INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING
I. International accounting is an extremely broad topic.
A. At a minimum it focuses on the accounting issues unique to multinational corporations, especially with respect to foreign operations.
B. At the other extreme it encompasses the study of the various functional areas of accounting in all countries of the world, as well as the activities of a number of supranational organizations.
C. This book provides an overview of the broadly defined area of international accounting, with a focus on the accounting issues encountered by multinational companies engaged in international trade and invested in foreign operations.
II. There are several accounting issues encountered by companies involved in international trade.
A. One issue is the accounting for foreign currency-denominated export sales and import purchases. An important issue is how to account for changes in the value of the foreign currency-denominated account receivable (payable) that occur as exchange rates fluctuate.
B. A related issue is the accounting for derivative financial instruments, such as forward contracts and foreign currency options, used to hedge the foreign exchange risk associated with foreign currency transactions.
III. There is an even greater number of accounting issues encountered by companies that have made a direct investment in a foreign operation. These issues primarily result from the fact that GAAP, tax laws, and other regulations differ across countries.
A. Figuring out how to make sense of the financial statements of a foreign acquisition target prepared in accordance with an unfamiliar GAAP when making a foreign direct investment decision.
B. Determining the correct amounts to include in consolidated financial statements for the assets, liabilities, revenues, and expenses of foreign operations. The consolidation of a foreign subsidiary involves a two-step process: (1) restate foreign GAAP financial statements into parent company GAAP and (2) translate foreign currency amounts into parent company currency. Determining the appropriate translation method and deciding how to report the resulting translation adjustment are important questions.
C. Complying with host country income tax laws, as well as home country tax laws related to income earned in a foreign country (foreign source income). Double taxation of income is a potential problem, and foreign tax credits are the most important relief from this problem.
D. Establishing prices for intercompany transactions that cross national borders (international transfer prices) to achieve corporate objectives and at the same time comply with governmental regulations.
E. Evaluating the performance of both a foreign operating unit and its management. Decisions must be made with respect to issues such as the currency in which a foreign operation should be evaluated and whether foreign management should be held responsible for items over which they have little control.
F. Establishing an effective internal audit function to help maintain control over foreign operations. Differences in culture, customs, and language must be taken into consideration.
G. Deciding whether to cross-list securities on foreign stock exchanges, and complying with local stock exchange regulations to do so. This could involve the preparation of financial information in accordance with a GAAP different from that used by the company.
IV. As companies have become more multinational, so have their external auditors. The Big 4 public accounting firms are among the most multinational business organizations in the world.
V. Problems encountered by MNCs when confronted with different local GAAP in different countries leads to the desire for accounting harmonization. There would be significant advantages to MNCs if all countries used the same GAAP.
VI. The world economy is becoming increasingly more integrated. International trade (imports and exports) has grown substantially in recent years and has become a normal part of business for relatively small companies. The number of U.S. exporting companies more than doubled in the 1990s.
VII. The tremendous growth in foreign direct investment (FDI) over the last two decades is partially attributable to the liberalization of investment laws in many countries specifically aimed at attracting FDI. The aggregate revenues generated by foreign operations are twice as large as the revenues generated through exporting.
VIII. There are more than 60,000 multinational companies in the world whose 900,000 foreign subsidiaries generate approximately 10% of global GDP. A disproportionate number of multinational corporations are headquartered in the triad countries of the United States, Japan, and the European Union.
IX. The largest companies in the world are not necessarily the most multinational. Indeed, many large U.S. companies have no foreign operations. According to the United Nations, the two most multinational companies in the world in 1998 were Canadian.
X. In addition to establishing operations overseas, many companies also cross-list their shares on stock exchanges outside of their home country. There are a number of reasons for doing this including having access to a larger pool of capital.
Answers to Questions
1. In 2003, companies worldwide exported over $7.5 trillion worth of merchandise. Although international trade has existed for thousands of years, recent growth in trade has been phenomenal. Over the period 1991-2003, U.S. exports increased from $422 billion to $724 billion per year, a 72% increase. During the same period, Chinese exports increased 600% to $438 billion in 2003. From 1990 to 2001, global gross domestic product increased 27% while during the same period total global exports increased 75%.
2. Companies engaged in international trade with imports and exports denominated in foreign currencies are faced with the accounting issue of translating foreign currency amounts into the company’s reporting currency and reporting the effects of changes in exchange rates in the financial statements.
3. As listed in Exhibit 1-1, following are several reasons why companies might want to invest overseas:
• Increase sales and profits
• Enter rapidly growing or emerging markets
• Reduce costs
• Protect domestic markets
• Protect foreign markets
• Acquire technological and managerial know-how
4. FDI is playing a larger and more important role in the world economy. Global sales of foreign affiliates were about twice as high as global exports in 2003, compared to almost parity about two decades earlier. Global sales of foreign affiliates comprises about one tenth of worldwide gross domestic product.
5. Financial reporting issues that result from foreign direct investment are (a) conversion of foreign GAAP to parent company GAAP and (b) translation of foreign currency to parent company reporting currency to prepare consolidated financial statements. In addition, supplementary disclosures about foreign operations might be required.
6. Two major taxation issues related to a foreign direct investment are (a) taxation of the investee’s income by the host country in which the investment is located and (b) taxation of the investee’s income by the investor’s home country. Companies with foreign direct investments need to develop an expertise in the host country’s income tax rules so as to minimize the amount of taxes paid to the host country, as well as in the home country’s tax rules with respect to foreign source income.
7. Companies must make several decisions in designing the system for evaluating the performance of foreign operations. Two of these are (a) deciding whether to evaluate performance on the basis of foreign currency or parent company reporting currency and (b) deciding whether to factor out of the performance measure those items over which the foreign operation’s managers have no control.
8. Two reasons to have stock listed on the stock exchange of a foreign country are (a) to obtain capital in that country, perhaps at a more reasonable cost than is available at home, and (b) to have an “acquisition currency” for acquiring firms in that country through stock swaps.
9. The United Nations measures the multinationality of companies based on the average of three factors: the ratio of foreign sales to total sales, the ratio of foreign assets to total assets, and the ratio of foreign employees to total employees. Information about foreign sales, foreign assets, and the number of foreign employees might be provided in a company’s annual report or other publications through which a company provides information to the public.
10. A single set of accounting standards used worldwide would have the following benefits for multinational corporations:
• Reduce the cost of preparing consolidated financial statements
• Reduce the cost of gaining access to capital in foreign countries
• Facilitate the analysis and comparison of financial statements of competitors and potential acquisitions
Solutions to Exercises and Problems
1. Sony uses the following procedures to translate the foreign currency financial statements of its foreign subsidiaries into Japanese yen:
• All assets and liabilities are translated at the year-end exchange rate
• All income and expense accounts are translated at the exchange rate prevailing on the transaction date
• The resulting translation adjustment is included in accumulated other comprehensive income (stockholders’ equity)
[Students familiar with U.S. GAAP will recognize this approach as being procedures required by FASB Statement No. 52 for foreign subsidiaries with a foreign currency as their functional currency.]
Sony uses the following procedure to translate foreign currency payables and receivables into Japanese yen:
• All foreign currency receivables and payables are translated into Japanese yen at the year-end exchange rate
• Changes in the Japanese yen value of foreign currency receivables and payables are reported as gains and losses in income
[Students familiar with U.S. GAAP will recognize this as being the approach required by FASB Statement No. 52 in accounting for foreign currency payables and receivables.]
2. Sony has intercompany transactions that result in one affiliate paying foreign currency to (or receiving foreign currency from) another affiliate. The company uses foreign exchange forward contracts and foreign currency option contracts to fix the local currency value of the foreign currency that will be paid to (or received from) the affiliate. Sony does this for transactions that have already occurred (receivables and payables), as well as for transactions that are expected to occur (forecasted). For example, assume that Sony Mexico purchases goods from the parent company in Japan on February 1 with payment of 50 million Japanese yen to be made on March 31. Sony Mexico could enter into a two-month forward contract on February 1 that fixes the number of Mexican pesos it will need to pay to acquire 50 million Japanes yen on March 31. Alternatively, Sony Mexico could purchase a foreign currency option on February 1 that expires on March 31 that would give the company the option to purchase yen on that date at a predetermined price.
In addition, Sony uses forward contracts to fix the amount of local currency it will need to expend to be able to repay foreign currency loans (debt). For example, assume Sony has a loan of 10 million Swiss francs that comes in six months, and the company is concerned that the Swiss franc might appreciate against the Japanese yen during that period. The company could buy 10 million Swiss francs six-months forward thereby fixing the Japanese yen price that will be paid when the debt matures.
3. a. The BRL pre-tax income becomes a USD pre-tax loss because Sales and Expenses are translated at different exchange rates. Specifically, Sales are translated at an exchange rate of USD0.30/BRL and Expenses are translated at an exchange rate of USD0.347368/BRL.
b. The question is whether Acme Brush should use BRL income or USD income to evaluate Cooper Grant’s performance. There is no unequivocally correct answer to this question. Issues that might be discussed include:
• What is the Brazilian subsidiary’s objective? To generate profits that can be distributed to U.S. stockholders?
