Information and guidance for researching companies in the UK
If you run a business in the UK, there are three ways you can operate. It is important to make the distinction between the three types of business because there are different amounts of information available about each type.
Sole Trader - A private person engaged in business. A sole trader is not required to register the business, or to disclose financial details except for tax purposes. A sole trader is not obliged to disclose any information to the public unless he or she chooses to do so.
Partnership - Normally used in professional services e.g. solicitors, accountants, estate agents, etc. Partnerships are regulated by various Acts of Parliament, including the Companies Act 1985.
Registered as a company under the Companies Acts - A company can be either a public company (plc) or a private company.
It is very difficult to get more than very basic information about sole traders and partnerships because they do not have to register with any central organisation apart from the Inland Revenue. However, companies have to register with the Companies Registration Office (often referred to as Companies House) and must file information there regularly.
Under the Companies Act 1985 limited companies are obliged to deposit certain documents with Companies House. These documents include, in most cases, the annual accounts. The statutory functions of Companies House include:
- incorporating and dissolving companies
- examining and holding documents deposited under the Act
- making this information available to the public.
Companies House also makes accounts available direct to the public but this involves payment of a fee.
Companies House is based in Cardiff, Companies House also has offices in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow; the national phone number for enquiries is 08703 333636.
The Companies House website gives information about Companies House, and access to a database of registered companies. This register gives basic information only – name, address, company number, company type and line of business. Other information from Companies House is available for a fee.
Kelly’s Industrial Directory- A very comprehensive printed directory of company names and addresses, containing information on over 75,000 companies.
Kompass - Contains information on 2.3M Companies in 66 countries referenced by 57.000 product & service keywords, 860.000 trade names and 4.6M executive names
Europages, the European Business Directory - EUROPAGES has 900 000 European and international suppliers, manufacturers and distributors listed in its Business to Business directory. The directory is available in 25 European languages. It may be searched by company name; product or service; activity or sector; and by company data.
Financial Information about a Company
Detailed financial information about a company can be found in its annual report and accounts. The majority of companies have a presence on the Internet. Try looking at the websites of the companies you are interested in, many make their annual reports available.
Many companies will provide you with a free copy of their annual report if you contact them directly. Try phoning the company and asking for the Press Office.