Car giants take different exits off the IFRS highway

Despite IFRS being introduced to create comparability, a survey of major car
company accounts found that only those with a ‘certain level of accounting
understanding’ would be able to make meaningful comparisons, said Philip
Robinson, senior accounting analyst at Moody’s.

In its study, Moody’s said: ‘An examination of the companies’ annual reports
reveals several accounting differences particularly as regards key measures such
as Earnings Before Interest Tax and Amortisation, debt and pensions.’

The key differences on pensions are whether to include pension payments
within the income statement. Companies can report pension costs wholly within
earnings or partly outside as a financing item.

Equally, actuarial assumptions on mortality rates and investment returns can
vary, making it difficult to compare companies’ positions.

Leases (where the company is a lessee) deemed to be of a financing nature ­
for example, the long-term rental of a property ­ are required to be capitalised
and reported on the balance sheet under both IFRS and US GAAP.

For these leases, the proportion of the amount paid to the property owner
that represents a finance cost is removed from earnings and reported as an
interest expense in the income statement.

In contrast, those leases deemed to be of an operating nature ­ for example,
rental of a property for a three-year period ­ are off-balance sheet under both
IFRS and US GAAP, and the entire amount paid to the lessor is included in

Differences in the classification of leases could consequently affect the
comparability of earnings, according to Moody’s. For example, BMW reported
future off-balance sheet lease payments of more than 1.4bn euros, but only 77m
euros of its leases were recognised as an expense. Renault had 404m euros of
off-balance sheet leases, but 250m euros appeared on the income statement.

Moody’s added: ‘There is little consistency in the items included in (and
excluded from) EBITA, debt and net debt.’


Vodafone gets $2bn tax demand

The deal that secured control of Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth largest
mobile group, has landed buyer Vodafone with a $2bn (£989m) tax demand. Vodafone
has received a letter from India’s Income Tax Department asking for unpaid
capital gains tax on the $11.1bn Hutchison deal.

Vodafone confirmed receipt of the letter, but said it was confident that its
case was strong. ‘We have had clear legal and tax advice that no tax is payable
either by Vodafone Essar or any other member of the Vodafone group and will
defend our position vigorously,’ a spokesman said.

Skilling to appeal conviction

Enron’s former CEO Jeffrey Skilling is appealing his conviction for the role
he played in the collapse of the former US energy giant. Skilling’s attorney
Daniel Petrocelli filed a motion in the US Court of Appeals on Friday, almost a
year after his client was ordered to serve more than 24 years in prison. In May
2006, Skilling and Enron chairman Kenneth Lay were convicted of fraud. However,
Lay died a month later of a heart attack, removing his conviction and indictment
from the record.

Casino man lands DTZ FD prize

Global property firm DTZ Holdings has appointed Colin Child – the finance
director of the UK’s largest casino operator Stanley Leisure – to be its new
group FD. Child will join the company on 17 September and the board on 4
October. He was FD at Stanley Leisure from 2004 to 2007. Previously, he held
similar roles at Fitness First and National Express Group. The appointment
follows DTZ’s announcement on 11 April 2007 that Tim Maynard had decided to
‘seek new challenges outside the group’.

GKN makes high-flying Seeger its FD

William Seeger joined FTSE 250 company GKN in 2003 as the CFO of its
aerospace business, a role he held until June 2007 before his promotion to
president and chief exec of the division’s propulsion systems and special
products department.

GKN chairman Roy Brown said: ‘I am very pleased to welcome Bill Seeger to the
board of GKN. His wide-ranging international experience of financial management
in both the automotive and aerospace industries makes him ideally suited to the
role of group FD.’ Seeger’s appointment becomes effective as of 10 September. He
replaces Nigel Stein.

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Fiona Westwood of Smith and Williamson.