Accounting Change On Operating Leases To Add $3 Trillion In Debt To Corporate Balance Sheets

Meanwhile, the biggest impact of the accounting change may be the mere removal of yet another tool that management teams use to 'game' their financial statements.









It's conceivable therefore that IFRS 16 will affect corporate decisions on whether to rent or purchase an asset. Consider sale and lease-back arrangements. These were once a popular way for companies to get their hands on some cash and a quick chance for executives to make themselves look like geniuses. All of a sudden, return on assets improved.


 


Now, if all that rented floor space has to sit on the balance sheet anyway, selling off the corporate silverware might become less attractive. Buying big ticket assets, rather than leasing, is also cheaper now because of low interest rates.


 


Another approach may see some companies partly embrace shorter lease terms to minimize the balance sheet liability, according to Ruxandra Haradau-Doser, aviation analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux. Shorter leases are already common in retail, albeit for different reasons. With sales migrating online, retailers want more flexibility to close stores. IFRS 16 could accelerate that.


 


The accounting changes could also lead to more volatility in financial results, according to James Stamp, a partner at KPMG. Airlines typically take out aircraft leases in U.S. dollars. If the carrier's domestic currency weakens against the dollar, its liabilities would suddenly increase and it would have to take a currency hit against earnings. Stamp thinks demand for hedging will rise.



And you thought things couldn't get much worse for retailers...







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