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Magazines > Searcher > May 2008
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Vol. 16 No. 5 — May 2008
FEATURE
Searching for Australian Content
Industries, Companies, People, and Government

by Heather Carine, Carine Research

A little local Aussie knowledge can go a long way. For some tips on finding information on Australian industries, companies, people, and government policies, I interviewed leading business, news, and policy researchers from Ernst & Young, Australian Securities Exchange, FairfaxMedia, and the Australian Parliamentary Library. These researchers cross-check many commercial and web sources, and often talk directly with experts, to find the information they need to answer their research queries.

This article outlines the research steps and the wide range of commercial sources, industry associations, government departments, and Web 2.0 sites that leading Australian business, news, and policy researchers use and recommend.

Australian Industries and Markets

Researching Australian industries and markets covers a wide range of research requests, including compiling industry profiles on the main players, market demographics, industry trends, and queries on market strategies.

Kitty Delaney from Ernst & Young shared her extensive knowledge on researching Australian industries and markets. Delaney is based in Perth, Western Australia, and leads the Ernst & Young national research team for Business Advisory Services and Risk Advisory Services.

According to Delaney, clearly understanding the research requirements and being adventurous in tracking down missing information are the keys to Australian industry research. Delaney starts her industry searches with a thorough reference interview to narrow the scope of the query. Typical questions include the following:

Specifically, what industry/market/company information is needed?

In what Australian states does the company/industry operate?

How is the information being used?

What information results are expected?

Who are the leading commentators in this area?

Can specialists be contacted? Can the nature of the project be outlined to specialists if they are contacted?

Her usual approach for finding the required industry information is to follow this pattern:

Start with Australian industry market research sources, such as IBISWorld.

Cross-check information and gather further data on developments with press searches using major press aggregators such as Factiva.

Expand and verify information from industry, trade, and professional associations.

When necessary or permissible, interview experts to verify or expand upon required information.

Clarify additional research steps with your client as necessary.

Recommended Sources

Industry Market Research Sources

IBISWorld
http://www.ibisworld.com.au

Delaney recommends starting most requests for Australian industry information with a search of IBISWorld for an industry report. IBISWorld covers the top 2,000 public and private Australian companies and covers more than 500 industries [http://www.ibisworld.com.au/industry/home.aspx#aIndustryList]. An IBISWorld industry report includes key statistics; market segmentation and size; industry conditions, such as barriers to entry; competitors and their developments; industry performance; outlook; and recent news stories.

IBISWorld classifies companies according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification System (ANZSIC), produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the New Zealand Department of Statistics. The ANZIC codes can be very broad for some industries, leading to companies that aren’t direct competitors being grouped together. For example, the Glass and Glass Product Manufacturing in Australia Report (Industry Code: C2610) includes both flat glass and glass container manufacturers that are not direct competitors.

IBISWorld Australian industry reports are available via subscription or pay-per-purchase for $A740 per industry report. Slices of reports are not available from IBISWorld on the pay-per-purchase option. IBISWorld Australian industry reports and slices of reports can also be purchased from Marketresearch.com [http://www.marketresearch.com].

Data Monitor
http://www.datamonitor.com

Data Monitor covers some Australian companies, particularly in the financial services markets. It is a useful source for international industry research. Data Monitor Industry Reports are available to download as full reports only.

Australian Business Listing Sources

Delaney uses the following business information providers with advanced search features for compiling industry lists and cross-checking industry and market information.

Aspect Huntley
http://www.aspecthuntley.com.au

Aspect Huntley provide information and analysis on Australian public companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Its subscription-only database, Dat Analysis, has powerful search capabilities for searching company filings of ASX listed and delisted companies. Searches can be conducted on industry groupings, such as all mining companies trading on the ASX, and the results exported into various formats for data manipulation. The advanced search features are also useful for finding specific information, such as details of an Australian CEO’s contract.

Business Who’s Who
http://bww.dnb.com.au

Business Who’s Who has summary details on more than 40,000 public and private companies in Australia. It is a useful source for identifying a list of companies within specific industries and using advanced search features to restrict searches to Australian regions. You can search Business Who’s Who for free, with limited viewing of relevant data. The first 20 companies that fit your search criteria will display with company names, postcode, and state; however, you cannot view the company details unless you have a subscription.

The Directory of Australian Associations
http://www.crowncontent.com.au/directoryausassocs.html

A comprehensive listing of more than 5,500 Australian associations, available online by subscription or as hard copy.


Australian Industry Bodies

The following Australian industry bodies provide a good starting point for uncovering industry issues and identifying experts to verify or expand on those issues.

Australian Industry Group
http://www.aigroup.asn.au

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) represents employers in manufacturing, construction, automotive, tele­communications, IT and call centers, transport, labor hire, and other industries.