• Does Cooper Grant have the ability to “control” USD income?
• Do the translation procedures that result in a USD pre-tax loss make economic sense?
4. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) provides a list of non-U.S. companies listed on the exchange on its home page (www.nyse.com) under the heading “International.” Note: The answers to a. and b. provided below were as of March 1, 2005. The instructor should update these answers to the current date.
a. At March 1, 2005, the NYSE had 525 Non-U.S. Companies from 46 Countries.
b. At March 1, 2005, the foreign countries with the most companies listed on the NYSE were: Canada (85); U.K. (64); Brazil (37); Bermuda (35); Netherlands (26).
c. Companies in Canada, Brazil, Bermuda, and the Netherlands probably have listed on the NYSE to tap into the much larger U.S. capital market. The reasons for U.K. companies to list on the NYSE are less clear.
5. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) provides a list of all companies listed on the exchange on its home page (www.londonstockexchange.com) under “Prices and News,” “Statistics,” “List of Companies.” Note: The answers below come from an Excel spreadsheet “Companies Listed on the London Stock Exchange – At 31st January 2005,” after deleting those countries whose “Country of Origin” is the U.K. The instructor should update these answers to the current date.
a. The Excel spreadsheet lists 469 foreign companies. Sorting by country, these companies represent 57 different countries.
b. Australia (30), Brazil (0), Canada (41), France (3), Germany (10), Mexico (0), and the United States (61). Four reasons why there are more companies listed on the LSE from Australia and Canada than from France and Germany might be:
• Language – the LSE might require information filed with it to be in English, a requirement easier for Australian and Canadian companies to meet.
• Accounting rules – the LSE might have disclosure and other reporting requirements that companies in Australia and Canada find easier to meet than companies in France and Germany.
• Number of publicly traded companies – even though there are more people in France and Germany, there might be more publicly traded companies in Canada and Australia. The percentage of publicly traded companies listed on the LSE might actually be the same across the four countries. For example, 30 Australian companies might be the same percentage of total publicly traded companies in Australia as is 10 companies in Germany.
• Size of local capital market – large firms in France and Germany might have no problem obtaining sufficient capital locally; Australia and Canada might have relatively small capital markets and large companies might need to obtain financing in international markets.
c. Non-U.S., non-U.K. companies listed on both the NYSE and the LSE include:
Australia: BHP Billiton Limited; Coles Myer; National Australian Bank; News Corporation
Bermuda: Frontline LTD
Canada: Alcan; Barrick Gold Corp; Bank of Nova Scotia; INCO;
Chile: Banco de Chile
China: China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation
France: Lafarge; Total SA
Germany: Allianz AG; BASF; Bayer; Deutsche Bank; Siemens
Ghana: Ashanti Goldfields
Greece: Hellenic Telecom. Organization SA; National Bank of Greece
Indonesia: P.T. Telekomunikasi Indonesia
Ireland: Allied Irish Banks; Elan Corp; Bank of Ireland
Japan: Honda Motor Corp; Konami Corp; Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp; Sony Corp; TDK Corp; Toyota Motor Corp.
Luxembourg: Espirito Santo Financial Group SA
Netherlands: ABN Amro Holdings NV; AEGON NV; Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV; Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. NV; TPG NV; Unilever NV
Norway: Norsk Hydro
Panama: Banco Latinoamericano Exportaciones SA
Russian Federation: A.O. Tatneft
South Africa: Anglogold; Goldfields Ltd; Harmony Gold Mining Co; Sappi Ltd
South Korea: SK Telecom Co LTD
6. Astra-Zeneca has an MNI index of 0.78; Roche has an MNI index of 0.91. Based on year 2002 data, Roche would have been one of the ten most multinational companies in 1998.
Astra-Zeneca Net operating
Turnover assets Employees MNI
UK 3,964 3,101 10,700
Continental Europe 6,674 4,805 22,600
The Americas 10,464 1,004 17,800
Asia, Africa & Australia 1,742 958 6,400
22,844 9,868 57,500
Foreign/Total 0.826 0.686 0.814 0.78
Geographical information Sales Segment assets Headcount MNI
Switzerland 532 5,272 8,569
European Union 9,067 11,872
Rest of Europe 1,439 494 23,982
North America 11,297 16,194 17,988
Latin America 2,393 1,493 5,816
Japan 2,243 4,229 6,381
Rest of Asia 1,805 679 5,169
Africa, Australia and Oceania 949 273 1,754
29,725 40,506 69,659
Foreign/Total 0.98 0.87 0.88 0.91
CASE 1: Besserbrau AG
Besserbrau AG is faced with international accounting issues related to four different types of activities:
1. International Trade: Imports from Czech Republic; exports to China
• Translation of foreign currency payables and receivable resulting from import and export transactions.
