Quarterly financial reports to go away: UK and EU remove requirements for quarterly financial reports

Quarterly financial reports to go away: UK and EU remove requirements for quarterly financial reports Voluntary quarterly reporting? Quarterly financial reports: can they be the trees which obscure long term growth of the forrest?

Voluntary quarterly reporting?

Quarterly financial reports: can they be the trees which obscure long term growth of the forrest?

As a Board Director of a Japanese company traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange I have to study and approve monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports, and I share responsibility for the future success of the company.

It is obvious that the longterm success and growth of the company is the most important priority for all stake holders. So how useful are quarterly financial reports? Lets look at some recent developments and at an example below from our Report on Japan’s Telecommunications Industries.

UK setting the trend!

Britain’s leading economist, Professor John Kay, created the Review of UK Equity Markets and Long-Term Decision Making which he reported to the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in July, 2012.

Motivated by Professor John Kay’s report, the UK regulator removed the requirement for companies to publish quarterly financial reports.

Mark Zinkula, CEO of Legal & General Investment Management, one of UK’s largest investment management firms, around 8 June 2015 wrote a carefully worded letter to 350 UK company Chairmen, recognizing that each company has different circumstances, and encouraging them to report the most meaningful key metrics and to omit reporting quarterly financial results if these don’t contribute to longterm value creation. You can download Mark Zinkula’s letter as a pdf file here.

Martin Lipton, of the NY law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in an article published on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation blog encourages the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to keep the UK developments in mind, when reforming the reporting requirements for US corporations.

The European Union (EU) reduced the reporting requirements including the requirement for quarterly financial reporting.

Will Japan and other important countries such as USA follow this trend as well?

Quarterly financial reports: pro’s and con’s

Essentially all well managed companies have fine grained financial management systems which document the financial position of the company at any moment in time.

As an example, when Kazuo Inamori rebuilt Japan Airlines from bankruptcy, he created a reporting system which calculates the profit/loss of every single flight in real time: i.e. when a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo arrives in San Francisco, the pilot and everyone else knows before landing in San Francisco whether this particular flight was profitable or not – while before Japan Airlines bankruptcy, profit/loss (mainly losses for the last years leading up to bankruptcy) was determined on a full company basis every 3 months in arrears. Read Kazuo Inamori’s talk here. Clearly Kazuo Inamori thinks that such fine grained profit/loss awareness is a crucial component for Japan Airlines’ revival from bankruptcy.

Its obvious that for today’s IT systems the creation of quarterly financial reports from such fine-grained measurement systems such as Kazuo Inamori had installed at Japan Airlines does not cause much additional effort or costs once the coding is done.

Quarterly financial reports: trees vs. the forrest

Quarterly financial reports can be complicated to understand for highly cyclical industries: lets have a look at the quarterly vs annual reports of Japan’s mobile operators from our Report on Japan’s Telecommunications industries.

The figures below show exactly the same financial data – the net income (= profit) of Japan’s mobile operators NTT-Docomo, SoftBank and KDDI over the last 10-15 years:

  • Upper Figure: quarterly net income (thick curves) vs annual net income (thin curves)
  • Lower Figure: quarterly net income (thin curves) vs annual net income (thick curves)
Net income of Japan's mobile operators: quarterly results (thick curves) vs annual results (thin curves)
Net income of Japan’s mobile operators: quarterly results (thick curves) vs annual results (thin curves)
Net income of Japan's mobile operators: quarterly results (thin curves) vs annual results (thick curves)
Net income of Japan’s mobile operators: quarterly results (thin curves) vs annual results (thick curves)

It is hard to draw conclusions from quarterly income curves above. Most eye-catching is that SoftBank’s quarterly income results became much more fluctuating in the last two years. Its hard to judge the relative performance of Docomo, SoftBank and KDDI from the quarterly income curves.

Annual net income curves give a much clearer picture. Annual figures clearly show that SoftBank caught up and overtook Docomo and KDDI in net profits.

As Mark Zinkula points out that every company and every industry is different. In the case of Japan’s mobile operators, annual figures give a clearer picture.

Will quarterly financial reports become voluntary and go away? They might partly in the UK, and maybe also in other countries. As so often in finance, the UK sets the global trends.

Quarterly financial reports & the Toshiba accounting issues

Quarterly financial reports can be the trees and annual reports the forrest… seeing the forrest can be more important than seeing individual trees

Would focus on annual and long-term performance have prevented Toshiba’s accounting issues?

Copyright (c) 2015 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Toshiba income restatement: corresponds to one full year of average operating income

Toshiba income restatement

Toshiba’s income restatement announced by the independent 3rd party committee

Independent 3rd party committee chaired by former Chief Prosecutor of Tokyo High Court

On 12 June, 2015, Toshiba announced corrections to income reports, and at the same time engaged an independent 3rd party investigation committee headed by former Chief Prosecutor at the Tokyo High Court, Mr Ueda, to investigate. This independent 3rd party committee submitted their report yesterday, and held a Press Conference this evening.

Lets look at the announced Toshiba financial data in detail. The figure below shows:

  • Toshiba’s previously reported operating income/profits (blue curve),
  • corrections announced by an internal committee on June 12, 2015 (green curve),
  • corrections announced by the independent 3rd party committee on July 20, 2015 (red curve).

