More and more of the largest companies in the United States are using their favorite nonstandard accounting metrics to forecast earnings, and as long as the Securities and Exchange Commission allows it, they’ll continue to do it. For example, Newell Brands Inc., which makes Sharpie markers and Rubbermaid containers, forecasts that a key measure of […]
Wells Fargo analysts are raising estimates for some of the biggest players on Wall Street, but don't go thinking that business is going well: The increased earnings estimates on Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are not due to underlying business improvements. Wells Fargo remains convinced that the quarter will be […]
Last we heard from Patrick Byrne, the Overstock.com CEO and Farmville enthusiast, he had just disposed of 140,000 shares of OSTK via High Plains Investments, LLC, an entity 100% owned by PB. This had a few people scratching their heads, including us.
At the time, we wondered why Patsy would need to dump the shares, especially after all the excitement the company generated by turning their first profit ever in 2009 and a profitable Q1. We were hoping that the KPMG engagement team – that was doing such a bang-up job – would get some new Segways to cruise SLC but pesky independence rules probably got in the way of that.
Regardless, Q2 wasn’t expected to be a showstopper but when asked, Patsy wasn’t worried, telling Investor’s Business Daily, “Given that in 2009 we had close to $40 million of free cash flow (and $8 million net income), I think we should just continue building the intrinsic value of the business right now.”
Well! The Company reported its Q2 earnings after the close yesterday and, um, they missed the numbers badly. The $0.02/share loss expected by analysts was tripled with a loss of $0.06/share. As you might expect, the shares are taking a beating and Byrne nemesis Sam Antar finds this just a little bit fishy:
[N]ine days after Q2 2010 ended, Byrne led investors to believe that Overstock.com was going to break even in that quarter by citing previous year’s free cash flow numbers. However, Byrne did not mention that Overstock.com’s free cash flow for the six months ended June 30, 2010 was negative $54.8 million compared to negative $35.8 million in the previous year’s comparable perid [sic] or about $19 million lower.
So, there’s that. OH! And the $3 million in shares. Don’t forget that.
H&R Block announced its earnings for fiscal 2010 yesterday which included the details for the fka RSM McGladrey. The company’s press release basically says that times are tough but RSM had some good reasons for that.
For starters, the small tiff with M&P sort of put a damper on things and a nasty goodwill write-off:
RSM McGladrey reported fiscal 2010 pretax income of $58.7 million, down nearly 39 percent from $96.1 million in the prior year. Revenues declined 4.2 percent to $860.3 million, primarily due to the impact of the overall weak economic environment, which continues to pressure billable rates and hours within the industry. Profitability was negatively impacted by costs associated with previously resolved arbitration proceedings involving McGladrey & Pullen and other costs of litigation totaling $14.5 million in the aggregate, as well as a $15.0 million goodwill impairment charge at our capital markets business unit.
A 39% drop in profits could explain the nationwide layoffs at McGladrey that we reported on earlier this month. It’s a good thing they didn’t have the ginormous golf cake in this year’s numbers, otherwise the results would have been worse.
But if you ignore all that, things were essentially flat and everyone knows that flat is the new up!
Excluding these charges, pretax income would have been approximately $88 million and pretax margin for the segment would have been 10.3 percent, essentially flat with the prior year. The shortfall in revenues was partially mitigated by cost reduction efforts throughout the year. These efforts included headcount reductions to reflect lower client demand, as well as other non-client facing cost reduction initiatives.
OH! There’s the layoffs and they’re citing “lower client demand.” Thoughts on that, anyone?
H&R Block Reports Fiscal 2010 Financial Results [Market Wire]
“Though more needs to be done, we are seeing some signs of stabilization in the housing market, including house prices and sales in some key geographic areas.”
~ Charles Haldeman, CEO of Freddie Mac. The “more needs to be done” includes additional government funds.
First of all, the charge is an estimate of future costs and will have no immediate impact on cash flow. And the estimate is unusually large because the accounting rules require costs that would otherwise be reported in the future to be reported now, simply because they are the result of a change in tax treatment.
As my former colleague Marie Leone reports at CFO.com, such “true-ups” over differences in tax and book accounting practices are just that. The real cost will be spread out over many quarters.
More importantly, the hit is the result of a loss of a major taxpayer subsidy. Maybe it made sense before to provide that. But given all the concern about the federal deficit, it seems to me that asking shareholders to bear a bit more of the burden for retiree drug benefits is hardly unfair.
