FTSE 100 firms criticised for not getting the net

Leading UK business names face criticism in a new survey for their use of the internet when communicating with shareholders.

A new survey has criticised the UK's top companies for their use of the web when communicating with shareholders.

The study of FTSE 100 companies - carried out by SmithsInteractive.com - criticises the corporations for their lack of online interactivity, often sacrificing searchable, navigable HTML-based content for the simplicity of a single downloadable PDF document.

As well as design and layout features, the companies' performance was matched against the 'best practices' identified by the Investor Relations Society (IRS), for company financial reports.

These include such things as the presence of search functionality, links to other parts of the corporate website, same day publication for both online and offline versions, and the full report and financial statements being available online.

In the study of 2006 statements, the best rated online report came from Aviva: "This is in part because they have the most best practice features, and, not settling for that alone, are also remarkably good at engaging their readers," said the report.

At the wrong end of the table you can find BA - "who simply offer a 110 page PDF document" - and DSG International (owner of Dixons and Currys) - "who provide a numbing 128 pages in a single download."

"Bringing the company strategy to life in reporting is becoming ever more important," claim the authors.

"Companies can do it at conferences, even road shows, so why not online?"

The study identifies two major ways in which online reporting can be improved. First, the ability to search for specific facts (for example, the chief executive's remuneration) more easily than with a printed report. Second, investors and prospective shareholders want to understand the company's strategy.

"Regulators around the world see a company's website as a key tool in providing fair disclosure and equal access to information," said SmithsInteractive.

"Reporting online effectively and efficiently - and making the report accessible to anyone with a web browser - is part of a company's responsibility to shareholders."

Back in April, incidentally, the IRS itself awarded Scottish Power PLC with the title 'Best Website FTSE 100', as part of its Best Practice Awards

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