The Ai Group commissions surveys and publishes on issues affecting its representative industry bodies. Industry sector contacts are listed for each industry specialization field, such as the printing and packaging sector.

Productivity Commission
http://www.pc.gov.au

The Productivity Commission is the Australian government’s principal review and advisory body on microeconomic policy and regulation. Its recent reviews have ranged from public support for science and innovation to road and rail freight infrastructure pricing.

For an extensive listing of industry associations and government agencies refer to The Directory of Australian Associations and http://www.australia.gov.au.


Industry Research Tips

Australian industry research is interesting and challenging information detective work. The role of the researcher is to cross-check information, look for information gaps, and identify trends. To uncover Australian industry information you may need to get off the beaten online track and find expert sources to verify or expand on the information.

Delaney stays informed on industry and search developments by monitoring Australian national newspapers, Factiva alerts, Ernst & Young internal industry discussion lists, and the Association of Independent Information Professionals member’s-only list (AIIP-L).


Australian Company Research

Jackie Slee, research services manager from Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in Sydney, New South Wales, shares her tips for researching Australian public and private companies.

Slee recommends the following approach for finding Australian company information:

Ascertain whether the company is publicly listed, unlisted, or a private company. The type of company will have a bearing on the content and availability of the information.

Review information written by the relevant company regarding its operations and performance.

Cross-check the company’s information with other sources, such as the required filings with the ASX or the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).

Fill in information gaps and verify information using commercial aggregators of company information filings, such as Aspect Huntley or Connect 4.

Refer to IBISWorld and D&B Business Who’s Who for profiles of Australian public and private companies and Bloomberg or Aspect Huntley (Fin Analysis database) for comparative financial requests.

For expert business commentary on public and private companies, refer to Factiva and AFR.com for news commentary and recommended broker report services.

Public Companies

Australian public companies can be either listed or unlisted. There are some 2,000 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (formerly the Australian Stock Exchange). A public listed company may promote itself to raise capital on the open market, and, in return, the company must make detailed disclosures about its operations to the market via the ASX. The detailed disclosures include the following:

Periodic disclosures: This includes a company’s annual report, director’s report, financial report, and auditor’s report.

Continuous disclosures: This includes information such as changes to directors and key staff; operations; capital structures; remuneration of directors and executives; documents relating to takeovers, prospectuses, mergers and acquisitions; dividends; controlled entities; notices of meetings; chairman’s and CEO’s addresses to annual general meetings.

The annual and periodic disclosure information for Australian public companies can be found on the ASX website in the company research section [http://www.asx.com.au/research/companies/index.htm].

Unlisted public companies are smaller companies not suitable for listing on the ASX. The unlisted public company may have unlimited shareholders to raise capital for profitable purposes, but it must not advertise for investors. Consequently, unlisted companies do not have to report as much information to the market as listed companies, thus limiting the amount of information available to researchers.

Unlisted public companies are still required to lodge financial statements with the ASIC, the body which administers the Corporations Act (2001).

Company profiles

The following sources are helpful for a compiling a company profile and cross-checking company information from various online sources.

Business Who’s Who
http://bww.dnb.com.au

Produced by D&B, Business Who’s Who includes details on more than 40,000 public and private companies from Australia. It is a useful source for identifying companies within specific industries and using advanced search features to restrict searches to regions. Full access requires a subscription, although some searching and limited data are available for free.

IBISWorld
http://www.ibisworld.com.au

IBISWorld has company reports for the top 2,000 public and private Australian companies in more than 500 industries. IBISWorld provides its own history and analysis of companies in its subscriber-only reports.

Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com

Bloomberg is a useful source for obtaining a brief company profile along with comparative financial data for Australian listed public companies. It is available by subscription only.


Company operations

For further background information on Australian company operations, business units, key people, and strategic direction, Slee suggests reviewing the company’s website and annual report.

Company website

An Australian public company’s website will include the company’s annual reports, media releases, and details of their business operations, as required by the Corporate Governance Principles of the ASX.

Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)
http://www.asx.com.au/research/companies/index.htm

The ASX has comprehensive company filing information for Australian companies’ continuous disclosure regulatory filings for listed and delisted public companies. The company research section also provides a brief company summary, including a website link for public listed companies. Company filings back to 1998 are available free of charge. Search facilities are fairly basic, with searching restricted to individual company by company.

Kompass
http://www.kompass.com

Kompass is useful for searching details about Australian products and services. It is available by subscription only.


Comparative company information

Commercial providers such as Aspect Huntley (DatAnalysis database) and Connect 4 aggregate annual reports and continuous disclosure documents for every listed Australian company and provide a means of searching across multiple companies at once. Reviewing the continuous disclosure regulatory filings is a useful way to map a company’s developments over time.

