Major investment firms employ professional research analysts who provide coverage of public companies and their industries and issue recommendations investors can use to make investment decisions. These recommendations are made available as analyst reports, also known in the industry as equity, investment, stock or brokerage reports.
Analyst reports are value add products, so it is generally difficult to get them for free. Online brokerage do make these products available to their customers – they are offered free of charge to them, but technically they are not free because one has to be a customer in order to get access.
A strategy you can use to see if anything is available for free online is to do a search for the name of the company and analysis and add filetype:pdf to your query. Do not be surprised if what you find is out of date - the most valuable information is forward looking, so that will be the hardest and least likely to be found for free online.
Quality of these report can vary a lot from one provider to another – reports that come from reputable sources like JP Morgan are unlikely to be found online.
While entire reports might prove to be a challenge to find, summaries are easier to find and could be enough for someone looking for high level recommendations.
There are different types of companies - public, private, not for profit (non profit or NGO) – and availability of information varies by type.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission defines public companies as follows:
“first, the company’s securities trade on public markets; and second, the company discloses certain business and financial information regularly to the public.”
Information on public companies tends to be more easily accessible and a lot of it can be found in their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Analyst reports covering publicly traded companies are also an excellent resource although access is often restricted, and they can only be found in sources that are not available to the public.
Private companies are not required to make their information public; this makes it difficult to find valuable information on them other than what is listed in business directories. Their websites can be an excellent source of valuable information, but there again, what is made available is entirely up to the company. Some do a good job at presenting their products and services and business model in detail; others only offer marketing materials and very basic contact information.
A lot of what is known about private companies might come from press coverage in trade publications or local and national business news.