• Account for foreign currency forward contracts and foreign currency options used to hedge foreign exchange risk related to foreign currency payables and receivables
2. Foreign direct investment in China
• Conversion of BB Pijio’s profit from Chinese GAAP to German GAAP.
• Translation of BB Pijio’s profit from Chinese currency (renminbi) to German currency (euro).
• Chinese taxation of income earned in China.
• German taxation of income earned in China.
• Evaluation of BB Pijio’s performance
3. Pricing of intercompany sales made by Besserbrau (Germany) to BB Pijio (China)
• Compliance with German and Chinese transfer pricing regulations.
4. Cross-listing on London Stock Exchange
• Compliance with London Stock Exchange financial reporting requirements.
CASE 2: Vanguard International Growth Fund
1. Individual investors can diversify the risk associated with investing in companies in only one country by investing in mutual funds that invest in the stock of foreign companies.
2. According to information provided in the fund’s prospectus, the International Growth Fund is subject to:
• investment style risk, which is the chance that returns from the types of stocks in which it invests will trail returns from the overall stock market.
• stock market risk, which is the chance that stock prices overall will decline over short or even long periods.
• manager risk, which is the chance that the advisers will do a poor job of selecting the securities or countries in which the Fund invests.
• country risk, which is the chance that domestic events – such as political upheaval, financial troubles, or natural disasters – will weaken a country’s securities market.
• currency risk, which is the chance that investments in a foreign country will decrease in value if the U.S. dollar rises in value against that country’s currency.
The first three risks (investment style, stock market, manager) are common to both domestic and international funds. International funds are also subject to country and currency risks:
3. The fact that foreign companies are not subject to the same accounting, auditing, and financial reporting standards and practices as U.S. companies presents the risk that the information made available by foreign companies is not as reliable or as useful in making investment decisions as information provided by U.S. companies.
4. The fund’s assets are distributed by region as follows: Europe (60%), Pacific (28%), Emerging Markets (10%). This allocation might be affected by the number of firms listed on stock exchanges in those regions; relative risks – country and currency – across regions; relative growth potentials across regions; and/or differences in the quality and quantity of information provided by companies for making investment decisions.
5. The fund is most heavily invested in the U.K. (28%), Japan (24%), France (11%), Switzerland (5%), and Italy and South Korea (4%). The reasons why these countries are so heavily represented are similar to those listed in d. above.
One might have expected more investment in Germany, similar to the amounts in Switzerland or France.
The fund is not invested in any Canadian or Mexican companies, which one might have expected.
6. The fund is most heavily invested in the following industries: financials, consumer discretionary, and industrials. These industries might be the most profitable or have the highest growth potential. As a regulated industry, financials might provide more reliable information for making investment decisions.
CASE 3: Nestlé Group
1. Nestlé has an equity investment in a company or companies in most of the major countries of the world. Some (but not all) of the countries in which the company does not have a foreign direct investment include:
• Europe: Latvia, Estonia.
• Asia: Iraq, Iran, Mongolia, Laos, Kazakhstan.
• Africa: Angola, Libya, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia.
2. The top five countries in terms of the number of companies in which Nestlé has an equity interest (full consolidation, proportional consolidation, and/or equity method) are: France (21); Greater China Region (includes PRC, Hong Kong, Taiwan) (20); Japan (19); Germany (14); and Russia (13).
3. The different accounting methods used by Nestlé to include its companies in the consolidated financial statements are (1) full consolidation, (2) proportionate consolidation, and (3) equity method.
4. Based on the summary of companies included in Nestlé’s consolidated financial statements, the company operates in more than 70 different currencies around the world; 17 in Europe alone.
5. In preparing consolidated financial statements, the major accounting issues associated with foreign operations are converting from local company GAAP to parent company GAAP, and translating foreign currency financial statements to parent company reporting currency. The large number of countries in which Nestlé’s companies are located increases the number of local GAAPs that must be converted and the number of local currencies that must be translated.
6. The major risks associated with investments in foreign countries are (1) currency risk and (2) country (or political) risk. By investing in companies located in many different countries, Nestlé has diversified these risks associated with foreign operations.
7. By making foreign direct investments (rather than exporting only), Nestlé creates jobs for local workers and reduces the cost of its products making them more affordable in local markets.