Tag Archives: Company coverage


Twitter seeks more ads abroad


This is the week. The highly anticipated initial public offering for Twitter is likely to sell this week and the media was keen to advance the story. There were a couple of pieces about Twitter’s ability to sell more ads abroad.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s story:

Three-fourths of Twitter Inc. users are overseas. But only one-fourth of its revenue comes from non-U.S. advertisers.

To Twitter, that is a “substantial opportunity” as it readies to go public as soon as this week. But it will also be a big challenge to convert a global following into sales and profits.

Twitter’s international operations were a major topic of questions during a pre-IPO “roadshow” meeting with investors last Wednesday at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York, according to an investment manager who attended.

Analysts say the messaging service must mind cultural differences while promoting itself abroad. In Japan, for example, users tend to keep their accounts private and circle of followers small, while Brazilian users are public and liberally follow one another. It also must compete with popular local rivals, such as Sina Corp.’s Weibo in China, Japan’s Line and South Korea’s Kakao Inc.

Until recently, Twitter’s overseas growth was more spontaneous than by design. It attracted large numbers of users around events such as the Arab Spring and 2011 Japan earthquake. But many users drifted away when the news cooled, and Twitter was more focused on building out its U.S. business.

Now, Twitter is working on bringing users and advertisers outside the U.S. on board. In Korea, where it is introduced ads last Friday, it is trying to forge relationships with TV networks and advertising agencies.

The New York Times version of the story started with more of the hard numbers at the top:

The problem is, Twitter is still figuring out how to make money from those users abroad. The company received 26 percent of its total revenue from markets outside the United States in the third quarter, compared with around 17 percent at the end of last year, according to regulatory filings.

Turning that global popularity into international ad sales remains tricky for the company, which is based in San Francisco, as it nears an initial public offering of stock. Many overseas brands are more skeptical of the impact of social media advertising than their American counterparts, while Twitter faces stiff competition from local social media rivals like Line of Japan, which already has hundreds of millions of registered users across Asia.

Twitter also has yet to expand its foothold in many international markets. That includes the global debut of its self-service advertising system, begun in the United States in late 2011, which allows brands to buy ads without talking directly to a sales representative. The company plans to bring that system to a number of global markets, according to regulatory filings.

“Twitter is not quite there yet,” said Oliver Eriksson, head of strategy at the digital ad agency VML in London, whose clients include Microsoft and Gatorade. He said the company still had to prove to potential clients that its advertising platform could reach international consumers. “They need to do it quickly to give brands confidence that Twitter can add value,” Mr. Eriksson said.

That skepticism is reflected in Twitter’s ad sales outside the United States.

While Twitter’s highly publicized initial public offering is estimated to value the company at roughly $12 billion, it still remains a relatively small player in the world of digital advertising. Twitter is expected to grab just 0.5 percent, or $580 million, of the total spending on worldwide digital advertising this year, according to the research firm eMarketer. That compares to $6.4 billion that will probably be spent on its archrival Facebook in 2013.

For international brands, Twitter’s relatively small scale could prove a deterrent. Many companies, like Nestlé and Unilever, are looking to increase their advertising spending within social media as more consumers spend increasingly more time online. But analysts say that Twitter’s relatively small footprint makes it a harder sell.

Reuters reported that investors are watching to see if Twitter’s IPO takes the same course as Facebook’s:

The market will be on alert to see if Twitter follows the fate of last year’s botched Facebook Inc IPO: the social networking company’s stock hit the market in May 2012 and was plagued by allocation problems, trading glitches and a selloff. The shares did not recover the IPO price until a year later.

Views have been mixed on what investing strategy to take for Twitter’s IPO. According to a Reuters survey of 29 broker-dealers and independent advisers, 23 said they are not recommending Twitter shares. Only one said he would recommend it – and only to certain clients. Five others said they would wait to snap up the stock if it plunges after it begins to trade.

