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The reporting of non-GAAP profit figures in Australia : an impression management perspective

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O'Keefe, PA ORCID: 0000-0002-5194-0049 2019 , 'The reporting of non-GAAP profit figures in Australia : an impression management perspective', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The reporting of non-GAAP profit figures (profits calculated other than by using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)) is a phenomenon that has been observed worldwide over the past two decades. Two possible motives for the practice have been suggested: either management is attempting to provide incremental, value-relevant information to assist shareholders and potential investors in decision making, or it is behaving opportunistically and attempting to mislead shareholders and investors by managing their impression of the company’s performance. Prior studies into the practice of reporting non-GAAP profits have been concentrated in the United States, where strict regulation has been in place since 2003, and in Europe, while little research has taken place in an Australian context.
This study contributes to the literature by investigating the reporting of non-GAAP profit figures by Australian companies. Initially, a broad approach to the topic is adopted, with two research questions developed to investigate which company characteristics and specific events might influence the decision to report a non-GAAP profit figure. The study then narrows the investigation to concentrate on the issue of opportunistic behaviour and the use of impression management tactics by companies to emphasise non-GAAP profit figures compared to the GAAP profit figures. Two further research questions investigate which company characteristics and specific events might influence the use of impression management tactics by non-GAAP profit reporting companies.
The study uses a population of the top 200 companies (based on market capitalisation) on the ASX, and data was collected from the years 2004 to 2015 inclusive. The chosen timeframe allows investigation into the effect specific events, including the introduction of IFRS, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the release of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) Regulatory Guide 230, had on the reporting of non-GAAP profit figures. The effect of these events on the use of impression management tactics to emphasise the non-GAAP profit figure compared to the GAAP profit figure is also investigated. Content analysis of press releases concerning annual results, and annual reports was used to determine the extent of disclosure and emphasis given to both the GAAP and non-GAAP profit figures. Quantitative analysis was then undertaken to explore each of the research questions.
The results indicate that the reporting of non-GAAP profit figures by Australian companies increased steadily over the twelve-year period. Larger companies and those that were more highly leveraged were more likely to report non-GAAP profit figures for most years of the study. Reporting bad news in the form of a decrease in GAAP profits or a GAAP loss was also a significant factor influencing the decision to report a non-GAAP profit in several years. The specific events investigated did not affect the decision to report a non-GAAP figure significantly with the exception of the GFC, which saw a significant increase in companies reporting a non-GAAP profit figure.
Results concerning the use of impression management tactics show more highly leveraged companies and those reporting bad news were significantly more likely to use tactics to emphasise the non-GAAP profit figure over the GAAP profit figure in the total sample and some individual years of the study. The GFC and the introduction of the ASIC Regulatory Guide 230 also significantly influenced the use of impression management tactics to highlight the non-GAAP profit figure compared to the GAAP profit figure. The GFC saw an increase in the emphasis towards the non-GAAP figure and the release of the ASIC Regulatory Guide prompted a change in emphasis towards the GAAP figure.
The study highlights issues concerning the use of impression management tactics and opportunistic behaviour and the need to inform shareholders and potential investors of this potentially misleading practice. It also highlights the need for ASIC to remain vigilant in its pursuit of both informing companies of regulations and enforcing Regulatory Guides so that the positive changes to reporting practices observed with the release of the Regulatory Guide continue.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:O'Keefe, PA
Keywords: non-GAAP profits, impression management, agency theory
DOI / ID Number: 10.25959/100.00034264
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2019 the author

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