All Losses Are Not Alike: Real versus Accounting-Driven Reported Losses
59 Pages Posted: 19 May 2021 Last revised: 16 Sep 2021
Date Written: May 16, 2021
We examine the value relevance of accounting-driven losses that result from the immediate expensing of firms’ internally-generated intangible investments vs. losses occurring irrespective of intangible investments. Contrary to the long-held view that losses are irrelevant for valuation, we find that once the accounting bias of intangibles-expensing is undone, earnings of firms reporting intangibles-related losses are as informative as earnings of profitable firms. Contrary to the view that persistent losses decrease earnings relevance, our evidence shows no decrease in the relevance of earnings for firms reporting persistent intangibles-related losses. We also find that firms reporting intangibles-related losses outperform other loss firms and even profitable firms in value creation from technological innovation and human capital. Our evidence further shows that firms reporting intangibles-related losses have stronger future performance than other firms. Taken together, the results of this study demonstrate the fundamental differences between losses driven by the immediate expensing of internally-generated intangible investments and losses reflecting genuine business performance shortfalls. Standard accounting reports, however, do not properly reflect these differences and their implications.
Keywords: Earnings, Losses, Intangibles
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation