The Potential Impact of Enforced Lease Capitalisation in the UK Retail Sector
University of Stirling, Department of Accounting, Finance & Law, Discussion Paper No. 01/01
34 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2001
Date Written: August 2001
The main objective of the paper is to assess the potential economic consequences of the G4+1 proposed changes to lease accounting by examining companies in the UK retail sector over the 1994-99 period. The magnitude of the impact of lease capitalisation is assessed by examining the effect on nine key accounting ratios that are used in decision-making and in financial contracts. A 'constructive capitalisation' procedure is used to estimate the unrecorded lease liability and asset.
Operating lease finance is shown to be very important in the retail sector, with a long-term liability approximately 3.3 times higher than on-balance sheet long-term debt; by contrast, finance leases are immaterial. Operating leased assets, the major part of which is 'land and buildings' (98%), represent a significant proportion (28%) of reported total assets. Capitalisation of operating leases would have a major impact on all nine ratios. Further, the ranking of companies changes markedly for asset turnover, interest cover and the three capital-based gearing measures, and especially for general retailers.
Using credit-risk adjusted discount rates would lessen slightly the impact of capitalisation, but would have little impact on intra-sector ranking of company performance. Anticipation of future lease rental increases would have a significant impact on the level of operating lease assets/liabilities and on profit after tax. While the use of renewable short lease contracts (or break clauses) would reduce the level of operating lease assets and liabilities, substantial amounts would remain to be reported on-balance sheet. These findings contribute to the assessment of the economic consequences of a policy change requiring operating lease capitalisation. Prior research suggests that individual users of financial statements are not efficient information processors, and also that company managers do not believe that users, even in aggregate (e.g. the stock market) are efficient processors. Consequently, the significant changes in the magnitude of key accounting ratios and the major shift in company performance rankings suggest that interested parties' economic decisions are likely to be affected.
Keywords: Economic consequences; Lease accounting; Operating leases; Retail, G4+1
JEL Classification: M41, M44, G32, L81
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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By Eva Huang