In the news In autumn 2008 customers of Northern Rock started panicking and queuing up to withdraw all their savings. The company could not find cash quick enough and eventually to stop the panic the government launched a rescue attempt by NATIONALISING the bank to guarantee the savers deposits. Much of the lack of confidence was due to the items not visible on the balance sheet. The bank had lent money to some who where a high risk of defaulting. These high risk debts were liabilities and should have appeared on the balance sheet but were hidden. If they had have been visible they would have shown how much risk was being carried by the bank. The riskiest of these debts were so well hidden on the balance sheet no one in the public could see them as they were kept 'off balance sheet' These debts were held under another company name in offshore accounts which was legal to do at the time.
Web based activity All public limited companies have to produce a balance sheet and make it available to the public. Often these are available online. Go to the corporate website of a company in which you are interested and look at its balance sheet. What judgements can you make about the business from the balance sheet. What else do you need to know to support your judgements?
The balance sheet shows what the business has in the way of possessions and how these have been financed. It therefore shows the business how much it owns as against how much it owes - simples !
Assets The balance sheet may be divided into THREE parts - ASSETS, LIABILITIES, and how CAPITAL has been raised. The first part measures the assets of the business or all the things that the business OWNS. These are either FIXED and include things like building s or machinery used in production or CURRENT items like STOCK , finished PRODUCTS or MONEY owed that can be easily turned into CASH. Some assets may be difficult to put a figure on. When a business is sold, a value is often put on it's 'goodwill' This values its reputation and standing with its customers. Assets include everything that a business owns to which a value can be attached so in some cases items like goodwill will be included. Such assets cannot be physically touched and are so called 'intangible' assets. In most cases an 'asset' entry also means a 'liability' entry in order to keep the balance e.g.if a business buys £10,000 of stock it must have spent £10,000 in cash or have a debt or credit with the supplier of £10,000. Hence these suppliers are called CREDITORS making sure that the STOCK (asset) and its COST (creditor) both appear.
Liabilities The second part of the balance sheet shows liabilities - these are all the things that a business owes. These are either CURRENT debts that need to be paid back within a year such as a bank overdraft or creditors or LONG TERM - debts that a business has more than a year to repay, such as long term loans and mortgages. These are separated out in the account.
Working capital is calculated as current assets minus current liabilities. This figure is important as it shows the ability of the business to repay its short term debts. If there is a positive working capital balance then it is possible for the business to meet its day to day needs. Suppliers, banks, and other creditors will be confident that they will not only be paid but they will be paid on time. If working capital is negative the business will struggle to pay its bills
Net assets employed shows fixed assets (in this case £200,000) plus working capital (£40,000) . From this figure the business then takes away its long term liabilities to show its NET ASSETS. This is what the business is worth at this moment in time.
These assets have been financed in various ways, including loans, retained profit, and share issues. This is shown on the final part of the balance sheet - the CAPITAL ACCOUNT
Using the balance sheet The balance sheet has limited use as it can only be used to represent a situation at a particular moment in time. It is therefore looking at FLOWS of FINANCE and changes in such flows. To show trends you would need to compare one balance sheet at one point in time with another taken earlier or later. It is therefore often referred to as a SNAPSHOT. It is however very important to:
- mangers and
Discussion Each person in the group should take the role of one different stakeholder group and say why the balance sheet of a company might be of particular importance to that group
Quick Quiz 13 Understanding assets and liabilities on a balance sheet
- What is meant by an 'asset'?
- Explain the difference between fixed assets and current assets.
- A strong brand name would be considered to be what sort of asset?
- Define 'creditor'
- What is meant by 'liability'?
- Explain the difference between current liabilities and long term liabilities.
- Define 'debtor'
- What is meant by 'capital'?
- Explain what is meant by 'working capital'
- Outline what is shown on the capital account.
Nine mark question