But while retail interest might be low, tech industry analysts say there is expected to be a good appetite for Twitter’s stock from institutional investors at the current valuation.

On Friday, Morningstar joined three other brokerages in setting price targets for Twitter Inc well above its IPO price range, suggesting the stock has room to rise at least 30 percent.

That’s a good sign for early investors, if you can get the stock, which USA Today reports isn’t likely:

Relatively few investors actually get allocated stock at the IPO price, while the rest are left to buy at whatever the market commands, and history has shown that highly hyped stocks (like Twitter) often command enormous prices relative to actual earnings.

Data compiled by Forbes shows that of all the IPOs priced since Sept. 12, 19 have returned over 20%, averaging a 69% gain over just a few weeks. On average, these stocks opened for trading on the day of their IPO at a price 49% higher than the IPO price and only experienced 9% further upside on average the rest of that trading session.

IPOs make great stories, especially since they offer the first look at previously undisclosed information. They don’t however typically make many regular people rich. But if Twitter can capitalize on it’s opportunities in markets outside the U.S., then it could make buy-and-hold investors some money in the long-term.

Kevin Shinkle

Why can’t we all just get along?


Talking Biz News hosted a conference Friday at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York about the state of business journalism.

The first panel featured journalists, former journalists, corporate public relations officers and PR agency executives exploring the relationships between corporations and business journalists.

Many on the panel agreed that today’s fast-paced news cycle and demand for continuous content is hindering the development of relationships between journalists and company representatives. This creates a conflict between the pace journalists need to put out stories and the companies that should have the opportunity to comment on them. For example, many reporters expect companies to respond to a query within an hour, however, for many firms getting approval of statements takes time.

Relationships don’t necessarily need to be cordial to be productive, said Kevin Shinkle, the business editor at the Associated Press.

“I’m all for adversarial relationships with companies, but the inability to take the time to get to know people is hard,” Shinkle  (pictured) said. “There was time to get to know PR people. I had relationships. That’s gone. No one has time.”

Stephen Labaton, formerly of the New York Times and now a partner at RLM Finsbury, agreed that sometimes conflict can push companies to improve, but lamented the speed at which news is produced. He urged journalists to take the time to report accurate stories and push back if they thought more time was necessary. He also said the Internet allowed companies to respond in ways they previously didn’t have available.

Anne Marie Squeo, a managing director at communications consulting firm 30 Point Strategies, said she wished she had understood more about the internal workings of companies when she was a reporter. Once she made the switch to work for a corporation, she realized that public relations staff didn’t typically sit on statements for hours, but were working through the approval process, which takes time.

“Having a shared understanding of each others roles and responsibilities is important,” Squeo said.

Peter Lauria, business editor at Buzzfeed, agreed and also talked about how reporters are able to leverage those relationships to produce quality stories. He urged companies to pay attention to emerging media, not just traditional top outlets since readers will respond to good, accurate content. He pointed out that companies are able to work with journalists that are good no matter their outlet.

Another development the panelists discussed was the decline of well-reported stories. Squeo talked about pitching complete stories with photos, video and sources to harried journalists, who took the packages because they are so pressed for time. She urged reporters to find other sources and to take the time to do their background work before going to companies with their stories.

Sally Beatty, a senior director in Pfizer’s policy, external affairs and communications division, also emphasized the importance of actually reporting before approaching a company. She said that in her career the skills she gained at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter come in handy navigating a large organization to find the answers to journalists’ queries.

When asked about the state of business journalism, Rik Kirkland, director of publishing and a principal at McKinsey, said that despite the expectation that the state of journalism is declining, good work is being produced.

Most of the panelists agreed that the pace of news and the need to constantly generate new content puts pressure on journalists as well as their communications counterparts. Developing and maintaining good relationships is an important part of covering companies. Having a mutual understanding or different roles will also help improve relationships.


