Quality of earnings: explanation and real-world examples

Quality of earnings: explanation and real-world examples

Key Takeaways:

Earnings quality analysis is a critical aspect of financial reporting analysis, aiming to uncover how a company generates its income and ensure adherence to accounting standards.
Manipulating net income can hide financial problems, so it’s important to report finances transparently following GAAP rules.
Financial due diligence includes three main analyses: Earnings Quality, Debt, and Working Capital, which are the foundation of due diligence.
Adjustments made in one pillar can impact the others, demonstrating the interconnectedness of these financial aspects.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from the United States plays a pivotal role in overseeing the disclosure of financial information, ensuring transparency and fairness in financial reporting.

Have you ever wondered what the Quality of earnings represents? Why is it important to understand it completely? Our experts have prepared you the detailed reporting analysis, insights and real-world examples!

Let’s begin by explaining what evaluating earnings quality is and why it matters.

Earnings Quality and Financial Reporting Analysis

Evaluating earnings quality is a crucial aspect of financial reporting analysis. It involves analyzing how a company makes money, separating cash and non-cash sources, and finding any accounting irregularities. 

This examination is essential for gauging corporate financial health. A big worry is when companies manipulate their net income to hide financial problems. 

To be transparent and follow GAAP rules, examining earnings quality is important, as it can affect investment choices.

Understanding Earnings Quality

Before any business deal, it’s vital to conduct thorough financial due diligence to ensure accuracy. Are you truly getting what you expect, or could there be hidden issues?

Financial due diligence (FDD) involves three critical analyses:

Quality of Earnings (QofE)
Net Debt
Net Working Capital (NWC)

These are the pillars of FDD. We want to identify crucial aspects of the business. We also want to uncover any hidden funds. 

Additionally, we need to ensure accurate accounting practices. Lastly, we must record all transactions within the appropriate time frame.

Changes in one pillar can affect the others. In general, balance sheet items above EBITDA are part of NWC. Items removed from QofE and NWC with cash implications in the current or near future are part of net debt.

Earnings Quality in Due Diligence

Earnings quality ensures revenue or expenses are from core business activities, not one-time events. We determine sustainable earnings to ensure fair pricing, often based on multiples.

Earnings quality is crucial in FDD. Enterprise value is often influenced by FDD-adjusted EBITDA rather than management’s figures. 

Even small EBITDA adjustments can significantly affect the deal price. For example, a $100,000 EBITDA reduction can cut $1 million from a 10x EBITDA deal.

In the U.S., the SEC regulates financial information disclosure for transparent and fair reporting, including assets and quick ratios.

Real-World Examples of Quality Earnings

Here are some of the most reliable examples of Quality Earnings that will help you understand all this better:

Executive Summary and Financial Statement Analysis

QRS LLP, external auditors, are assisting XYZ Capital Partners in their due diligence process. This process aims to acquire ABC Co and a portion of DEF Co. 

Evaluating earnings reliability is important. It means checking financial statements to make sure they show the true financial performance of the companies being evaluated. 

This goes beyond only considering net income. It also considers factors such as one-time income and potential manipulation of earnings per share.

Key Issues and Recommendations

Revenue: One of the main concerns is the significant revenue spike in 2017 due to the Amazon contract. While this may have boosted earnings, its sustainability and impact on earnings reliability need careful consideration. 

Additionally, it’s essential to look for any potential earnings per share manipulation that could affect the perceived financial health of the companies.

Balance Sheet: Another critical aspect is allocating the purchase price to tangible assets. This allocation can significantly impact tax benefits and must be assessed thoroughly to ensure the accuracy of financial reporting.

Income Statement and Nonrecurring Income

In 2017, ABC experienced a substantial increase in revenue, primarily attributed to the Amazon project. 

Irregular income can affect earnings and may not accurately reflect the company’s long-term financial performance. Understanding the nature of this income and assessing its impact on the reliability of earnings is vital.

Balance Sheet and Tax Benefits

When allocating purchase price, assigning more value to physical assets can lead to tax benefits according to GAAP standards. 

The decision should be based on the actual value of the assets. This should also take into account its impact on taxes and financial statements.

Earnings Quality Conclusion

The Quality of earnings report is instrumental in uncovering potential risks and gains in the acquisition process. It shows worries about relying too much on one client, like Amazon, and how nonrecurring income affects earnings reliability. 

The report’s suggestions are not mandatory, but they provide useful information to the buyer and the company being bought. This helps them make informed choices about the deal according to GAAP rules.

Earnings Quality Adjustments – Explanation

In Quality of Earnings (QofE) analysis, critical adjustments shape financial insights:

Discontinued Operations: Adjust revenue, costs, and NWC. Sources: management disclosures, public reports.
One-off Revenue/Cost (Above EBITDA): Adjust if unrelated to core activities. Sources: management disclosures, seasonality analysis.
Items Not in Current Year: Review year-end provisions, accruals, and audit adjustments.
Run-Rate for Revenue/Costs: Adjust for changes. 
Transactions at Non-Market Rates: Consider ethical, tax, and legal issues.

Case Study: Fashion Retail

Fashion X, a US-based retailer (IFRS), had:

December year-end
20% EBITDA growth
Expected 10x EBITDA deal
New store setup costs above EBITDA, with initial losses and potential accounting anomalies.


ONE-OFF STORE SETUP COSTS: $20,000, one-time expenses affecting FY18 and FY19 line items.
SIX-MONTH LOSS FOR NEW STORES: $100,000 losses reversed in QofE, addressing accounting anomalies.
ANNUALIZED PROFIT FOR NEW STORES: Factored in expected higher revenue in the company’s financial statements.
LOSS-MAKING STORE SALE: Costs and losses reversed as it’s not part of the acquisition, impacting line items.
CONTINGENT CONSIDERATION TIMING: Adjusted for accrual timing in financial statements.

These adjustments provide a different earnings perspective, impacting negotiations.

A Word of Caution

Financial due diligence enhances your position but needs to be foolproof. Deals may prioritize strategic rationale, especially in the U.S., where the Securities and Exchange Commission governs financial disclosures and line items.

Bottom line

Evaluating earnings quality is important in financial reporting for public companies to ensure transparency and reliable financial information. 

The test examines more than just net income. It also investigates how a company generates revenue. This includes distinguishing between cash and non-cash sources. 

It also involves identifying any accounting irregularities that might impact future performance and the debt-to-equity ratio. 

Assessing earnings quality is crucial for accurately gauging a publicly traded company’s overall financial health, as it helps prevent net income manipulation and provides valuable insights into the company’s total assets and debt structure.

The post Quality of earnings: explanation and real-world examples appeared first on FinanceBrokerage.

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