The predictive ability and classification shifting of discontinued operations under IFRS-5 : a dissertation submitted to the Graduate Research School of Massey University and Business School in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Accountancy Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Considerable attention has been directed towards the impact of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by the business community and regulators. IFRS-5 Non-current Assets Held for Sale and Discontinued Operations requires the separate reporting of discontinued operations in the statement of comprehensive income. This is based on the (untested) assertion that cash flows from discontinued operations are different from continuing flows. Thus, there is a need to provide empirical evidence to support the assumption.
This thesis examines the usefulness of separate reporting of discontinued operations in two important attributes: predictive ability and classification shifting. Motivated by the concerns that discontinued operations are not useful to predict future profitability and are used to manipulate core earnings, this thesis investigates these two aspects for Australian listed companies that have adopted IFRS since 2005.
Existing literature documents evidence that discontinued operations should be ignored to predict future profitability (Fairfield, Sweeney, & Yohn, 1996) and managers engage in classification shifting using discontinued operations (Barua, Lin, & Sbaraglia, 2010) under the United States’ Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (US GAAP). As discontinued operations are defined and measured differently under US GAAP and IFRS, this thesis investigates the usefulness of separate reporting of discontinued operations under IFRS by examining predictive ability and classification shifting of discontinued operations.
The findings show discontinued operations, particularly when splitting it into gains and losses from discontinued operations, are useful to predict a company’s future profitability. Furthermore, results show losses from discontinued operations are opportunistically used to manipulate core earnings, to avoid reporting losses and earnings decreases under IFRS, when firms report discontinued operations frequently, and the amount of losses is high.
These results could be used for the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in deciding whether to report discontinued operations separately in statements of comprehensive income.