Coverage of Facebook’s strong — or were they? — earnings


Facebook’s earnings for the third quarter rose on the strength of mobile advertising, which as several outlets reported, was good for Twitter’s upcoming initial public offering. But coverage, especially the headlines on the stories, differed in what part of the earnings they chose to emphasize.

The New York Times story, which had a stilted lead about Halloween, ran using the headline “Mobile Ads Fuel a Jump in Profit at Facebook.”

Facebook, which operates the largest online social network, reported Wednesday that its profits doubled in the third quarter, to $621 million, after excluding expenses related to stock options.

The company’s revenue rose 60 percent, to $2.02 billion, compared with last year’s third quarter. Most of that, about $1.8 billion, came from advertising.

Perhaps most important for Facebook’s future as an advertising-driven company in a world of iPads and Android smartphones, the company noted that mobile ads accounted for 49 percent of its advertising revenue, up from 41 percent in the second quarter. Facebook said prices for mobile ads remained high, and users were clicking on them in their news feeds more frequently.

That bodes well, analysts said, for its smaller rival, Twitter, which takes a similar approach to mobile ads and is preparing to sell stock to investors in an initial offering as soon as next week.

Clark Fredricksen, a vice president with eMarketer, a research firm, said Twitter would benefit from Facebook’s efforts in mobile because the larger company had been investing heavily in educating marketers and users about mobile ads.

“Facebook has been a major force in helping advertisers and users get more comfortable with seeing and buying mobile ads,” he said.

Other big Internet companies like Yahoo and AOL are benefiting less from mobile ads, he said, because their ads are fragmented across various sites and are less appealing to advertisers.

The Wall Street Journal story pointed out in the beginning that investors were concerned by comments made during the report. Its headline was “Facebook Status: Big Gains, But Worries Ahead”:

Facebook Inc. spooked investors with warnings that it may be nearing the limits of one of its most important areas of revenue growth.

After reporting strong third-quarter financial results, Facebook executives told analysts that they may not be able to cram any more ads into users’ news feeds, and that U.S. teens are spending less time on the site.

Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman said Facebook doesn’t expect to “significantly increase” the share of ads in a user’s news feed from what it is now. The inclusion of ads into those feeds, last year, helped propel a big increase in Facebook revenue. Instead, Facebook will rely on improving the quality and relevance of the ads to drive up prices, he said.

Mr. Ebersman also said the number of U.S. teens using Facebook daily declined from the previous quarter. He called the decline “of questionable statistical significance” and said it is hard to measure the number of teen users on the network because their self-reported ages are unreliable.

Those worrisome signs overshadowed a better-than-expected earnings report that showed the company swinging to a profit on a 60% jump in revenue, topping $2 billion for the first time.

Despite those worries, the CNBC story ran using the headline, “Facebook Earnings Blow Past Expectations” and was incredibly positive:

Facebook topped Wall Street’s sales targets on Wednesday, as robust growth in its mobile advertising business drove a 60 percent increase in revenue.

Following the earnings beat, Facebook’s stock shot higher but erased gains after the company’s earnings call.

The Washington Post story also had a fairly positive headline – “Facebook earnings: Revenue up 60 percent as social network expands its mobile audience”:

Facebook reported a 60 percent jump in third-quarter revenue Wednesday, driven by the social network’s growing success in capturing a mobile audience.

The number of active monthly Facebook users climbed 18 percent overall during the quarter but spiked 45 percent on mobile devices. Advertising profits jumped 66 percent year over year, with 49 percent of that revenue coming from mobile.

Since its initial public offering last year, the firm has faced lingering Wall Street skepticism that it will develop a profitable advertising strategy. Wednesday’s earnings could help address some of those concerns.

After closing down slightly at about $49 a share Wednesday, the firm’s stock shot up 15 percent after the earnings report was released. The results beat analysts’ expectations.

It’s usually not a good sign when investors like the initial numbers and then decide the comments from the company are enough to sell the stock. Facebook will need to capture the eyeballs of younger users as well as find a way to increase advertising in order to continue to grow revenue. It’s the growth part that can be the curse for more mature technology companies. That’s only highlighted by the fact that the much younger Twitter will likely debut this week.


Biz journalist: Let us attend IPO road show meetings


Dan Primack of Fortune argues that business journalists should be allowed to attend a company’s road show meetings with potential investors in its initial public offering.

Primack writes, “To be clear, I’m not accusing Twitter or any other company of surreptitiously breaking the rules. I’m accusing them all of participating in business-as-usual, which is de facto breaking the rules.

“My solution: Let reporters attend the roadshow meetings.

“If a company isn’t saying anything it should be, then what exactly is the harm? The benefit would be twofold: (1) Ensure that such shadiness is not occurring, and (b) Expanding the reach of the company’s message, including to investors who weren’t lucky enough (or in the right city) to get a chicken and tea invite.

“If you don’t want to let reporters ask questions, fine. Just like most companies prevent them from doing so during quarterly earnings calls. But you’d never see a publicly-traded company prevent reporters from listening to such calls. You know, because it’s publicly-traded. Since that’s the same intent here, it seems that banning media is a needlessly secretive vestige of a company that isn’t entirely prepared to enter the public realm.

“So let us in. Not because it helps us out. But because it’s the right thing to do by your future investors. All of them, not just the chosen few.”

Read more here.


Business journalists at the Twitter road show


Mariah Summers and Matthew Zeitlin of BuzzFeed write about the business journalism presence at the Twitter road show presentation in New York on Wednesday.

Summers and Zeitlin write, “One hotel employee told BuzzFeed that Twitter executives and the company’s bankers planned to be at the Mandarin until 5 p.m. And though this employee said some attendees had already arrived, the 36th floor where the presentation was supposed to take place was still and empty. A coffee bar sat undisturbed. The only clue that anything was going on were printed signs telling A–M to go left and N–Z to go right.

“We weren’t on the 36th floor for long, however. A blonde woman sitting behind a desk with a laptop spotted us and, after informing her that we were there for the roadshow, demanded that we leave immediately.

“‘You can’t be here!’ she shouted while calling for security.

“Security arrived and, along with the Twitter representative, escorted us to the elevator, where two much larger members of the hotel’s security staff appeared to assist with our ejection.

“Later on, as the lunchtime presentation drew nearer and the crowded swelled, the security increased proportionally. No fewer than five security guards worked the lobby — three at the door, one in front of the elevator, and one in front of the hall leading to the fitness center. A gaggle of reporters from other outlets — The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters — sat around in comfortable-looking chairs.”

Read more here.

Kate Linebaugh

WSJ names deputy bureau chief for corporate coverage


Wall Street Journal corporate bureau chief Andrew Dowell sent out the following staff promotion on Tuesday afternoon:

I’m pleased to announce that Kate Linebaugh is taking over as deputy chief of the Corporate Bureau. Kate will help shepherd stories and lead reporters across all our beats – consumer products, retail, telecom, industrials and corporate governance – and starts her new job immediately.

Kate is a history major from the University of Michigan and a true citizen of the world. She joined Dow Jones Newswires in 1997 and spent the next three years reporting on the fall of Suharto, the collapse of Indonesia’s economy and the independence of East Timor, followed by stints with Bloomberg in Hong Kong and Afghanistan.

She joined The Journal in Hong Kong in 2004 as the regional investment banking and deals reporter and moved to the Detroit bureau in 2008 after completing the Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship. Since then she has written expertly about GE and uncovered a number of strange behaviors involving companies and their overseas cash.

Please join us in welcoming Kate to her new post.


Thomson Reuters earnings beat estimates; company will cut 3,000 jobs


Thomson Reuters, the parent company of the Reuters financial wire service, reported earnings Tuesday that beat analyst expectations, reports Jennifer Saba of Reuters.

