And finally…Energy company annual reports now UK bulkiest
According to PwC, annual reports from the Oil and Gas and Mining and Energy industries are now among the bulkiest produced in the UK, weighing in at 200 pages and 172 pages respectively.
PwC’s researchers combed the books of the UK’s largest listed companies to study how they are communicating with the outside world.
And in a snapshot of the upcoming report, ‘Searching for Buried Treasure’ which will be published in September, they reveal that these industries currently outstrip the average length of annual report from the FTSE250 (136 pages) and FTSE 350 (154 pages).
But they are not the worst culprit – banks have the weightiest tomes with annual reports averaging out at 339 pages. This was close to three times the size of retailers’ reports - 139 pages on average. Explanatory notes to the financial statements of accounts are five times longer than the statements themselves in the FTSE100.
Lengthier reports, however, have an unwanted knock-on effect: information is often buried in the mass of annual data and text, presenting investors and the public with a tougher challenge if they want to unearth it easily.
Bruce Collins, assurance partner in PwC’s Aberdeen Oil and Gas centre of excellence, said: ”Reports across energy and financial services industries are getting larger and larger. While it’s vital that the key information - of the financial and non-financial variety- is included, it is just as important for it to be easy to find and understand.
“Many companies set out their strategy and business model, but they do this without explaining how the two connect: how risks affect strategic plans; what resources and relationships really drive the business; and how these are being managed and progress measured through KPIs.
“The annual report -and specifically the strategic report- offers companies an important opportunity tell their story in a way that is credible and consistent. As a result, it can not only improve the immediate ability to attract investment on better terms but also boosts brand, instilling a market confidence that will shepherd businesses through challenging times.”
FTSE 350 companies’ strategic reports- which allow management to highlight their business strategy and key risks - now weigh in at 41 pages on average. Back in 2008, when companies were required to produce an Operating and Financial Review, the mean length of these communications was 24 pages.
PwC has found that investors want a brighter spotlight focused on the reporting of risk and strategy, in discussions around sensitivities, markets, performance and likely key cash flows. These help build a longer-term view of a business and can drive a positive perspective on its long term prospects.
While some FTSE 350 annual reports - especially the strategic reports - contain rare gems of information not presented elsewhere and new details giving insights into past performance or future potential, many also contain a mass of annual data and text, which is largely backward looking and gives very little insight into a company’s current and future prospects. PwC’s analysis finds that as much as 41% of the FTSE 350 only felt comfortable looking as far ahead as next year and 30% were more vague, preferring to talk about “the future” in broad generic terms.
As the volume of accessible information increases, PwC is now working with organisations such as the Crown Estate in the development and reporting of performance measures internally and externally. The PwC Insight reports allow readers to understand what lies behind the metrics and support greater transparency.