Free Australian and New Zealand
Business Information Resources: A Report from the
Melbourne Business Information Group
By Nicole Sackers, Michelle Nutting, and Sinead
M ost readers of ONLINE can't casually
drop by a meeting of Melbourne, Australia's Business
Information Group to learn about new developments in
Web business resources. Our group comprises some 30
research librarians, all of whom are engaged in business
research in a variety of corporate and government sectors.
We meet on a regular basis for networking purposes,
often with guest speakers. Alternatively, we hold roundtable
discussions where we share experiences and concerns
of our profession.
Some time ago we made a commitment to diary a dedicated
session where we would pool our knowledge of free Web-based
business resources. One of the group, Sinead Williams,
had previously published an article on Australian and
New Zealand Business Resources in ONLINE's
sister publication EContent ("Companies
Down Under: Australian and New Zealand Company Information," v.
22, n. 6, December 1999, pp. 3336), and we saw
our roundtable discussion as a timely update of this
article albeit with a focus on free resources. The
following is a record of our meeting.
We split our discussion into what we considered to
be logical "chunks"moving from media resources,
through company information, and wrapping up with industry
Search and retrieve abstracts from Australian Fairfax
newspapers (John Fairfax Holdings Limited is Australasia's
largest newspaper publishing group) with Newsstore
[http://newsstore.f2.com.au]. While this requires registration,
searching is free and there is free access to ASX (Australian
Stock Exchange) company announcements that are over
20 minutes old. Whereas the ASX Web site also offers
company announcements, search functionality is limited
to company code and company name. Newsstore offers
deeper search functionality, including finding specific
types of company documents across all listed companies.
Full-text PDF format is available from July 1, 2003,
and edited text format from the early to mid-1990s.
Prices for full-text articles range from A$1.65 to
A$2.20. The newspapers included are Sydney Morning
Herald, The Age, Sun Herald, Sunday
Age, Newcastle Herald, Illawarra
Mercury, and Australian Financial Review.
Fairfax business magazine titles include BRW, Shares,
and Personal Investor. Newsstore also
provides regional information from sources such as
Asia Pulse, PPI Pakistan, and ANTARA National News.
Google News Australia [http://news.google.com.au] includes the same 4,500 global news resources as the
U.S. version of Google News, with the same 30-day archive.
There is good Australian coveragesources include
the Australian Financial Review, The
Australian, Fairfax, and News
Limited newspapers. Google News New Zealand
[http://news.google.co.nz] sources include TVNZ,
the New Zealand Herald, and the Otago
Daily Times. All Google News sites remain in
beta testing and include a free alert function.
NewsDirectory [www.ecola.com or www.newsdirectory.com]
is an international portal with good Australian and
New Zealand coverage. It includes direct links to numerous
local newspapers, everything from the Blue Mountains
Gazette to the Warrnambool Standard!
Some of these newspaper sites provide free access to
an archive of articles. For example, The New Zealand
Herald site contains full text back to December 1998.
Individual publishers' Web sites are also useful,
at least for the current day's news, at no charge.
For Australia, look at Fairfax [www.f2.com.au] and
News Ltd. [www.new.com.au]. For New Zealand, Fairfax
has a separate site [www.fairfaxnz.co.nz].
In addition to major daily city, local, and regional
papers, some industry-based sites provide good coverage
of issues affecting their sector and an archive of
their own press releases. For example, MineWeb [www.minewebaustralia.com] has good coverage of the mining industry, with free,
up-to-the-minute online access to Australian media,
as well as that from other countries, such as South
Africa, where mining plays a major role in the economy.
Equities Info [www.equitiesinfo.com] directly links
to annual reports for over 1,000 companies listed on
the Australian Stock Exchange. Search is by company
name or industry sector.
Some university libraries also have excellent in-house
lists of online annual report collections. For example,
[www.lib.flinders.edu.au/resources/sub/socsci/annualreports.html] links to individual company Web sites and Swinburne
University [www.swin.edu.au/lib/infogate/company.htm] shows the
general business subscription databases available to students (ProQuest's ABI/INFORM,
Thomson's Business & Industry, EBSCOhost's Business Source
Premier, and Factiva) and links to Web sites for business, company, and financial
A very comprehensive set of links to mining and exploration
company profiles can be found at Reflections' Web site
Although the Web site acts primarily as an advertisement
for Reflections' Web design business, it maintains
active links for the mining and exploration industry.
A number of directory-based sources provide useful
links into information on companies, industry, and
the environment in which they operate.
Business Entry Point [www.business.gov.au] contains
extensive links to government and business organizations
and an entry point to search a subset of the official
Australian Business Register. Search ABRPublic for
details on ABN (Australian Business Number), company
status (registered, deregistered), legal and trading
names, and entity types. It also links into Australian
Securities & Investment Commission's National Names
Index. The Australian Government Entry Point [www.gov.au] has links to Australian federal, state, territory,
and local government Web pages.