The combined amount of downward corrections determined by the independent 3rd party committee is YEN 151.8 billion (US$ 1.22 billion) in total.

Lets put this amount into context:

  • annual sales: approx. YEN 6000 billion (US$ 60 billion)
  • annual operating income (average over last 17 years): YEN 148 billion (US$ 1.5 billion)
  • annual net income (average over last 17 years): YEN 19 billion (US$ 190 million)

Therefore the downward correction summed over the years corresponds to:

  • approx. 2.5% of average annual sales
  • approx. 103% of average annual operating profits, ie more than a full year of average operating profits
  • approx. 8 years of net profits

Toshiba – typical for Japan’s large electronics corporations – operates with razor-thin profit margins: Toshiba’s net profit margin averaged over the last 17 years is 0.25%.

Therefore, the downward correction corresponds to 8 years of average net income/profits.

Toshiba's corrections: internal investigation (June 12, 2015, green) vs independent 3rd party committee (July 20, 2015, red)
Toshiba’s corrections: internal investigation (June 12, 2015, green) vs independent 3rd party committee (July 20, 2015, red)
  • Blue curve shows Toshiba’s initially reported operating income.
  • Green curve shows corrections determined by an internal examination, announced on June 12, 2015. Corrections amount to approx. YEN 50 billion (= approx. US$ 0.5 billion).
  • Red curve shows corrections determined by the independent 3rd party commission, chaired by former Tokyo High Court Chief Prosecutor Ueda and announced on July 20, 2015. Corrections amount to YEN 151.8 billion (= approx. US$ 1.22 billion)

Detailed data and analysis in our Report on Japan’s electronics sector (25th edition).
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Toshiba accounting restatements in context

Toshiba accounting restatements in context

July 21, 2015: Update – report of the independent 3rd party committee chaired by former Chief Prosecutor of the Tokyo High Court.

Corrections amount to 2 1/2 years (31.5 months) of average annual net profits

Sales stagnation combined with almost zero net profit of Japan’s top 8 electronics companies creates increasing pressure to improve performance: top 8 electronics groups stagnate while Japan’s top-7 electronics parts makers thrive

Toshiba over the last few weeks published a number of announcements, and corrections to these announcements concerning accounting issues. Toshiba also engaged internal and independent external expert commissions to analyze possible accounting discrepancies, these committees have made preliminary announcements.

At a recent Press Conference, the CEO of the Japan Exchange Group (JXP) which includes the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Mr Atsushi Saito, said that “he feels very much ashamed for Toshiba”, and that “he cannot understand how Toshiba can be so lazy about their accounting”.

To understand Toshiba in the context of Japan’s electronics industry, read our report on Japan’s electronics industry sector:
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Toshiba in the context of Japan’s electronics industry sector: top-8 electronics groups stagnate while electronics parts makers thrive

Japan’s top-8 electronics giants – including Toshiba – have essentially stagnated for the last 17 years with negligible growth and negligible profits. Japan’s top 8 electronics groups combined have sales approximately as large as the economy of The Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the big difference is, that in the 17 years since 1998, the economy of The Netherlands has approximately doubled, while Japan’s top 8 electronics companies have not grown their sales at all over these 17 years. Expressed in Japanese YEN, the combined sales of Japan’s top 8 electronics companies in FY1998 is about the same as in FY2014.

Japan’s electronics parts makers are a very different story: similar to The Netherlands, Japan’s top-7 electronic parts makers have grown to more than twice the size over the 17 years from FY1998 to FY2014. Some of the Japanese electronics parts makers have growth targets which should allow them to overtake Japan’s current incumbent electronics groups!

To understand Japan’s electronics sector, read our report.

The stagnation of sales growth combined with almost zero profits over 17 years of Japan’s top 8 electronics groups, of which Toshiba is one, certainly puts much pressure on Japan’s electronics groups to improve performance. This pressure might be the background of accounting issues.

Lets look at the actual Toshiba financial data in detail

The figure below shows Toshiba’s previously reported operating income/profits (blue curve), and the recently announced preliminary corrections (red curve). The combined amount of downward corrections is about YEN 50 billion (US$ 0.5 billion) in total.

Lets put this amount into context (financial data from our Report on Japan’s electronics industries):

  • annual sales: approx. YEN 6000 billion (US$ 60 billion)
  • annual operating income (average over last 17 years): YEN 148 billion (US$ 1.5 billion)
  • annual net income (average over last 17 years): YEN 19 billion (US$ 190 million)

Therefore the downward correction corresponds to:

  • approx. 0.8% of average annual sales
  • approx. 33% of average annual operating profits
  • approx. 2 1/2 years (31.5 months) of net profits

Toshiba – typical for Japan’s large electronics corporations – operates with razor-thin profit margins: Toshiba’s net profit margin averaged over the last 17 years is 0.25%.

Therefore, the downward correction corresponds to 31.5 months of average net income/profits.

Toshiba accounting corrections amount to approx. 33% of average annual operating income

Toshiba operating income: previously announced (blue) vs preliminary corrections (red)
Toshiba operating income: previously announced (blue) vs preliminary corrections (red)

Read our report on Japan’s electronics industry sector:
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