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Sunday, November 18, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Coming to terms: Public vs. private companies
Q: How do private and public companies differ?
A: A public company is one that has sold some shares of itself to the public.
They’re generally required to file quarterly earnings reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), detailing their revenue, expenses, taxes, debt loads, cash levels, income or losses and much more.
These reports are available to the public.
Meanwhile, owners of privately held companies, which most of us can’t invest in, don’t have to reveal much.
They can focus more single-mindedly on their businesses and not what the stock market thinks of them.
The biggest private companies include IKEA, Cargill, Koch Industries, Mars, Bechtel, Publix Super Markets, Ernst & Young, Pilot Flying J, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Toys R Us, Fidelity Investments, Amway, SC Johnson & Son, Hilton Worldwide, Kohler, Perdue, Levi Strauss, Gilbane and Hallmark Cards.
Q: Companies’ financial statements can be confusing enough, and it doesn’t help that many items go by different names on different companies’ reports. For example, you might know to look for “revenue” on an income statement, but the one you’re looking at calls revenue “sales.”
What are some other examples?
A: Accounts payable = payables
Accounts receivable = trade receivables = receivables
Balance sheet = statement of financial condition = consolidated balance sheets
Inventories = merchandise inventories
Earnings per share = net income per share = net income per common share
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