Goodwill impairments may not identify impaired goodwill

Failed acquisitions do not always result in goodwill impairments. Management optimism is part of the problem, but so is application of the impairment test in a way that maximises the shielding effect of other assets. This reduces the value of goodwill impairments for investors.

Analysing the success or failure of M&A is important to assess management stewardship. We applaud the IASB’s proposal for more disclosure, but also believe the goodwill impairment test needs a critical review. Some use the ‘too little, too late’ character of impairment to advocate re-introducing goodwill amortisation. We do not agree.

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Don’t rely on APMs, disaggregate IFRS – GlaxoSmithKline

Alternative performance measures (APMs) can be helpful for investors, but not necessarily the figure itself. It is the disaggregation of performance that is the real benefit. Focusing solely on adjusted measures means you will miss important aspects of profitability.

We explain how you can use APMs to better understand performance, but without missing key elements. In our view this approach would provide a better basis for investor forecasts, as we demonstrate by disaggregating the IFRS earnings of GlaxoSmithKline.

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Should you ignore intangible amortisation? – AstraZeneca

Like many companies, AstraZeneca excludes intangible asset amortisation from its adjusted performance metrics. The stock currently trades at a price earnings ratio of 23x based on ‘core’ 2018 earnings, but without the add back the PE would be about 37x. Is the add back justified? And if so do companies add back the right amount?

The intangible amortisation problem in equity analysis arises from the inconsistency between the accounting for purchased and self-developed intangible assets. We argue that the accounting treatment of subsequent expenditure, either capitalised or expensed, determines the appropriate adjustment to reported earnings.

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Deferred tax fails to reflect economic value – Vodafone

Most deferred tax adjustments in financial statements help investors – but not always. The ‘economic value’ of deferred tax assets arising from unused tax losses may be significantly less than the balance sheet figure. However, as a consequence, profit forecasts may be understated, potentially leading to an undervaluation by investors. 

We estimate that if the £24bn deferred tax asset of Vodafone were discounted to an economic value then it would instead be closer to £8bn, but forecast profit would rise by about £500m.

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