Connect 4
http://www.connect4.com.au

Connect 4 provides information on Australian publicly listed companies on the ASX. This includes full-text searching of company annual reports, prospectuses, and takeover documents; real-time access to ASX company announcements; director and executive remuneration analysis; and information regarding takeovers and capital raisings. Connect 4 is available by subscription only.

Aspect Huntley
http://www.aspecthuntley.com.au

Aspect Huntley provides information and analysis on Australian public companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange. It is a subscription-only database. FinAnalysis provides Australian listed company financial history and analysis.


Financial information

For the financial performance of listed companies, Slee recommends starting with the company’s annual report. Databases such as Aspect Huntley’s FinAnalysis, IRESS, and Bloomberg allow financial comparisons between Australian and international companies.

For credit ratings of major companies, look at the various ratings agencies such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s and Fitch.

Standard & Poor’s
http://www.standardandpoors.com.au

Moody’s and Fitch
http://www.fitchratings.com

IBISWorld
http://www.ibisworld.com.au

IBISWorld has a wide range of company and industry lists for comparing Australian companies. Some industry categories can be very broad, so take care when comparing companies included in broad industry classifications.


Expert business analysis

Slee recommends the following sources for expert analysis on public listed companies. For commentary on a company’s strategic or operational developments, check the major Australian business commentators from the metropolitan daily newspapers, including the Australian Financial Review (AFR), Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Australian on Factiva. Brokers’ reports are also a good source of information about how the market perceives the company. A limited number of broker reports appear on OneSource and Factiva, with more comprehensive coverage on Reuters Research On Demand and Thomson’s Investext. (All the following are available via subscription only.)

OneSource
http://onesource.com

ISI emerging markets
http://www.securities.com

Thomson Research
http://www.thomson.com

Investext reports
Available via Factiva, Dialog, and Thomson Research

Private Companies
Australian private or proprietary companies have minimal reporting requirements. These companies are required to lodge an annual return with the ASIC that confirms their registered address and directors. ASIC is Australia’s corporate regulator.

Large proprietary companies must lodge financial statements in addition to their annual return with the ASIC.


Company profiles

To build a comprehensive profile of an Australian private company, use the following sources.

The company’s website

ASIC [http://www.asic.gov.au]

For private companies, the company information available from ASIC includes a list of directors. Availability of reports and other documents can be checked through ASIC’s National Names Index [http://www.search.asic.gov.au/gns001.html]. The information available from ASIC free of charge is very limited. ASIC recommends a range of company information brokers who can access further detailed company information lodged with ASIC on a fee basis.

Business Commentary

Factiva and AFR.com are recommended for searching for business commentary on public and private companies. Factiva’s coverage of regional and suburban newspapers can help in researching private and public unlisted companies.

Business Review Weekly, in conjunction with IBISWorld, produces annual company listings, such as top 500 Australian private companies. The reports are available via AFR.com (subscription-only) or can be downloaded from IBISWorld, with prices starting from $A300.

Research Tips

The corporate disclosure and reporting requirements for public and private companies determine the sources and the availability of information on Australian companies. It is important to balance and distinguish between the company’s formal reporting to its regulatory bodies (ASX and ASIC), media releases, and what other commentators and company experts report on the company. Be careful referring to comparative financial ratios in reports from IBISWorld, particularly if the companies being compared in an industry may not be a suitable comparative match.


Australian People

Deborah Brown is research manager at FairfaxMedia, publisher of Australia’s flagship newspapers, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, and the Australian Financial Review. Brown shares her insights on finding information on Australians that make the news.

Brown regularly uses the following sources for finding biographical or background information on Australian people. Determining what information is available on people depends on whether they are high profile or have maintained a low profile.

Prominent Australians

Press search

Brown starts research on prominent Australian with a press search using the FairfaxMedia database of all articles published by Fairfax. Alternative sources for Australian newspaper articles include Factiva, LexisNexis, and AFR.com.

Who’s Who
http://www.crowncontent.com.au

Crown Content publish a range of Who’s Who in Australia titles that provide brief biographical information and contact details on prominent Australians from a range of fields, including business, politics, the arts, sport, law, entertainment, and academia. Titles, available online by subscription or in hard copy, include these editions:

Who’s Who in Australia

Who’s Who in Business in Australia

Who’s Who of Australian Women

Who’s Who State Editions ( South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia)

Business Who’s Who
http://bww.dnb.com.au

Business Who’s Who is published by D&B and covers more than 40,000 Australian Companies and their 150,000 company senior executives. Available online by subscription or in hard copy.


Australian Experts

For tracking down Australian experts on a wide range of topics, Brown recommends these sites:

Expertguide.com.au
http://www.expertguide.com.au

An easy and free source that links journalists with Australian academics.

Internet information sources for journalists
http://journoz.com

Journoz.com is a very useful free directory listing compiled by Belinda Weaver from the University of Queensland Library. It links to a range of associations and leads for tracking down industry experts, along with other useful information for journalists covering Australian material.

