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Business information is any sort of facts, figures, narrative, or intelligence about the operations of a company. It includes materials generated by the company itself and by external reporters or analysts. The most common type of business information that is publicly available is market research. This includes the financial and operational information released by companies and the analysis of the impact of that information by business and investment experts.
Public corporations are required by law to release information every year about finances and operations to keep shareholders and potential investors informed of the company's affairs. Corporations typically publish an annual report regarding its performance during the year, make its audited financial statements available for review, and release various types of marketing materials and periodic publications that support operations. These systematic releases of facts and figures create a historical record of a corporation's performance over time and comprise the basic pool of business information that the public uses to discuss and analyze the industry.
Collectively, business information generated by individual corporations is the basic material that experts use to reach conclusions about markets and the economy. It is reviewed by investment professionals to make comparative assessments of the performance of one corporation as opposed to another so they can form strategies and make recommendations. The news media also refers to the information provided by corporations to drive its reporting. These uses of the material regularly provided by corporations creates another level of business information that is generated externally by third parties.
Another type of business information is competitive intelligence. This sort of information is particularly relevant in the context of privately-held companies. Since these companies do not trade their stock on the public exchanges, they are not required to comply with public reporting regulations. There is no easy way to find out the financial condition, operational status, or future plans of these companies. An entire industry exists to gather intelligence on privately-held companies for competitors and others who need to analyze or benchmark a market.
Firms that deal in competitive intelligence for private companies typically cull business information from public filings, such as pleadings in court cases and patent applications as well as from tangential sources, such as rumors and interviews with past employees. Public corporations also use competitive intelligence, but much of it is generated in-house as part of its strategic planning process. In the corporate context, competitive intelligence is less investigatory because much of the information is already part of the public domain.