And if you get desperate, there is always Infobelthe
online phone book [www.infobel.com/teldir]! It contains
the Australian White and Yellow pages and is a useful
for verifying a company's contact details or to create
a list of companies by business type.
Use the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of
Commerce (CACCI) [www.cacci.org.au] to drill down to
regional and local business contacts via national chamber
of commerce sites. On Kompass [www.kompass.com], you
can search by company or trade name, products and services,
executive name, keyword, and region. While most of
the information is fee-based, you can still generate
a free contact list of companies using the previously
mentioned search criteria.
The Web site for ASX, the Australian Stock Exchange
[www.asx.com.au], is free to search and lists both
current and delisted companies and name changes. Shares
and closing prices are available, as are recent company
announcements, which can be downloaded in full-text
PDF (from July 1, 2003), floats (forthcoming as well
as recent), with links to PDFs of prospectuses. Note
however, that Newsstore, as mentioned above, has additional
search functionality for company announcements.
The ASX Fact File is produced annually. It contains
market statistics, including market capitalization,
turnover, indices, top 50 domestic equity securities
by market capitalization, and overseas companies listed
on the ASX.
The ASIC (Australian Securities & Investment
Commission) [www.asic.gov.au] lists all documents lodged
since 1990 on the National Names Index. One good feature
is that this site provides the "number of pages" you
will get in a document ordera good gauge for
judging how likely financials are to be included! Given
that private companies' annual returns here in Australia
can often be "flimsy" at best, it can be disappointing
to download (and pay for) an annual return document
only to find that it contains a mere three or four
pages with only addresses and directors' names and
dates of birth, and no financial information whatsoever!
It is therefore useful to be able to see in advance,
before paying or ordering anything, how many pages
are being offered!
Also available on this site are "offer lists" with
summaries (from March 13, 2000), summaries of prosecutions
of companies and directors, the Banned & Disqualified
Register, and free company alerts where you can monitor
up to 25 companies on a single profile (five "profiles" are
allowed per logon).
New Zealand Companies' Web site [www.companies.govt.nz] is very similar in nature to the ASX and ASIC sites,
but unfortunately you have to pay for much of it! There
is also very little information, even when you do pay!
However, the Announcements feature is very good. Once
you have found the company name and opened the profile,
click on the "Documents" tab. All announcement documents
are free, including the Certificate of Incorporation,
addresses, and names of up to two directors. Note that
New Zealand reporting and regulatory requirements differ
from Australia. For more information, go to
New Zealand Stock Exchange [www.nzx.com] has the
full text of some company announcements older than
20 minutes. Past announcements are available from approximately
August 2001. Other information includes security details,
price data, indices, trade summaries, and statistics.
At the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer
Commission)Mergers & Acquisitions Register
(s.50) [www.accc.gov.au/content], click on "Public
Registers" on the left-hand column, then at the next
screen, scroll down to Mergers & Acquisitions.
Click and it will take you to an excellent searchable
register, which includes all M&A activity reported
to the ACCCa great starting point for M&A
searches. Data is available back to 1996, but 1998
is not searchable yet.
Delisted Companies [www.delisted.com.au] covers companies
that are delisted, suspended, in administration, in
receivership, and in liquidation. Details include date
of delisting, reason for delisting, name change, date
of name change, and some news on progress for some
companies after Dec. 31, 1989.
COMPANY INTELLIGENCE AND HISTORICAL SHARE PRICES
Despite the complete lack of clues in its unlikely
name, Bourse Investor [www.bourseinvestor.com] is "dinky
di Aussie!" Translated, that means the Web site is
pure Australian. Share prices go back to the early
1990s, and you can manipulate historical price data
with date ranges. There are also summaries of current
floats and a free e-newsletter to alert you when floats
are imminent, as well as a 2-month archive. Free registration
Yahoo! Finance Australia [http://au.finance.yahoo.com] contains historical share prices and dividends back
to the mid-1980s (open, high, low, and closing). Data
can be manipulated according to your requirements and
you can set up a free "portfolio" to check favorite
stocks as well as free company alerts. There are news
feeds from Reuters, Dow Jones, and New York wires.
Australian Investor: The Investment Information Service
[www.australiainvestor.com.au] gives an A-Z listing
of publicly listed companies and a "static" chart of
share price movements. Technical charts and historical
share prices go back 10 years, but note that these
are static charts. What is useful, however, is that
you can compare a company with up to three of its competitors.
Registration is required. Also available are price/volume
indicators and moving averages, full-text announcements
(with an additional "show announcement history" feature),
recent news, market wraps, and float information (3-month
archive). The "Trading Tools" link demonstrates the
available functionality, which includes company profiles"snapshots" and
8 years of financials.
While in essence a global resource, CorporateInformation
[www.corporateinformation.com] does cover over 1,300
Australian companies and offers links to free and fee
Australian resources. You do have to register, but
some information is available free of charge.
