Forewarning disclosures, the “known trends or uncertainties that have had or that the registrant reasonably expects will have a material favorable or unfavorable impact on net sales or revenues or income from continuing operations” are one of the topics we discuss occasionally in our blog posts. This MD&A disclosure can be very problematic because the information disclosed may alarm investors or make management nervous about creating a “self-fulfilling prophecy”.
We are always watching how companies deal with these issues, and here are two examples from both ends of the potential disclosure spectrum.
The first example, dealing with goodwill impairment, is from a company that has been in the news a lot lately, Yahoo. Along with all the issues they have dealt with involving their investment in Alibaba, Yahoo continues to work on building their core business. As part of this process in June of 2013 they acquired Tumblr, the blog-hosting website. The purchase price was $990 million and in connection with the acquisition Yahoo recorded $749 million in goodwill. (See note 4 about acquisitions in the consolidated F/S in the 2015 10-K)
Fast forward the acquisition to December 31, 2015 and in note 5 to the consolidated F/S dealing with impairments Yahoo says:
As identified above, in step one, in 2015, the carrying value of the U.S. & Canada, Europe, Tumblr and Latin America reporting units exceeded the estimated fair value. The Company completed an assessment of the implied fair value of these reporting units, which resulted in an impairment of all goodwill for the U.S. & Canada, Europe, and Latin America reporting units and a partial impairment for the Tumblr reporting unit. The Company recorded goodwill impairment charges of $3,692 million, $531 million, $230 million and $8 million, associated with the U.S. & Canada, Europe, Tumblr, and Latin America reporting units, respectively, for the year ended December 31, 2015. The impairments were a result of a combination of factors, including a sustained decrease in our market capitalization in fourth quarter of 2015 and lower estimated projected revenue and profitability in the near term.
So, from June 2013 to December 31, 2015 the $749 million in Tumblr related goodwill was reduced by $230 million. In the tech world, these things happen.
But what about the future? In an interesting spot, Critical Accounting Estimates in their 2015 10-K MD&A Yahoo included this statement:
Given the partial impairment recorded in our Tumblr reporting unit in 2015, it is reasonably possible that changes in judgments, assumptions and estimates we made in assessing the fair value of goodwill could cause us to consider some portion or all of the remaining goodwill of the Tumblr reporting unit to become impaired, which comprised $519 million of our remaining $808 million goodwill balance as of December 31, 2015. In addition, a future decline in market conditions and/or changes in our market share could negatively impact the estimated future cash flows and discount rates used in the income approach to determine the fair value of the reporting unit and could result in an impairment charge in the foreseeable future.
This is a direct warning, using the S-K words “reasonably possible”.
Here is the second example. These comments are from a letter to a retailing company, and you can see the SEC is asking whether the company effectively dealt with an uncertainty in their future:
- Please expand this section to discuss any known material trends, events or uncertainties that have had or are reasonably expected to have a material impact on your liquidity or revenues or income from continuing operations. In this regard, we note (i) persistent comparable store sales decreases in fiscal year 2014 and through the first three quarterly periods of 2015 and (ii) that the company has scaled back its previously planned strategic retail expansion for fiscal year 2016 and beyond.
We also note management’s concern, as expressed in recent earnings calls, regarding the cannibalization effect from new retail stores, coupled with softer than expected new store performances. Please discuss whether you expect comparable store sales to continue to decrease, due to continued cannibalization or otherwise, and the short and long-term actions that you are taking to address any perceived trends. In this regard, your discussion should address your past and future financial condition and results of operation, with particular emphasis on the prospects for the future. See Item 303(a) of Regulation S-K and SEC Release No. 33- 8350.
One really interesting part of this comment is how the staff went well beyond the company’s filings to information disclosed in earnings calls.
As always, your thoughts and comments are appreciated!