Saba writes, “Excluding special items, the company reported a profit of 48 cents per share, beating Wall Street expectations by 4 cents.

“The company said it planned to take a $350 million charge to accelerate a cost-saving strategy, primarily in the Financial & Risk division. It will eliminate about 3,000 positions.

“Thomson Reuters Chief Executive Officer Jim Smith said in a statement that the company had sold more than 100,000 Eikon desktops to date.

“‘Though we continue to expect challenging conditions in the coming quarters – particularly with the largest global banks — these are significant steps in returning our financial business to a growth footing,’ he said.

“Smith had said he expected net sales in the Financial & Risk division to turn positive in the second half of this year. Net sales, which strip out cancellations, are an important indicator because they lag revenue by about 12 months.”

Read more here.


Apple profit down despite higher sales


In one of the more closely watched technology earnings, Apple Inc. said Monday that profit for the fourth fiscal quarter dropped despite higher iPhone sales. Let’s take a look at the coverage.

The Wall Street Journal has a mostly positive lead, pointing out pricing and sales were stabilizing:

Apple Inc. reported a third consecutive quarter of declining profits, but showed signs that both prices and profit margins are stabilizing despite heightened competition for its iPhone and iPad.

The company said it sold 33.8 million iPhones in the fourth fiscal quarter, ended Sept. 28, up 26% from the same period a year earlier.

The average selling price of an iPhone declined 6.6% from a year earlier, but less than 1% from the preceding quarter.

Revenue from the iPhone rose 17% from a year earlier and represented more than half of Apple’s quarterly total of $37.5 billion, which was up 4.2% from a year earlier. Apple released two new iPhones near the end of the quarter instead of one as in past years.

Those sales couldn’t stem a third consecutive slide in profit from a year ago for the Cupertino, Calif., company. Profit fell nearly 9% to $7.5 billion.

The New York Times story reported that most other companies would be thrilled to earn $7.5 billion – over a lifetime:

Apple’s profit remains the envy of the tech industry — and most other industries. But the slowdown of its growth has become a concern for some investors. Apple is counting on new products to improve its bottom line, especially during the coming holiday season, the most lucrative time of year for hardware makers. In September, the company released two new iPhones, and last week, it introduced new Mac laptops and two new iPads, the company’s popular tablets.

On the earnings call, Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said: “It’s going to be an iPad Christmas.”

And there is little doubt that iPads will sell in huge quantities in the next quarter. But there is doubt about which iPads will sell best — the new iPad Air, which is the larger and more expensive model, or the iPad Mini.

The Mini has become a popular choice among consumers since it was first released last year. But the device has a smaller profit margin than its more expensive cousins, and its high sales may be part of the reason behind a 13 percent decline in overall iPad revenue.

That decline in revenue, combined with flat sales, is particularly troubling at a time when the tablet market is still young and growing quickly. Apple sold 14.1 million iPads over the quarter, up barely from 14 million in the quarter a year ago. That is far from the pace of the market: manufacturers are expected to ship 184.4 million tablets in 2013, up from 120 million last year, according to Gartner.

The Financial Times reported on comments made about cash allocation as activist investor Carl Icahn pushes for more buybacks:

Apple said more than $36bn had been returned to shareholders in the past five quarters through dividends and share buybacks, as the company comes under pressure from activist shareholder Carl Icahn to scale up its cash return programme to $150bn.

Mr Cook said the board was engaged in an “ongoing” discussion about capital reallocation, and would “actively seek” feedback from investors on its future plans. “We will announce any changes to our programme in the first part of the new calendar year,” he said.

Apple said that with more than three-quarters of its cash now held offshore, its domestic cash reserves that are available for paying dividends and buying back shares have “stopped accumulating”.

“We have invested essentially all of the increase in net cash since the beginning of our capital return programme in 2012,” said finance chief Peter Oppenheimer.

