Finding International Credit Information

Article excerpt

In the field of international business information, we no longer have the luxury of dealing with people we know in the same town, or even the same country. To be successful in the global era, we need to be able to make the same credit decisions and know how to find the same credit information about a company in Paris, Texas as a company in Paris, France.

International business information is relatively new and mirrors the increase of international business. When my co-author and I began doing research for the first edition of our book, International Business Information: How to Find It, How to Use It, we spent most of our time scanning the environment for anything we could get our hands on. By the time we finished our research for our second edition in 1997, our task was how to select among the wide range of sources that are now available. That does not mean, however, that you will find everything you expect to find about a U.S. firm for a non-U.S. firm. Finding information about a company does not speak to the quality of the information provided.

International business information is available in a variety of formats. Some of the basic material you need may still be in books that you will find at your local library or bookstore. Some will be available free on the Web, but much of it, like the information in the United States, is fee-based, on CD-ROMs or on commercial online systems.

We emphasize the importance of evaluating the quality of information used in decision-making. Common sense tells us that the financial history that we are getting for a company from Russia is probably not going to be as reliable as the financial history of a company from the United Kingdom. But what about a company in Argentina? Vietnam? A basic overview of country risk, individual country accounting standards and disclosure requirements will help you with your expectations of what to find and your evaluation of what you see. For example, the European Union requires middle-sized, private companies to file annual accounts. Knowing this, you know that it may be as easy to get a full financial for that company in Paris, France as it is for the company in Paris, Texas.

Check the authority of the information provider. Make sure that the information you use is dated and up-to-date. Do not assume that because information is on the Web that the information is accurate, complete or up-to-date. Beware of using a company's own home page as your only source of information.

Previous articles in Business Credit have addressed various aspects of international credit such as country risk, export insurance and the credit environment in selected countries. This article will list the kinds of international business information that you need and highlight some major credit sources.

International credit encompasses research in a variety of areas:

* Companies - Directory information, such as name, address, communications and lines of business

* Financials - including balance sheet and income statements (preferably for several years) and performance ratios

* Executives and board members (names and biographies)

* Credit reports

* Bank Credit

* Countries - Country risk, legal environment, accounting standards and disclosure practices, and bankruptcy laws and regulations

* Exporting - Financing exporting

* International Credit Reporting Services

There are three major international credit services - Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax-Infocheck and Experian (CCN and TRW). There are also regional services as well as services from individual countries.

Dun & Bradstreet

Dun and Bradstreet's data base has basic information on more than 40 million companies worldwide. Dun & Bradstreet collects international credit reports in the over 200 individual countries.

D&B offers a range of reports, from D&B Select, where you only purchase one module, to D&B Comprehensive Report that includes in-depth financial and performance data, enhanced with public notice information. …