Modesty no doubt forbids my fellow columnist Brian Tora from mentioning the fact but his firm, Greig Middleton, has launched a fund analysis research service on the Internet.

But before you reach for your browser to bookmark it, I should point out that it will cost you pounds 6,000 a year to subscribe! Greig Middleton is pitching a highly technical and detailed research tool at professional intermediaries and fund managers.

However, the launch of this service, together with an inquiry from a reader, turned my thoughts this week to research more generally. A member of an investment club has been given the task, this month, of researching the banking sector for the club's next purchase and has asked me how to go about this online.

All major companies now have corporate websites of varying usefulness for the private investor. Most will have archives of their press releases and results for you to peruse. Taking a look at these sites will give you a feel for the way in which a company perceives itself.

More detailed information is also readily available, with several websites offering share price information. Unless you are actually trading minute- by-minute over the Internet, real-time pricing is less important than access to a historical database. For research and analysis purposes it is more useful to know how a company's share price has performed over the past five years than over the past five minutes.

Several of the online brokers already offer you access to this kind of information but it is also available to those who do not trade via the Internet through a number of websites. Among the most directly useful for pure equity research is the site run by Hemmington Scott. This began as an adjunct to the admirable books which the company publishes containing detailed historical results for all UK-listed companies. But, since then, it has grown in stature.

Hemmington Scott now offers its own free Internet Service Provider on: hemscott.net. Signing up to use this ISP gives you all the usual features you would expect - a number of mail boxes, web space, local charges and so on. But, for our purposes, you also get free access to news from the AFX newswire service, the regulatory news service (RNS) of the Stock Exchange, detailed broker forecasts together with information on the directors' share dealings.

It may well be that you are quite happy with the Internet access which you already have. Even if that is so, you can still check out a watered down version of what hemscott.net offers via Hemmington Scott's UK Equities Direct website pages.

For those who feel they may not be waving but drowning in the Internet's sea of information, there are useful "freebies" to be had from all kinds of sources. Although it is pitched primarily at investors in the United States, it may be worth checking out the investment research available on the Multex Investor Network. Membership is free.

Elsewhere, Global Investor has launched a new financial freebies website designed solely to list the free books, newsletters, software and other financial products which are available to the private investor. Among the goodies currently on offer: a compilation of sample chapters from forthcoming John Wiley financial books; a demo CD of the fast-moving game, Wall Street Trader; a sample issue of the high-tech newsletter Techinvest; one month's free trial of the London traded options research bulletin The Technical Review and a sample issue of Small Company Investor newsletter. You may request as many freebies as you want by clicking a box next to each product and inputting an e-mail and postal address. Hard copy products, such as a CD Rom or newsletter, should arrive by post within days.

UK Equities Direct: www.hemscott.com

Multex Investor Network: www.multexinvestor.com

Financial Freebies: www.Financial-Freebies.com

Robin can be reached at RobinAmlot@aol.com

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