Apple gave guidance on revenues for the crucial Christmas quarter of $55bn to $57bn, ahead of Wall Street’s current expectations, but with gross margins of 36.5 per cent to 37.5 per cent, on the lower end of analysts’ expectations.

Its stock initially fell 4 per cent in after-hours trading but then recovered to gain as much as 1 per cent, as Apple explained that margins would be closer to 38.5 per cent if not for the deferred revenues from its software giveaway.

The Forbes headline said that earnings failed to impress but led with the fact that they beat analysts’ expectations:

After reporting earnings that topped analysts estimates on demand for the iPhone and a forecast for the holiday shopping season that disappointed investors, Apple CEO Tim said the company expects that redesigned iPads will help deliver an “iPad Christmas” and said it still expects to release products in new product categories.

“If you look at the skills Apple has from hardware, software and services and an incredible app ecosystem— these set of things are very, very unique,” Cook said today when asked about plans to enter new markets. “We obviously believe that we can use our skills in building other great products that are in categories that represent areas where we do not participate today.”

Apple is being pressed to step up the pace of innovation and roll out new products to fend off new offerings by rivals including Samsung and Google. So far this year, it’s updated its MacBook notebooks, iMac desktop, iPhone, iPad tablets, Mac Pro high-end workstation as well as the software that powers those devices and computers. That software, including the iOS 7 and Macintosh operating systems, and iLife and iWork apps, are now available free to customers, a move that Cook said is aimed at making sure users have the latest version of its programs.

And it’s that ability to innovate that investors are seeking, especially as companies look to holiday sales to boost numbers. Earnings may have been down, but they’re still strong and Apple has room to capture more market share. No matter how you look at it, $7.5 billion is a lot of money.


Twitter IPO not drawing interest from CNBC.com readers


Allen Wastler, the managing editor of CNBC.com, writes that there’s not much interest from the business news website’s readers about the upcoming initial public offering by Twitter.

Wastler writes, “It’s true. We have all sorts of software (programs with names like Omniture and Chartbeat) that count visitors and Web traffic. They tell us what people are reading.

“And it ain’t about Twitter.

“For example, this past week Twitter set the offering range for its IPO—big news that set our CNBC newsroom a-buzzing. In the end, though, that story didn’t even bust our Top 10 for the day. Heck, even when we made it the featured story on the website, the best popularity rank it could sustain was third place, briefly. It went straight to 15th within the hour.

“Just check out the above chart we whipped up comparing the traffic on the Twitter IPO story with our top stories on Thursday. People were much more interested in banking troubles and Mark Zuckerberg’s real estate foibles.

“The story is the same for other major Twitter-in-the-news days. It never breaks the Top 10. Now you could argue that the Twitter news simply coincided with news that was more important (like Zuck’s living arrangements).

“But when you compare the reader attention paid to Facebook and LinkedIn stories on their respective “big news” days leading up to their IPOs, the argument falls flat. They hit the Top 10 every time.”

Read more here.


An in-depth look at Goldman’s giving


A New York Times story over the weekend took a look at corporate giving at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Once the poster child for greed and excess, Goldman is working to rehab its image by giving away more than $1.6 billion since 2008, the Times said.

It’s an interesting trend and the story takes a balanced look at the benefits and drawbacks of corporate philanthropy.

Here’s the beginning of the story:

Now Goldman executives say the firm wants to give something back. But Goldman also has been trying to polish its reputation with ordinary Americans and politicians in Washington. “Engaging wasn’t just the right thing, it was necessary, especially in the wake of the financial crisis when people said we weren’t doing enough,” said John F.W. Rogers, Goldman Sachs’ chief of staff, and a driving force behind the bank’s philanthropic efforts.

The shift is particularly noteworthy because Goldman — unlike most corporations with large charitable efforts — has no presence on Main Street.