FREE VERSUS FEE
We understand that in the U.S., our counterparts
are concerned about the constant flux of information
resources from free to fee-baseda case in point
being Hoover's, which no longer offers free capsules.
This has also been our experience here in Australia:
There is a definite trend of information providers
moving their data from free access platforms to subscription-only.
In addition to feeling the pinch of losing free access
to information on Hoover's and corporateinformation.com,
we have also experienced the loss of free access to
Connect4's listing of company Web sites, BRW (Business
Review Weekly's) [www.brw.com.au] 4-week archive of
articles, B&T Weekly's [www.bandt.com.au] archive
of articles (B&T is an Australian institutionits
weekly publication is something of a "bible" as an
information resource for the marketing, advertising,
and publishing industries), and Huntleys' company profiles
and financials [www.huntleys.com.au]. BRW's "Top" Lists
(some of which are still "free to air") used to have
a downloadable functionality in which you could manipulate
the lists into a spreadsheet and rearrange the rankings
by market cap or turnover or whatever took your fancy!
Alas, this is no longer possibleat least not
However, some compensatory moves from fee to free,
much to our delight and surprise, have been the online
resources for industry information available from reputable
government agency sites, such as Standards Australia
[www.standardsaustralia.com], ABARE (Australian Bureau
of Agricultural and Resource Economics) [www.abareconomics.com],
and ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) [www.abs.gov.au].
Three government sites excel when it comes to Australian
statistics. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) [www.rba.gov.au] collects data on cash rates, exchange rates, Commonwealth
securities, commodity prices, and interest rates. Publications
and research include statements on monetary policy,
discussion papers, annual reports, conferences, and
the Reserve Bank Bulletin.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics [www.abs.gov.au] is the official national statistical collecting agency
of Australia. Access a range of free statistics from
social, economic, and industry perspectives.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA)
[www.apra.gov.au] regulates banks, insurance companies,
superannuation funds, credit unions, building societies,
and friendly societies. The main source of banking
statistics collated by APRA is available in the quarterly
publication, APRA Insight. Up to March
2002 these statistics were published in Australian
Banking Statistics. Some archived data is available
online for free, including asset and liability data
for individual Authorised Deposit Taking Institutions
from July 1998 to February 2002.
The Property Council of Australia Web site [www.propertyoz.com.au] is one example of how an industry-related body provides
statistical information affecting its industry. CyberStats
is a free statistical resource providing up-to-date
property and economic data. It provided over 100 economic
indicators. Statistical topics include construction
and building, economic, property, social, tax, and
tourism. Examples include:
Construction and Buildingbuilding
approvals, building fit out costs
Economicaverage weekly earnings, CPI
(consumer price index)
Propertyindustrial property, office
rents, office yields
Socialdemographics, population growth
TaxAustralian Taxation Office, stamp
duty, land tax
Tourismhotel supply and demand, hotel
Access a range
of free statistics about the economy, industry, environment,
and people and society from
Statistics New Zealand [www.stats.govt.nz]. There is
also excellent census data, with free downloadable
Excel files, a useful "Table Finder," where you can
combine and manipulate a range of data, for example, "personal
income" + "age," to locate tables and
download them into spreadsheets.
Use New Zealand's central bank Web site, Reserve
Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) [www.rbnz.govt.nz], to find
information on NZ monetary policy, statistics such
as economic indicators and interest rates, currency,
the NZ banking system and settlement system, cross-border
financial regulation, and foreign reserves.
New Zealand Government Entry Point [www.govt.nz] provides links to government and council services and
is also a useful source of general country facts.
The ANZ (Australian & New Zealand Banking Corporation
hosts the ANZ Economic Publications Web site [www.anz.com/nz/tools/economic.asp] that provides access to full-text reports on various
aspects of the economy and industry briefs, as well
as a weekly Market Focus report, monthly
CPI reports, and the Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index,
The Australian Productivity Commission [www.pc.gov.au] has some good free industry reports since 1990, from
the automotive industry to private health insurance,
as do ABARE and ABS, both mentioned above. There is
also some free information available on IBISWorld [www.ibisworld.com.au].
This includes brief company details, such as entity
type, number of personnel, number of subsidiaries and
industry descriptions outlining major players, industry
definition, and main activities.
MarketNewZealand.com [www.marketnewzealand.com] provides
access to New Zealand news and industry reports. You
can also register to receive free assistance with trade
inquiries and search and browse the extensive exporter
This was where we ended our roundtable discussion.
This report may not be the equivalent of streaming
videoor even streaming audiobut we hope
it gives a flavor of the types of free Australian and
New Zealand business information resources that we
here in Australia actually use on a regular basis.
Nicole Sackers [email@example.com] is manager, business research, Michelle
Nutting [firstname.lastname@example.org] is senior research
librarian, and Sinead Williams [email@example.com] is assistant director, research & client liaison,
information services, Australian Taxation Office.
Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org