Image courtesy DollarPhotoClub
(Cross post from my other blog, Attestation Update. I usually post comments on accounting theory there. This issues carries over directly to the nonprofit community. Consider the ongoing discussion on the mis-focus on ‘overhead’ and the need for some sort of outcome measures for the charity world and you can see how this applies.)
Consider this idea: perhaps GAAP-based accounting numbers aren’t giving stock investors all the information they need.
What is wrong with this picture?
In April, Netflix announced their earnings fell short of analysts’ expectations. Usually that would drop the stock price. What happened?
Nexflix stock jumped 18%.
What could cause that? The market supposedly has incorporated the consensus into the price. Missing the expectation should drop the price.
Consider this: At the same time, Netflix announced their new-subscribers were 4.9 million instead of the expectation of 4.0M.
That means they will have stronger earnings for the next several quarters than was expected the day before the announcement. Thus, the stock price rose.
Investors looked at the new subscriber tally as a better indicator of future earnings and thus future stock price than this quarter’s GAAP net income. New subscribers is more important than EPS.
If you wonder are wondering why GAAP EPS isn’t the driving force in that story, here is a brain stretcher for you:
“The End of Accounting”
Professors Baruch Lev and Feng Gu point to The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers in their June 21 Wall Street Journal article.
You can find the book at Amazon here. It is a bit steep, $32 in hardback and $26 in Kindle format, which is really high for an e-book. I already have a copy on my e-reader. Started reading it yesterday.
The professors suggest that reported earnings under GAAP are losing relevance for investors as we move further and further away from an industrial economy. When know-how, processes, patents, using the internet, and other intangibles are the source of income, GAAP doesn’t report useful information for figuring out future earnings.
By the way, keep in mind that providing historical information to readers of the financial statements to allow them to make estimates of future earnings and cash flows of the company is, like, sorta’, kinda’, the purpose of GAAP financial statements.
The problem with GAAP
Some drawbacks in looking at GAAP numbers, according to the professors:
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