must be uncertain, or changing, or not entirely predictable. The cost of paying for staff is not a T/F because it is generally predictable or changes slowly. Now, if unions are agitating for higher salaries (which would make the company's costs go up dramatically) and it is unclear whether they will be successful, then the cost of labor could have an article.
  • T/Fs are NOT risks--Company 10-k's especially like to cover themselves by listing ever possible risk. These are not T/Fs. A T/F is an issue that has affected or is currently affecting the company, or with will in the future with a degree of certainty (use your best judgment). "Customer preferences may change" is not a T/F but "Customer preferences shifting toward smaller automobiles" is.

Look for T/Fs beyond the 10-k

The 10-k is used as a primary data source in the T/F section (recent news events excluded, of course). But the best data to support T/Fs are rarely found in the 10-Ks; the trick is that you have to use data to back up your claim that something IS a T/F. If you’re writing an article on an oil company that is expanding into deepwater drilling, support those claims by showing that

  1. the company has contracted three deepwater rigs for $600,000 a day
  2. a deepwater rig contract costs three times as much as a conventional drill contract
  3. deepwater drilling has a 25% lower success rate than conventional drilling
  4. that PBR discovered an oilfield with 4-6 billion barrels in it by drilling in the deepwater regions off the coast of Brazil.

You will want to include all of these points, but the first one is the most important and will come from the company's data.

Competition

  • A bulleted list of major competitors (link to the articles about these companies) with a brief description of each. Make sure they are actually competitors, not just involved in the same industry. Yahoo Finance may tell you that Genentech and Biogen are both in the biotech industry and list them on a table side-by-side, but they are not competitors because they don't make drugs for the same disease markets. Explain why you picked each company as a competitor.
  • A table that measures the company against its competitors – using industry-specific measurements if you can, and if not using basic business metrics.
  • Analysis/description of how the company fits into its market.

Metrics used to measure a company's performance -- such as same store sales -- are very useful to include in your article. They should be defined when they are first used, and used here to compare competition.

When choosing which operational metrics to include, you should ask yourself: What are the best ways to measure this company’s performance against that of its competitors? Obviously, there are financial metrics like revenue and earnings. But usually there are more fundamental metrics. Ideally, the data will tell a story and will be important to investors – don’t just throw in data because it’s there. Frequently, analysts will track operational metrics for various companies – sometimes in tables in the back of the report. Look for these tables to get some ideas of what metrics are commonly tracked for your company.

You should accurately portray the competitive dynamics. Why does one company make more money than the other? What products does one company offer that is better, worse, or not made by another?

Company Rev. 2007 ($M) Number of Sneeds Sold (thousands) Average Revenue per Customer ($US) Truffula Land (thousands of acres)
Company X $2,179 9000 $242.1 580,000
Company Y $1,607 6,670 $240.9 253,000
Company Z $636 2,000 $318.0 39,500


Market Share: Be aware that simply adding up the revenues of the public companies in an industry will not give you a denominator for the total market - as small businesses and private companies won't be included. Market share must be based on a denominator for the total market found in a reputable source.

Other Tips

  • Throughout the article, you should create links to related company and concept pages on Wikinvest. For example, a page on an oil and gas company will link to other oil and gas companies that are its competitors, and to concept pages about the industry, like Deepwater Oil Exploration.
  • You should also click through your links, to see if these relevant articles have links back to your page. This is a key point – if there are no links to your article elsewhere on the site (in other concept pages and company articles), then very few people are going to see your work. Linking to your article is how you gain readers and raise the search ranking of your article on external search engines.
  • Make at least one Wikichart annotation of a major stock price movement within the past 3 months. Remember to explain the whole price movement related to a piece of news. Often an event affects the stock price several days after it happens, and even sometimes a couple of days before.
  • Cite information from publicly available sources (eg, the 10K, other material you find on the web). Include citations in key places -- citations should be plentiful, the sources diverse, and in each place where there is data or information that needs sourcing, there should be a citation. See citations
  • Brevity is the soul of the wit. If you’re coming in at more than 1,500 words, make sure you need every word. Avoiding fluffy language increases value for your readers.

References

To show your footnotes, type <references/>
For detailed instructions on how to make and format footnotes, see our page on Citation.

  1. Citation
  2. Citation

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