When you look at a woman, which part of her anatomy do you look at first? Is it her face, her bosom or her bottom? It is all a matter of choice. It doesn't matter so long as you get to look at the whole picture. Now, when you look into an annual report, it is the same. Which statement do you prefer to see first. Is it the income statement, the cash flow statement or the balance sheet? Personally, I go straight for the balance sheet to find out what the company has and what it owes others. If I don't find things attractive there, I will just close the report, avoid the stock and move on.
The things that I pay attention in the balance sheet are: Paid-up capital, par value per share, retained earnings, current assets, and current liabilities. I pay special attention to its cash position and how much debt it has. If its debt is too high, when compared to its equity, I will normally lower the grading of the stock. Don't forget that all companies that folded are those with very high debt.
From the balance sheet, I go to the income statement , the cash flow statement, and then the CEO's statement, or Chairman's statement. If both are available, I'll read them both and also the notes in the annual report to ascertain that the company is not involved in any litigation. Lastly, I will go to the page that shows the names of the majority shareholders. A strong major shareholder is a advantage. Take the case of YTL Cement whose major shareholder is YTL Corp.
Things to consider when assessing a company are as follows: a) Calibre of management; b) Modal of business; c) Earnings per share; d) Dividend yield; e) Cash and debt position; f) Barrier of entry; and g) sustainability of profit.