The Directory of Australian Associations
http://www.crowncontent.com.au/directoryausassocs.html

A comprehensive listing of more than 5,500 Australian associations. Available online by subscription or as hard copy.

Lower-Profile Australians

For tracking down details on low-profile Australians, Brown uses the following sources to access public record information including court actions or private land and property details:

Access Business Information
http://www.accessinfo.com.au

Access covers public record information from a range of sources for business, personal, and land and property information such as this:

ASIC, ASX, and corporate credit reports for business information.

Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia for bankruptcy details.

Court actions from various state and federal court jurisdictions.

Land titles searches and property sale searches from all states.

Available online by subscription or pay as you go.

Similar sources for Australian public record information include these sites:

Australian Business Research
http://www.abr.com.au

Australian Records.com
http://www.australian-records.com


Web 2.0 sources

LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Wikipedia have become important and essential sources to be checked by news librarians for background information on people.


Search engines

Search engines, particularly Google and Yahoo! with their restricted coverage to Australian sources, are very useful for tracking down background information on Australian people.


Research tips

Privacy laws introduced in Australia in July 2004 have tightened the availability of information available online regarding private individuals. For example, details from the electoral roll compiled by the Australian Electoral Commission are not available for electronic searching. Brown recommends reading Research Buzz [http://www.researchbuzz.org/wp] and Search Engine Watch [http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog] to stay abreast of online search engine developments for searching Australian people. She also esteems the support and advice of news librarians around the world through their list serv (News-lib).


Australian Policy Research

Brad Hinton, senior research specialist at Parliamentary Library in Canberra, specializes in agriculture and regional development policy research. His strategy for finding Australian government policy information is to start with searching the publicly available information on government websites, then press commentary, followed by verifying or expanding on the information through interviews with experts in various government departments or agencies.

Australian Federal Government Websites

Australia.gov.au is the starting point for linking to Australian federal government agencies and websites, directories of contacts, government publications, and links to state and territory governments. Australia had a new government sworn in on Dec. 3, 2007, which has affected the content available on government websites. For example, links to media releases issued by former government ministers are removed from government department websites.

The National Library of Australia Pandora Archive [http://pandora.nla.gov.au] is the official repository for Australian web archived material for government sites.

Media Statements

Hinton recommends searching media statements released by government departments and agencies, to trace the progress of policy development. Government media releases are accessible either from the relevant department/agency websites, or from Pandora Archive.

Industry Bodies and Professional Associations

Various industry bodies are a helpful source for uncovering views on the development of government policy. See industry sources for links to industry and professional associations.


Press Coverage

Factiva and LexisNexis have good coverage of Australian business and policy developments published in the major Australian newspapers, published by News Limited and Fairfax. The Australian Financial Review and Business Review Weekly are now only available by subscribing to AFR.com.


Research Tips

Policy research is similar to industry research. Some information needed may not be available through the usual online sources of press material or government websites but can often be obtained by following up with experts in government departments. Hinton stays on top of Australian and international policy developments by reading the Parliamentary Library’s extensive collection of agricultural and regional development journals. Australian Policy Online [http://www.apo.org.au] is a useful source for aggregating policy discussion led by Australia’s Social and Policy Research institutions.

Hinton is also a regular attendee at industry and information management conferences and a voracious blog reader and contributor [http://Hintonhinton.wordpress.com].

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Kitty Delaney, Ernst & Young; Jackie Slee, Australian Securities Exchange; Deborah Brown, Fairfax Media; and Brad Hinton, Parliamentary Library; for sharing their tips on researching Australian industries, companies, people, and policies.

Who Carries What

Table 1. Summarizes the online availability of the major daily newspapers for each Australian state.

State Daily Newspaper Availability
National The Australian Factiva; LexisNexis; Newstext.com.au
National Australian Financial Review Factiva – abstracts only; LexisNexis – abstracts only; AFR.com (full text, subscription only)
National Business Review Weekly AFR.com (full text, subscription only)
NSW Sydney Morning Herald Factiva; LexisNexis
NSW The Daily Telegraph Factiva; Newstext.com.au
Victoria The Age Factiva; LexisNexis
Victoria The Herald Sun Factiva; Newstext.com.au
Queensland The Courier Mail Factiva; LexisNexis; Newstext.com.au
Western Australia The West Australian Factiva; LexisNexis
South Australia The Advertiser Factiva; LexisNexis; Newstext.com.au
Tasmania The Mercury Factiva – abstracts only; LexisNexis; Newstext.com.au
Australian Capital Territory Canberra Times Factiva; LexisNexis
Northern Territory Northern Territory News Factiva; Newstext.com.au

Heather Carine is a freelance business researcher based in Adelaide, South Australia. Contact her at carineresearch@adam.com.au and visit her website at http://www.carineresearch.com.au.
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