On 17 September 2012, the Financial Reporting Laboratory (the Financial Reporting Lab) published a project report on ‘net debt reconciliations’. The Financial Reporting Lab was launched in October 2011 by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and in November 2011, the FRC listed net debt reconciliations as one of its initial list of topics to be covered. The project report shows how some companies are defining net debt and disclosing various cash and non-cash movements that might not otherwise be apparent from the financial report. The Financial Reporting Lab worked with five companies (BT Group, National Grid, Royal Dutch Shell, Vodafone and Xchanging) who provided illustrative excerpts from their annual reports (including a net debt reconciliation, a reconciliation of net cash flows to net debt, or both) to be used in a series of discussions with investors to identify those voluntary practices that investors find useful, indicating why this is the case and how the information is used.
According to the project report, a strong majority of investors indicated they use a net debt reconciliation or reconciliation of net cash flows to net debt in their analysis when one is presented, and given the importance, attempt to construct them when they are not. The two typical uses of these reconciliations are equity valuations and analysis or ‘investigation’ which involves looking into perceived problems with debt or equity. The project report also lists the characteristics of reconciliations investors feel are most helpful. The Financial Reporting Lab encourages companies to consider whether the suggested approaches described are relevant to their own circumstances, and if so, to enhance their reporting to meet investors’ needs more fully. It argues that more dialogue and development of enhanced disclosure is needed in this area.
Readers of the project report are invited to comment on its content and presentation as any feedback will be taken into account in producing two further reports on debt and cash flow disclosure scheduled in the near future.
(Financial Reporting Laboratory: Report on net debt reconciliations, 17.09.12)