Friday, March 28, 2008

The balance sheet, part II

This is the second part of the balance sheet series. I'm hoping to get into more detail about assets in this part. Hopefully this can be helpful. Read the previous part here.

Current assets
Cash and equivalents 3,415
Accounts receivable
Inventory 5,699
Other current assets
Total current assets $23,244
Non-current assets
Property and plant
Total non-current assets
Total assets $34,959

Fixed and current assets

In accounting, assets are generally divided into fixed and current assets. Fixed assets (or non-current assets) and investments, such as buildings and equipment, will continue to be used by the business for a long time. Current assets are things that will probably be used by the business in the near future. They include cash -money available to spend immediately, debtors - companies or people who owe money they will have to pay in the near future, and stock.
If a company thinks a debt will not be paid, it has to anticipate the loss - take action in preparation for the loss happening, according to the conservatism principle. It will write off, or abandon, the sum as a bad debt, and make provisions by charging a corresponding amount against profits: that is, deducting the amount of the debt from the year's profits.


Manufacturing companies generally have a stock of raw materials, work-in-progress - partially manufactured products - and products ready for sale. There are various ways of valuing stock or inventory, but generally they are valued at the lower of cost or market, which means whichever figure is lower: their cost - the purchase price plus the value of any work done on the items - or the current market price. This is another example of conservatism: even if the stock is expected to be sold at a profit, you should not anticipate profits.

Tangible and intangible assets

Assets can also be classified as tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets with a physical existence - things you can touch - such as property, plant and equipment. Tangible assets are generally recorded at their historical cost less accumulated depreciation charges - the amount of their cost that has already been deducted from profits. This gives their net book value.
Intangible assets include brand names - legally protected names for a company's products, patents - exclusive rights to produce a particular new product for a fixed period, and trade marks - names or symbols that are put on products and cannot be used by other companies. Networks of contacts, loyal customers, reputation, trained staff or 'human capital', and skilled management can also be considered as intangible assets. Because it is difficult to give an accurate value for any of these things, companies normally only record tangible assets. For this reason, a going concern should be worth more on the stock exchange than simply its net worth or net assets: assets minus liabilities. If a company buys another one at above its net worth - because of its intangible assets - the difference in price is recorded under assets in the balance sheet as goodwill.

You can find the next part here.

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