Public or Private
A public company is a company which is able to advertise and promote the sale of its stock to the public. In buying the stock of a company an individual becomes an owner or shareholder of the company. The buying and selling of stocks (ownership) is usually done on a "stock exchange".

In the United States the largest exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchanges and NASDAQ. There are also regional stock exchanges around the country as well as exchanges in countries other than the United States. To sell stock in the United States companies must register with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Public companies are required to file extensive financial disclosure forms to enable the public to make an informed decision about which stocks they would like to buy and sell.

A private company is not able to sell its stock to the public (but may sell stock "privately" to interested individuals) and is not required to reveal financial information to the public. For this reason it is easier to study a public companies . . . financial information is readily available.

Some private companies will go to great lengths to keep information about themselves out of the public eye. If your assignment gives you the option always pick a public company to research - information is much more readily available.

Databases
  • D&B Million Dollar Database     How do I
  • Hoover's Online     How do I
  • Printed Sources
  • Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Directory (Ref HC 102 D8 Ref Desk)     How do I
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