Showing posts with label unfair value. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unfair value. Show all posts

Jan 7, 2009

Unfair Value

How can you be against something that's fair, like "Fair Value"?
What could be wrong, valuating a company at market value?

IceComp Case
Let me take you along in a story about IceComp, a fictitious ordinary wholesaler in ice creams.

The daily demand for ice creams turns out to be in line with the outside temperature. In an average summer, with an average temperature of 16°C (about 60°F), IceComp sells 10 million ice creams a year. Annual turnover the past 10 years, $ 20 million with a net margin of 10%.

In order to regulate demand and to maximize profit, IceComp defines the daily ice cream selling price (P) in line with the market by the formula:


So at 32°C an ice cream will sell at $ 4 and at 16°C it will sell at $ 2 a piece. To always deliver on time, IceComp keeps an average stock of about 2 million ice creams. Based on on the average selling price of the last 10 years, this stock is valued in the balance sheet at $ 4 million, resulting in a fair and trustworthy P&L, that reflects the actual sales level at current prices.

Two years ago, inventory (stock) valuation based on market prices ('fair value'), i.e. the price daily selling price of an ice cream, became mandatory. From that moment on, things started to go wrong.

Consistent with the daily temperature, the daily inventory value starts to oscillate heavily, with explosions and variations up to $ 6 million per month. To the 'surprise' of all stakeholders, equally strong alternating monthly gains and losses are reported. It's crystal clear, the company is no longer 'in control'.

The national supervisor interferes and demands extra securities (funds). Now the monthly P&L of IceComp starts to oscillate even more, as the investment results of the extra securities, that principally do not have anything to do with the core business of IceComp, also start to vary on basis of 'fair value' (market prices) valuation.

Ultimately, lack of confidence from share- and stakeholders drives IceComp into bankruptcy.

What was meant to be 'intentional Fair', turns out to be 'Unfair' in practice. Valuing balance sheets on bases of daily prices is like playing 'Russian roulette'. It can be compared to making 'climate statements', based on the daily weather forecast.

The analogy to banking, pension and insurance business may be clear. Don't base valuation methods on daily prices, but on a, per product or market defined, 'moving average market price' for a fixed chosen period (depending on product or market cycle).

The current (credit) crisis calls for development of new valuating principles by auditors and actuaries.