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Finding company information

Research guide

Updated: 06 Nov 2023 Update History

In this research guide, we set out how to find information — such as financials, announcements, and ownership/governance details — relating to companies in the UK and elsewhere.

What company information is available?

The extent of recorded company information, and its availability, varies significantly depending on a number of factors.

Two key variables influencing the availability of company information are company size and company type. Some smaller or privately held companies may have limited publicly available information, for instance.

Another key factor influencing the availability of company information is the jurisdiction in which a particular company is based or registered. There is significant variation across different localities. For instance, some countries have a single official business registry which makes extensive company information openly available online, whilst others have more fragmented and/or limited arrangements for business registration and the provision of access to business registry data.

It should also be noted that access arrangements differ from source-to-source. For example, some databases and registries make all of their data openly accessible to all, whilst others require users to pay a fee in order to gain access.

The aim of this guide is to highlight a selection of sources which provide access to company information, and to provide some guidance on how to select the most appropriate source(s) for your purposes.

Where can I access company information?

There are many sources of company information, and the most appropriate source will vary depending on the company in question and the kind of information you need.

To obtain the most comprehensive range of information on a company, it may be advisable to consult a range of different sources.

A broad overview of the sources available is set out below.

General online sources

There are a growing number of general online databases, directories and listings which bring together information on companies from across the world.

These include:

It should be noted, however, that the information in general sources such as the above may be out-of-date or incomplete. If you require definitive information, it may be advisable to refer directly to the relevant jurisdiction-specific primary source(s).

Jurisdiction-specific sources

Many sources cover only one jurisdiction, or a small group of jurisdictions. These sources – which include official business registers, stock exchanges, and company directories – may contain information which cannot be found in more general sources.

For information on these, please see our breakdown of sources by jurisdiction:

It is important to note that, even within a single country or jurisdiction, information on a particular company may be scattered across multiple sources. The situation in the US, for instance, is complicated by the existence of both state and federal business registries.

ICAEW Library resources

The ICAEW Library enquiry team can provide ICAEW members, ACA students and other authorised users with company information drawn from specialist Library sources.

We offer FAME reports on UK and Irish companies, company profiles and SWOT analyses, share histories, benchmarking reports, and more.

For full details of the Library’s company information services, please see our company research page. If you would like to know more about the information we can offer, please call us on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, email library@icaew.com or contact us through webchat.

Individual corporate websites

Many companies provide some amount of information on their governance, financials, etc. through their own online channels.

Some companies (such as Verizon) provide this information via a 'corporate' or 'investor' section of their main website, whilst others (such as Tesco and M&S) make it available through a dedicated corporate microsite.

How can I tell where a company is/was registered?

There are a number of sources and clues which can help one to ascertain where a given company is/was registered; a selection of these is outlined below.

Online databases and business intelligence platforms

There are a number of free and paid databases which amalgamate company information from across multiple jurisdictions. These can be a good place to start when investigating a company’s place of registration.

Examples include:

It should be noted, however, that these databases do not cover all jurisdictions.

Official company websites and documents

If the company you are interested in has an official website, it may include information about its country/jurisdiction of registration, or provide other details (a company number, for example) which can assist you in finding this information elsewhere (such as in a company information database or business register).

It can also be worth checking any official documentation or paperwork related to the company, such as business cards, letterheads, invoices, contracts, and so on. Some or all of these may provide company registration information.

Company extensions

The extension at the end of a company’s name (eg, ‘GmbH’ or ‘Inc.’) can provide a clue as to where it was registered. CorporateInformation.com have compiled a useful guide to company extensions and security identifiers, setting out what they mean and where they are used.

How can I find out what a company extension stands for, and where it is used?

Whilst UK company names are usually followed by Ltd., LLP or PLC, a wide range of other company extensions are in use around the world.

CorporateInformation.com have compiled a useful guide to company extensions and security identifiers which sets out what they mean and where they are used. If you don't know what jurisdiction a company is based in, this guide might help you to narrow your search.

How can I find out who ultimately owns or controls a company?

Identifying the ultimate beneficial owners of a company is not always possible, particularly if the company has complex ownership structures and/or is based in a jurisdiction with less corporate transparency.

However, there are some sources which may shed light on who ultimately owns or controls a company. An overview of these is given below.

Public registers of beneficial ownership

There are a growing number of jurisdiction-specific registers of beneficial ownership around the world. Some of these registers are publicly accessible.

In the UK

The People with Significant Control (PSC) register contains information on the beneficial owners of UK companies. Companies are obliged to take reasonable steps to identify PSCs, and to keep the register up to date. Data from the PSC register is publicly and freely available via the main Companies House search tool – search for the company of interest, then click on the ‘People’ tab.

In addition, overseas entities who want to buy, sell or transfer property or land in the UK must file details of their beneficial owners or managing officers with Companies House, for inclusion in the Register of Overseas Entities. Data held in this register is publicly accessible via the Find and update company information service.

Some concerns have been raised regarding the accuracy of the information in the PSC register; these are summarised in Global Witness’s 2019 report ‘The Companies We Keep’. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 introduced measures intended to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of the data in the register, including identity verification for PSCs.

Elsewhere in the world

The situation in the rest of the world is mixed. As of May 2023, relatively few jurisdictions have instituted public registers, though many have plans to do so. Country-by-country information on beneficial ownership registers can be found on the Open Ownership website.

Most EU Member States have established registers of the beneficial ownership of companies; some of these are publicly accessible online, whilst others are not. Beneficial ownership information drawn from the national registers of some EU countries is accessible via the Beneficial Ownership Registers Interconnection System (BORIS). General guidance on finding beneficial ownership information in EU countries can be found on the European e-Justice Portal.

Some British Overseas Territories – such as Gibraltar – already have beneficial ownership registers, whilst others have plans to institute their own. However, not all of these registers are or will be publicly accessible.

The Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) had planned to institute publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership by 2023, but as of December 2022 this commitment has been put on hold.

Subscription databases

Some commercial business information aggregators provide information on ultimate beneficial owners through their subscription databases.

Examples include:

Where can I find company rankings?

The following are some of the most popular and well-known sources of company rankings currently in publication:

Depending on the jurisdiction or sector you are interested in, there may be location- and/or industry-specific rankings available from specialised sources. For example, AccountancyAge publishes yearly rankings of UK accounting firms.

Rankings vary depending on the assessment criteria used, so it may be advisable to cross-check multiple sources, bearing in mind how their methodologies differ.

Related resources

The Library maintains separate research guides on:

Can't find what you're looking for?

The ICAEW Library can give you the right information from trustworthy, professional sources that aren't freely available online. Contact us for expert help with your enquiries and research.


Every effort has been made to ensure that the information given in this Research Guide is correct. However, the content of websites changes frequently and users should satisfy themselves that the information they contain is suitable for the purposes for which they wish to use it. We would be grateful to receive notification of any broken links at library@icaew.com.

ICAEW accepts no responsibility for the content on any site to which a hypertext link from this site exists. The links are provided ‘as is’ with no warranty, express or implied, for the information provided within them. Please see the full copyright and disclaimer notice.

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