For the sixth time since 2003 we looked at the quality of annual reports online of big cap European and US companies. Since 2003 we analyse the companies of the following indices DAX/MDAX (Germany), Dow (USA), ATX (Austria), EuroStoxx and SMI (Switzerland). Since 2005 we cover FTSE-100 (UK) and AEX/AMX (The Netherlands). This year we also included companies of CAC (France) and MIB (Italy).
Altogether we examined more than 400 companies in July and August 2009. As a first step we distinguish 3 ways of presentation for annual reports on corporate websites.
- PDF – the report is offered solely as PDF download [29.3%]
- JPG – the report is produced page by page as picture gallery [22.0%]
- HTML – the report is implemented as fully-fledged HTML website [48.7%]
Whereas PDF and JPG are quick and cheap to produce both are not proper ways of presentation on the screen. Usability is poor as the use of online tools like Crosslinks, Excel-Downloads, enhanced Search, Interactive Charting, online Glossary or simple text extraction is not possible.
Only a full implementation as HTML websites enables the use of those tools for your annual report that we are used to in our every day work with the internet.
The most surprising outcome this year is the continuing trend towards HTML implementation in times of financial crisis! This underpins the increasing importance of the internet for corporate reporting. It also looks as if a flight to quality in times of crisis not only happens on stock markets.
Broken down into individual countries the trend towards HTML is particulary strong in the UK and the Netherlands. Whereas more than 60% of UK companies listed in the FTSE 100 produced an HTML online annual report for 2008, less than 8% did that in France’s CAC-40. Also Swiss SMI companies, which we cover since 2003, don’t seem to see advantages in HTML financial reporting.
I don’t have a profound reason for this tremendous difference within the country split. In my point of view the perception of the internet as a whole differs. French websites seem to be more design than usablity driven. Maybe part of the reason simply is the availablity (or lack) of good suppliers. So far I didn’t come upon a good French, Italian or Swiss producer of HTML annual reports “educating” their homemarkets.