Treasury Today Country Profiles in association with Citi

July/August 2004

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Confusion at the IASB

For the last year or so, issue number one in corporate treasuries has been the imminent adoption of International Accounting Standards. Confusion over the precise wording and implications of IAS39 has made this project much more complicated than necessary.

Recently, there has been much noise in the press and in the corridors of power in some countries suggesting that IAS39 might not be adopted. At the heart of this are objections from a number of European banks over the way IAS39 has been developed.

The danger is that this confusion may delay implementation in many of the European companies which will need to adopt International Accounting Standards. For those companies behind in their planning, the failure of the IASB to solve the IAS39 problem would appear to justify their delay.

Irrespective of the possible approach of some European governments, companies with dual listings in the United States will have to adopt IAS39 as part of the preparation of their accounts. This is because the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission require companies to prepare accounts in conformity with "a comprehensive body of accounting principles". In the case of an EU company preparing to IAS, this will include IAS39.

Meanwhile some EU companies which might have to adopt IAS for their consolidated accounts may not be seriously affected by IAS39 anyway, as they have chosen not to hedge their financial risk exposures. But it is the other companies that will be seriously affected by IAS39 which may find that failure to account for their activities may weaken their credit rating, with all the corresponding effects.

In reality, those companies which have not yet started to plan how to adopt IAS should not view this latest controversy with the European banks as the solution to all their problems. To do so, and to continue to ignore IAS, represents a significant gamble which could have serious consequences.