Wednesday, 28 March 2018

FINANCIAL STATEMENT OVERVIEW: where the gold is hidden


Financial statements are where Warren mines for companies with the golden durable competitive advantage. It is the company's financial statements that tell him if he is looking at a mediocre business forever moored to poor results or a company that has a durable competitive advantage that is going to make him superrich.

Financial statements come in three distinct flavors:

First, there is the Income Statement: The income statement tells us how much money the company earned during a set period of time. The company's accountants traditionally generate income statements for shareholders to see for each three month period during the fiscal year and for the whole fiscal year. Using the company's income statement, Warren can determine such things as the company's margins, its return equity, and, most important, the consistency and direction of its earnings. All of these factors are necessary in determining whether the company is benefiting from a durable competitive advantage.

The second flavor is the Balance Sheet: The balance sheet tells us how much money the company has in the bank and how much money it owesSubtract the money owed from the money in the bank and we get the net worth of the company. A company can create a balance sheet for any given day of the year, which will show what it owns, what it owes, and its net worth for that particular day.

Traditionally, companies generate a balance sheet for shareholders to see at the end of each three-month period of time (called quarter) and at the end of the accounting or fiscal year. Warren has learned to use some of the entries on the balance sheet-such as the amount of cash the company has or the amount of long-term debt it carries---as indicators of the presence of a durable competitive advantage.

Third, there is the Cash Flow Statement: The cash flow statement tracks the cash that flows in and out of the business. The cash flow statement is good for seeing how much money the company is spending on capital improvements. It also tracks bond and stock sales and repurchases. A company will usually issue a cash flow statement along with its other financial statements.

In the chapters ahead we shall explore in detail the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement entries and indicators that Warren uses to discover whether or not the company in question has a durable competitive advantage that will make him rich over the long run.



In the modern age of the Internet there are dozens of places where one can easily find a company's financial statements. The easiest access is through either (http://money or Yahoo's Finance web page (

We use both, but Microsoft Network's has more detailed financial statements. To begin, find where you type in the symbol for the stock quotes on both sites, then type in the name of the company. Click it when it pops up, and both MSN and Yahoo! will take you to that company's stock quote page. On the left you'll find a heading called "Finance," under which are three hyperlinks that take you to the company's balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow. Above that, under the heading "SEC," is a hyperlink to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). All publicly traded companies must file quarterly financial statements with the SEC; these are known as 8Qs. Also filed with the SEC is a document called the 10K, which is the company's annual report. It contains the financial statements for the company's accounting or fiscal year. Warren has read thousands of 10Ks over the years, as they do the best job of reporting the numbers without all the fluff that can get stuffed into a shareholders' annual report.

For the hard-core investor offers the same services and a lot more, for a fee. But honestly, unless we are buying and selling bonds or currencies, we can get all the financial information we need to build a stock portfolio for free from MSN and Yahoo! And "free" financial information always makes us smile!

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