Relevant to ACCA Qualification Paper P2
The quality of candidates’ performance in the Paper P2, Corporate Reporting case study varies widely. Some clearly understand what is required of them, while others struggle – and it is often lack of technique, rather than a lack of technical knowledge, that undermines their answer.
This article attempts to give some advice on how to attempt the Paper P2 case study, and I have included an illustrative question example based on a past exam question.
Case study format
The examiner has 50 marks to play with, but tends to split the marks strictly between 35 marks for calculations and 15 marks for narrative. The usual format is:
The 35 marks for Part (a) are based around a group accounting problem, but the question will also draw from many other areas of the syllabus and certainly will not be exclusively groups.
You will see my answer in the following example has almost no narrative. In an exam, where you have limited time to score as many of the 35 marks as you can, it’s important to keep your number answer to the point.
The remaining 15 marks of narrative for Parts (b) and (c) are often the easiest part of the entire exam. The main reason that students score low in these is because they do not do them. This is presumably because they spend too long on Part (a), and so leave little time to attempt the narrative in Parts (b) and (c). Time management is vital in this exam, and you should allocate times to each part according to the number of marks on offer within that part.
Here is an example of a question and answer.
The following draft statements of financial positions relate to Rodders, a public limited company, Tommy, a limited company, and Jimmy, a limited company, as at 30 November:
It is the group’s policy to value the non-controlling interest at fair value. The following information is relevant to the preparation of the group financial statements:
(a) Prepare a consolidated statement of the financial position of the Rodders Group as at 30 November. (Round answer to nearest $1m)
Following consolidation, a non-executive director reviews the draft financial statements of the group and queries the impairment of the mid subsidiary, Tommy. He notes that Tommy has grown since acquisition and cannot understand the need for an impairment.
(b) Comment on the director’s comments above regarding impairment.
Finally, the non-executive director has become aware of the attempt to mask the relationship with Jimmy described in paragraph (ii) above. He is concerned that such behaviour by his fellow directors is likely to have a negative impact on market perceptions of the group should the information ever be leaked.
(c) Comment on the director’s comments above regarding the relationship with Jimmy.
(Total 50 marks)
I would tend to approach answering this question by starting with Parts (b) and (c).
Part (b) 1 mark per point (any reasonable point scores)
Growth means profitability and it is unusual for a profitable sub to suffer an impairment.
An impairment in goodwill occurs if the recoverable value of the whole sub falls below carrying value.
The recoverable value is the higher of value in use (VIU) and fair value less costs to sell (essentially net realisable value (NRV)).
Both these two look forward, whereas profit looks backward. It is possible for a sub to have a bleak future but a profitable past.
An example would be a sub that has a profitable pharmaceutical product that is just coming out of its copyright period. The projected flood of generics would hit VIU very hard.
Example further explained
So in the above example, a pharmaceutical business may have little tangible assets and so a minimal fair value (NRV). Now that the reduced sales give a very low VIU, the recoverable value could fall below the carrying value and the bleak future of the sub would result in an impairment. Part (c) 1 mark per point.
Control is the power to direct activities. It is the ability to make an entity do what you want.
Of course, a subsidiary is an entity over which the parent has control.
There is a tendency for accountants to think that majority ownership constitutes control. This is not the case. Majority ownership constitutes majority ownership. Rodders has cleverly and cynically used this misunderstanding to pretend it does not control Jimmy.
Control of Jimmy is understood by looking at the voting. Rodders controls 20% of the votes directly and another 40% of the votes through Tommy. So Rodders controls 60% of the votes, can force through a majority resolution and therefore has control of Jimmy.
The ownership is 48%. So Rodders has a 48% sub with a 52% NCI .
The attempt to mask the relationship with Jimmy is a form of creative accounting. It is sometimes called ‘quasi-sub accounting’ because it attempts to avoid treating a sub like a sub.
It is the main creative accounting scam that was used by Enron. If the market discovered that Rodders is behaving like Enron, it is very likely to react negatively.
However, the acquisition was two years ago. So, hopefully , Jimmy was consolidated as a sub last year-end. In which case, I think that the initial attempt at creative accounting is too old to really matter to the market. But if Jimmy has never been consolidated Rodders has a big problem. Careful spin will be required to confess to the control of Jimmy now.
Now I would start with the Part (a) number answer.
The following two explanatory notes are just that, and are certainly not required in the exam.
First the FVA
Note that the FVA is calculated as a balancing figure. Note also that the FVA is depreciating over 10 years, three of which have passed, with seven remaining.
Second the inventory (iv)
The actual sale proceeds are used because the sale is an adjusting post balance sheet event. The correcting double entry is:
Dr retained earnings 20
Cr inventory 20
This is required of course.
The goodwill impairment is split between the parent and the NCI based on the ownership of shares, regardless of the ownership of goodwill. So this impairment is split 70%/30%.
Again, these notes are purely for your learning benefit and are not required in the exam.
Discount error (v)
Discount error = (3/4)(8) = (6)
The erroneous recognition of the discount in the income statement has caused a corresponding overstatement of NCA of $8m at the year start. But NCA is depreciating, so the error is itself depreciating. Over the year $2m of error has dropped off the B/S into the income statement as depreciation. So only $6m is still left on the B/S in net assets at the year-end. The correcting double entry is:
Dr discount (i/s) 8 (to remove the erroneous discount)
Cr tangibles (B/S) 6 (to get the NCA back to where they should be)
Cr depreciation charge (i/s) 2 (to strip out the over-depreciation)
Repayment fee (vi)
The repayment fee is a cost.
The announcement creates a constructive obligation to pay out the $3m. No such obligation applies to the $1m.
Exam strategy comment
Note that you can score very high marks even completely ignoring paragraphs (v) (vi) and (vii). Truthfully, paragraphs (vi) and (vii) are fairly easy and really you should put those adjustments through. But paragraph (v) is very tricky, so given the time pressure of an exam, I would recommend you ignore that paragraph. You will still score 32/35. But for completeness, here is the story be hind the $6m deduction to PPE. The original overvaluation of PPE was $ 8m at the year start as given. However, the error has depreciated with the PPE. So one quarter ($2m) has depreciated off the b/s and three quarters remains ($6m).
The above is designed to give you a feel as to how to attempt the Paper P2 case study. I would recommend you deal with the narrative first and then quickly crunch through the numbers without over-elaborating on explanation or getting bogged down by the tricky bits. However, it is important to note that however you approach the question, you need to have careful time management so that you can give enough time to each part of the question.
Martin Jones is a lecturer at London School of Business and Finance