A warning for the wary investor: beware companies whose annual reports have thick covers and contain lengthy philosophical tracts.
Take, for example, the newly published accounts of BSO/Origin, the Dutch computer services group. In the 64 pages between its grey hardback covers the interested shareholder may find all manner of enlightenment - in the introduction, by Eckhart Wintzen, the company's founder and president, curiously entitled 'networking algae'; in the 12-page essay by 'civil engineer, philosopher and business consultant' Peter Delahay on 'Interrelations: the essence of life's mystery'; or, perhaps, in the section on ecological book-keeping headed 're-engineering the planet'.
But what does it all mean? And what do these protracted ruminations tell us about the performance of the company over the previous year? Only halfway through its pages, with the first appearance of any hard financial information, will the persistent - and confused - reader find any form of explanation.
The news, as the perceptive might by now have gathered, is not good. The directors' report starts off quite cheerily - net sales went up by 15% - but from then on it is all downhill. Income for the year swung from a net profit of 14.8 million guilders to a loss of 9.3 million. At the same time, stockholders equity had fallen by a quarter - from 61.2 million guilders to 45.8 million.
Perhaps next year BSO/Origin might consider a more modest, less ponderous form of communication that would both aid its profitability and salve its obviously acute environmental conscience - a leaner and cheaper annual report. Shareholders, meanwhile, might seek their philosophy elsewhere.