Financial statements can be intimidating. But earnings statements, analyst presentations and annual reports are easier to interpret than you might think.

If you develop the ability to strip out the essentials from earnings reports, you will be able to write more detailed stories without missing deadlines.

Understanding the numbers will lead you to ask better questions and conduct more productive interviews. You'll be able to produce better graphics to accompany your stories. On occasion, it will also lead to exclusives. More generally, you'll develop a far more nuanced understanding of companies, industries and sectors.

The one-day course helps working journalists deal more confidently with the financials published by quoted (public) and limited (private) companies, as well as charities, partnerships and public sector bodies.

Understanding financial statements is only useful if it helps to do something. With that in mind, we ask you to be ready to collaborate: our sessions are studded with 10 to 15 minute mini-workshops, in which individuals and/or teams work against the clock to analyse financial statements and break the stories they contain (or in some cases, conceal).

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to benefit from this course. In most cases, you don't need a lot of maths ability to decode financial statements. (The equivalent of maths GCSE might be useful, but even this isn't essential.)

Course outline

What's on offer and how to get it:
  • Public companies
  • Private/limited companies
  • Offshore entities
  • Charities
  • Partnerships
  • Public sector
  • International
  • How to use Companies House and online sources
  • Financial data and FOIA
The Trinity: Three basic tools
  • The Profit and Loss Account
  • The Balance Sheet
  • The Cash Flow Statement
The corporate lifecycle
  • From start-up via IPO to going private
  • IPO: Going public
  • Public parent, Limited Subsidiaries
Other areas
  • Costs
  • Profit
  • Debt
  • Investors
  • What share prices tell us and what they don't tell us
  • Through the looking glass: When things aren't what they seem
Doing the job: Everyday tools for every journalist
  • Tools: Online and offline
  • Quick reading: How to gut an annual report in 10 minutes
  • Five metrics you should run on every company you cover
  • Sectors: How to build and maintain your own financial intelligence
  • Financials: A selection of classic libel risks
  • Staying clean: Ethics and insider dealing
  • Calculator
  • Google Drive account (for PDF-based documents and spreadsheets)
  • This course takes place in an IT suite so you will have access to a PC with Excel and a PDF reader.