Nedskrivning av goodwill – problematiken med fria tyglar i bedömningen
Sammanfattning: Background and Discussion: In the year of 2005, the accounting standard-setting organization of the IFRS Foundation, IASB, revised its regulation regarding impairment of goodwill, disallowing further amortization of the asset. Since then, yearly impairment tests have been the only adequate method to decrease its value after the acquisition is finalized. Studies show that this has increased the possibility for firms to use goodwill while manipulating their earnings. The discount rate, which is of paramount importance when valuing goodwill, is also claimed to be determined in an opportunistic fashion to influence the impairment test of goodwill. The purpose of this study is to examine to what extent firms are using this as an earnings management technique.Methodology: A quantitative study has been developed after breaking down the research questions into three separate hypothesises. T-tests, Rank-Sum-test as well as three different regression models has been performed on Swedish publicly traded companies through the period of 2008-2013, capturing the years of the financial crisis (2008-2010) and the recovery period thereafter.Analysis and Conclusion: The performed models indicate that earnings management does occur through goodwill in publicly traded Swedish companies. There is a particularly strong relationship between firms with severely low – pre-impairment – earnings and the frequency of goodwill impairments imposed. Furthermore, the size of the impairments tends to be greater for firms with greatly depressed earnings. Regarding the discount rate, however, no relationship could be identified between its manipulation and the outcome of the impairment test. Neither could a strong indication be found, whether firms sidestep goodwill impairments to avoid negative earnings (referred to as “small profits” in the thesis). The only indication that this type of earnings management occur is that those firms who were able to reach the small profits threshold tend to avoid larger write-offs of goodwill. Since this study exclusively examines accruals management which only has an impact on the financial reports, further research of real activities management is encouraged. Including this may lead to more accurate findings on earnings management in Swedish listed firms during the years of the financial crisis and its aftermath.
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