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Journal On Financial Ratio Analysis

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Session 15: Limitation of Ratio Analysis

Learning Objective

Explain to the participants on the limitation of ratio analysis.

Important Termss

Creative accounting.

Accounting Policies.

Limitations of Ratios

Accounting Information

Different Accounting Policies

The choices of accounting policies may distort inter company comparisons. Example IAS 16 allows valuation of assets to be based on either revalued amount or at depreciated historical cost. The business may opt not to revalue its asset because by doing so the depreciation charge is going to be high and will result in lower profit.

Creative accounting

The businesses apply creative accounting in trying to show the better financial performance or position which can be misleading to the users of financial accounting. Like the IAS 16 mentioned above, requires that if an asset is revalued and there is a revaluation deficit, it has to be charged as an expense in income statement, but if it results in revaluation surplus the surplus should be credited to revaluation reserve. So in order to improve on its profitability level the company may select in its revaluation programme to revalue only those assets which will result in revaluation surplus leaving those with revaluation deficits still at depreciated historical cost.

Information problems

Ratios are not definitive measures

Ratios need to be interpreted carefully. They can provide clues to the company's performance or financial situation. But on their own, they cannot show whether performance is good or bad.

Ratios require some quantitative information for an informed analysis to be made.

Outdated information in financial statement

The figures in a set of accounts are likely to be at least several months out of date, and so might not give a proper indication of the company's current financial position.

Historical costs not suitable for decision making

IASB Conceptual framework recommends businesses to use historical cost of accounting. Where historical cost convention is used, asset valuations in the balance sheet could be misleading. Ratios based on this information will not be very useful for decision making.

Financial statements certain summarised information

Ratios are based on financial statements which are summaries of the accounting records. Through the summarisation some important information may be left out which could have been of relevance to the users of accounts. The ratios are based on the summarised year end information which may not be a true reflection of the overall year's results.

Interpretation of the ratio

It is difficult to generalise about whether a particular ratio is 'good' or 'bad'. For example a high current ratio may indicate a strong liquidity position, which is good or excessive cash which is bad. Similarly Non current assets turnover ratio may denote either a firm that uses its assets efficiently or one that is under capitalised and cannot afford to buy enough assets.

Comparison of performance over time

Price changes

Inflation renders comparisons of results over time misleading as financial figures will not be within the same levels of purchasing power. Changes in results over time may show as if the enterprise has improved its performance and position when in fact after adjusting for inflationary changes it will show the different picture.

Technology changes

When comparing performance over time, there is need to consider the changes in technology. The movement in performance should be in line with the changes in technology. For ratios to be more meaningful the enterprise should compare its results with another of the same level of technology as this will be a good basis measurement of efficiency.

Changes in Accounting policy

Changes in accounting policy may affect the comparison of results between different accounting years as misleading. The problem with this situation is that the directors may be able to manipulate the results through the changes in accounting policy. This would be done to avoid the effects of an old accounting policy or gain the effects of a new one. It is likely to be done in a sensitive

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