All financial statements are essentially historically historical documents. They tell what has happened during a particular period of time. However most users of financial statements are concerned about what will happen in the future. Stockholders are concerned with future earnings and dividends. Creditors are concerned with the company's future ability to repay its debts. Managers are concerned with the company's ability to finance future expansion. Despite the fact that financial statements are historical documents, they can still provide valuable information bearing on all of these concerns.
Financial statement analysis involves careful selection of data from financial statements for the primary purpose of forecasting the financial health of the company. This is accomplished by examining trends in key financial data, comparing financial data across companies, and analyzing key financial ratios.
Managers are also widely concerned with the financial ratios. First the ratios provide indicators of how well the company and its business units are performing. Some of these ratios would ordinarily be used in a balanced scorecard approach. The specific ratios selected depend on the company's strategy. For example a company that wants to emphasize responsiveness to customers may closely monitor the inventory turnover ratio. Since managers must report to shareholders and may wish to raise funds from external sources, managers must pay attention to the financial ratios used by external inventories to evaluate the company's investment potential and creditworthiness.
Although financial statement analysis is a highly useful tool, it has two limitations. These two limitations involve the comparability of financial data between companies and the need to look beyond ratios. Comparison of one company with another can provide valuable clues about the financial health of an organization. Unfortunately, differences in accounting methods between companies...
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