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Doing Private Company Research @ Pitt: Private Company Research

Designed to help students dig for information on private companies.

What is a private company?

A private company is a company whose shares are not traded on any stock exchange. 

Unlike public companies, privately held companies are not required to report their financials to the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), making information difficult or even impossible to find.

Private companies come in all sizes, from small businesses to large corporations.  Here are a few private companies you may have heard of:

  • Mars
  • Giant Eagle
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • Toys 'R' Us
  • Bloomberg

Private Company Websites

Comb the company website for information.  Here are some tips:

  • Some websites have an "About Us" or "About the Company" tab where you might find some useful details about their financials or operations. (For example, scroll down to see the Fast Facts on Giant Eagle's About Us page.)
  • Check for press releases with information about company financials and activities.
  • Companies may publish annual reports for internal or promotional use.  Look for these reports on the company website or contact the company to see if one is available.

Contact Private Companies

Give the company a call or send them an email. (The controller might be a good contact.) Explain that you are a student and what you are looking for. They might be willing to share their information with you.  Find contact information on the company website, in company profiles and directories.

Private Company Profiles

These online databases contain profiles on private and public companies. The private company information is limited but may include sales and employment estimates or reported data.

Private Company Info from Articles

Private company information can turn up in articles and in some cases a mention in an article is all the information you are going to find on a given company.  The articles may be about anything from the company's new products and services to financial figures to the opening of a new location.  The information available will vary from company to company but can be used to develop an impression of the company's financial condition.

Private Company Info from Government Resources

Although private companies are typically not required to file with the U.S. SEC, they need to file at the state level in order to operate.  These filings will provide you with basic information about the company and can often be found via the state's Department of State website.  See the example from the Pennsylvania Department of State below.

Private Company Directories

There are a number of directories that list private companies.  Various editions of these directories are available in print at the Business Library and ULS Storage. Check with a librarian to determine where to find the edition that best meets your research needs.