And in the greater scheme of things, the hit may be so small as to have little impact on companies’ valuations, as a Credit Suisse analyst pointed out the other day. General Electric didn’t even break out its estimate for that reason, calling the cost “immaterial.”
The question is whether companies will stop paying for the benefits because of the cost, and that’s unlikely unless they’re willing to compensate for the loss with higher wages, as economist Dean Baker reiterated to me in an email late last week.
“The standard economist view is that the cost of health care comes overwhelmingly out of wages,” Baker wrote. “If they have to pay more in taxes, then it will mostly come out of workers’ pay and have very little impact on their costs and ability to compete.”
If on the other hand, a decline in healthcare costs leads to higher wages, that would mean a stronger economy, so I don’t see how either taxpayers or shareholders will lose here in the long run.
Yes, that’s a big if, but as I’ve said before, the new healthcare law is the biggest effort to rein in costs undertaken to date. Of course more must be done, but the law will provide a big impetus to those efforts.
Hopefully, all this will become clearer as a result of the hearings Rep. Henry Waxman plans to hold next week on this issue, but I’m not holding my breath.
Yes, yes. There’s plenty of iPad talk going on out there but we’ll resist the urge and focus on the numbers here.
Ron Fink wrote back in September about concerns over new accounting rules for revenue recognition doing little more than providing more areas of confusion for investors.
Under the new rules, companies can book revenue based on estimated sales prices for all the components of “bundled deliverables” all at once instead of on their current fair value. The expectation is that the rule will boost upfront earnings for tech companies whose products combine hardware and software.
Well, on Monday night, Apple made its first quarterly earnings report under the new rules and they certainly gave the tech darling a boost, but it’s unclear whether it will ultimately confuse investors. Indeed, they were likely distracted by Apple raking in $3.4 billion in net income for the quarter ended Dec. 26, up 50 percent from a year earlier.
Apple went to great lengths to explain the effect of the rules on its financial statements. The company revised its financial statements for each quarter from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2009, the period it’s been selling both the iPhone and Apple TV, which it had previously used subscription accounting for because it periodically provides free software upgrades and features for them.
Under subscription accounting, revenue and associated product cost of sales for iPhone and Apple TV were deferred at the time of sale and recognized on a straight-line basis over each product’s estimated economic life of 24 months. This resulted in the deferral of significant amounts of revenue and cost of sales related to iPhone and Apple TV. The changes had the effect of slimming the company’s balance sheet considerably. Assets at the end of its fiscal year 2009 were reduced by $6.4 billion and liabilities were cut by $10.2 billion, giving a $3.8 billion boost to shareholders’ equity.
And in reconciling its first quarter 2009 to the new accounting standard, Apple showed net sales got a nearly 17 percent boost, while its cost of sales went up just 11 percent. That had the effect of stretching gross margins from 34.7 percent to 37.9 percent.
Apple, which wasn’t required to adopt the new rule until the first quarter of its fiscal 2011, certainly is not objecting to the change. In its earnings conference call Monday, CFO Peter Oppenheimer said, “We are very pleased by the FASB ratification of the new accounting principles as we believe they will better enable us to reflect the underlying economics and performance of our business and therefore we will no longer be providing non-GAAP financial measures.”
At least that’s what we’re guessing.
“EBay Inc., owner of the most visited U.S. e-commerce Web site, reported second-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates, a sign that Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe’s turnaround efforts are working.”
Whatevs. We’d argue beauties like this are the reason for the good Q.
EBay Profit Beats Estimates in Sign That Turnaround Is Working [Bloomberg]
• Bernanke Sheds Light on Exit Strategy – “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shed light Tuesday on the toolkit the central bank can employ to unwind its crisis measures, but he made clear to lawmakers that the economy remains too weak to start tightening monetary policy.” Better than no exit strategy [WSJ]
• CIT Expects Loss of $1.5 Billion, May Seek Bankruptcy – “CIT Group Inc., the 101-year-old commercial lender seeking to avoid collapse, said it expects to report a loss of more than $1.5 billion for the second quarter and may need to file for bankruptcy if it’s unable to tender for notes maturing next month.” [Bloomberg]
• Apple’s quarterly profit tops forecasts – The good results… [Reuters]
• Yahoo sees drop in income from operations this quarter – …and the bad. [Reuters]
• Which Of Alan Greenspan’s More Quotable Quotes Will Bite Him In The Ass On The Big Screen? [DealBreaker]
• The Goldman Way to Celebrate: a Parody – Well played LB. Well played. [DealBook]