A common belief is that when companies follow the GAAPs (generally accepted accounting principles) you can be assured of dependable disclosures. Not always true. Because "GAAPs provide leverage to the management in influencing the bottom line in two ways," writes Ambrish Gupta in Financial Accounting for Management, second edition (www.pearsoned.co.in).
One, accounting standards permit choice from alternatives, as a result of which discretion is available in many areas, such as valuation of fixed assets, methods of depreciation, assets under finance lease, impairment of assets, and so on. And, two, AS-5 allows the management changes in accounting policies "when change is considered to result in a more appropriate preparation or presentation of the financial statements of the enterprise."
Recommended for a thorough read.
Beware the buyer
The first results are out after Tata's acquisition of Corus, and they seem to belie all the sceptical forecasts that were made at the time of the deal. And now, for those who would like to follow the Tata model, how about `a practical guide for private companies and their UK and overseas advisers'? Try Mergers & Acquisitions edited by Jonathan Reuvid (www.vivagroupindia.com).
The book has dozens of crisp essays on topics as varied as exit strategies, challenges of MBOs (management buyouts), grooming a business for sale, crystallising value, identifying partners, taxation and accountancy considerations, legal documentation, due diligence, post-M&A change management, insurance issues, preparing for admission to the AIM (Alternative Investment Market), and financial PR (public relations) in M&A environments.
A chapter titled `cautionary tales' advises, `not buyer beware, but beware the buyer' to emphasise that due diligence should be the prerogative of sellers as much as it is of buyers. "You're selling your business but what do you know about the buyer?" asks the author.
Advisable acquisition for the professional's shelf.
Beyond predatory pricing
Do you know that the first anti-dumping law, passed in Canada in 1904, was surrounded by anti-predation rhetoric? "In the US, the 1916 Anti-dumping Act was aimed at predatory pricing by foreign exporters but was superseded by the 1921 Anti-dumping Act, which closely resembled the Canada's anti-dumping law," writes Aradhna Aggarwal in The Anti-dumping Agreement and Developing Countries: An Introduction (www.oup.com).
Over the years, there is a better understanding of the economic justification behind anti-dumping - that it is broader than predatory pricing. "It includes dumping with monopolising intents that may not involve complete monopolisation through predation but rather domination of the foreign markets."
Breakneck industrialisation was always intended to break necks, rues Niall Ferguson in The War of the World (www.penguin.com), when writing about how collectivisation wrecked Soviet agriculture and how forced industrialisation misallocated resources as much as it mobilised them.
"Cities like Magnitogorsk cost far more to support than the planner acknowledged, since coal had to be transported there from Siberian mines more than a thousand miles away. Just heating the homes of miners in Arctic regions burned a huge proportion of the coal they dug up."
No serious analysis can regard a policy as economically `necessary' if it involves anything up to twenty million excess deaths, he declares.
"For every nineteen tonnes of additional steel produced in the Stalinist period, approximately one Soviet citizen was killed." The planned economy was in fact a slave economy, observes Ferguson. "The Moscow-Volga Canal was in fact built by thousands of convicts. The workforce that built Magnitogorsk also included around 35,000 deported prisoners. Lurking behind the seeming miracles of miracles of the planned economy was the giant network of prisons and camps known simply as the Gulag."
History in full cry, as the cover announces.
Getting the price right is one of the musts if you want to increase profits `without breaking the bank', as Bob Gorton would explain in Boosting Sales (www.acblack.com). Among the many insightful examples in the book, here is one, about the author's experience in a Bali market, where the stallholders were proffering all manner of eastern delights.
"Many were offering similar articles and one could move freely amongst the stallholders and barter to get the best deal. The `perfect market', you may very well think. I left the market clutching my prizes in the plastic bags provided with each purchase. `Wow,' said our guide to me, `You did well.' What do you mean? `Well, you got three black-and-white striped bags, one black one, and a green one!'
"So? `Well if you beat the stallholder down to his bottom price he puts your purchase into a black-and-white striped bag, if you got close you get a black one, the green is average.' So you mean to tell me, that from the first transaction, I am clutching a bag that announces I am a mean negotiator? `Yup, did you notice there were stalls where you didn't get such good attention?"