And apparently some at Goldman as well as investors don’t like the generosity:

This has created bitterness among some employees — bitterness stoked by the favored status seemingly granted to Dina Powell, who runs the foundation. At a firm where pay is almost always tied to what money you bring in, Ms. Powell, who is in charge of giving money away, has made roughly $2 million annually in some recent years, according to people familiar with her compensation but not authorized to speak on the record. Her pay, which is considered high to some at the firm, is up there with some of the leaders of the best-paying charities, who receive between $1.8 million and $3 million, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Those inclined to look for signs of status also note that the 20-year-old daughter of Goldman’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein, worked as an intern in Ms. Powell’s department last summer.

Then there is the way Goldman has been going about its giving. Goldman is a firm that prides itself on discretion, but it isn’t giving away its billions quietly. It has bestowed the Goldman Sachs logo — and hundreds of millions of dollars — on two splashy programs, one that supports women in developing countries and another that helps small businesses. “It’s run as if it’s a Broadway show,” said one Goldman employee who asked not to be named because of a firm policy against speaking to the news media.

Corporate philanthropy might seem among the least controversial of topics, but it does raise questions for some shareholders. Warren E. Buffett, whose holding company Berkshire Hathaway is one of Goldman’s largest shareholders, says he fully supports the work of the Goldman charities, but is troubled by the principle of large-scale corporate philanthropy. After all, most of the money comes out of the firm’s profits — out of shareholders’ pockets.

The Nonprofit Times reported in early October that the majority of large companies were keeping corporate giving the same or increasing it in 2014 indicating that Goldman is actually inline with the rest of the corporate world:

Of Fortune 500 companies that make charitable gifts internationally, 81 percent either increased or maintained giving levels this fiscal year, and 86 will either maintain or increase giving levels next fiscal year. Local communities’ needs was the most influential factor for giving, cited by 78 percent of survey respondents, followed by the company’s business operations or financial performances, at 52 percent.

Those were some of the results from a study commissioned by Alexandria, Va. nonprofit Global Impact and carried out by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. The report, titled “Giving Beyond Borders: A Study of Global Giving by U.S. Corporations, looked at data from the top 100 Fortune 500 companies, and administered a survey to 59 companies, according to Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the Lilly Family School. Not all respondents answered all survey questions. The research was conducted between January and August of 2013.

Respondents from roughly one in five companies said the firms would expand their giving to more countries or regions during the next fiscal year, with 60 percent maintaining their current geographic focus. The study found that 60 percent of companies give globally or without geographic focus, while about one-quarter gave in a highly focused manner to one or two geographic regions.

Education was the top focus, with 69 percent of companies giving to education-focused nonprofits. Next were disaster relief, recovery and preparedness organizations, with 58 percent of companies giving in that area, followed by human services and public and society benefit, both at 55 percent.

And Goldman is particularly generous, the Times reported:

In 2012, Goldman gave $241.3 million to charity, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, making it the fourth-largest corporate giver in America. That is vastly more than it gave to charity before the real estate collapse — in 2006, the company donated $47 million to charity — and comes at a time when the pace of charitable giving in corporate America has slowed.

Goldman’s giving last year represents 3.9 percent of its 2011 pretax income, according to The Chronicle. In contrast, Wells Fargo, the country’s largest corporate philanthropist — and another investment held by Mr. Buffett — contributed $315.9 million to charity in 2012. But its philanthropy represented just 1.3 percent of its 2011 pretax profit.

The story goes on to chronicle the two highest profile programs Goldman sponsors, 10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses, both aimed at helping others achieve. While overall the article was balanced, I was surprised by how much of the argument against corporate giving was at the top. The story had a quote from Buffett questioning the amount near the beginning and closed with an anecdote from someone benefiting from the Goldman programs.

Covering corporate giving is an important piece of writing about a company. It would be interesting to compare the giving across industries. I do wonder if, for example, technology companies have stepped up giving as much as finance companies since 2008.