It might seem obvious, but in managing a business, it’s important to understand how the business makes a profit. A company needs a good business model and a good profit model. A business sells products or services and earns a certain amount of margin on each unit sold. The number of units sold is the sales volume during the reporting period. The business subtracts the amount of fixed expenses for the period, which gives them the operating profit before interest and income tax.
Most audit reports on financial statements give the business a clean bill of health, or a clean opinion. At the other end of the spectrum, the auditor may state that the financial statements are misleading and should not be relied upon. This negative audit report is called an adverse opinion. That’s the big stick that auditors carry. They have the power to give a company’s financial statements an adverse opinion and no business wants that. The threat of an adverse opinion almost always motivates a business to give way to the auditor and change its accounting or disclosure in order to avoid getting the kiss of death of an adverse opinion. An adverse audit opinion says that the financial statements of the business are misleading. The SEC does not tolerate adverse opinions by auditors of public businesses; it would suspend trading in a company’s stock share if the company received an adverse opinion from its CPA auditor.
If a business breaks the rules of accounting and ethics, it can be liable for legal sanctions against it. It can deliberately deceive its investors and lenders with false or misleading numbers in its financial report. That’s where audits come in. Audits are one means of keeping misleading financial reporting to a minimum. CPA auditors are like highway patrol officers who enforce traffic laws and issue tickets to keep speeding to a minimum. An audit exam can uncover problems that the business was not aware of.
Accounting fraud is a deliberate and improper manipulation of the recording of sales revenue and/or expenses in order to make a company’s profit performance appear better than it actually is. Some things that companies do that can constitute fraud are:
- Not listing prepaid expenses or other incidental assets
- Not showing certain classifications of current assets and/or liabilities
- Collapsing short- and long-term debt into one amount.
Indpendent CPA auditors are like referees in the financial reporting arena. The CPA comes in, does an audit of the business’s accounting system and methods and gives a report that is attached to the company’s financial statements. Publicly owned businesses are required to have their annual financial reports audited by independent CPA firms and any privately owned businesses have audits done as well because they know that an audit report will add credibility to their financial reports.
Investors calculate the acid test ratio, also known as the quick ratio or the pounce ratio. This ratio excludes inventory and prepaid expenses, which the current ratio includes, and it limits assets to cash and items that the business can quickly convert to cash. This limited category of assets is known as quick or liquid assets. The acid-text ratio is calculated by dividing the liquid assets by the total current liabilities.
The dividend yield ratio tells investors how much cash income they’re receiving on their stock investment in a business. This is calculated by dividing the annual cash dividend per share by the current market price of the stock. This can be compared with the interest rate on high-grade debt securities that pay interest, such as Treasure bonds and Treasury notes, which are the safest.
A public corporation is a business whose securities are traded on the public stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. A private company is held solely by its owners and is not traded publicly. When the shareholders of a private business receive the periodical financial reports, they are entitled to assume that the company’s financial statements and footnotes are prepared in accordance with GAAP. Otherwise the president of chief officer of the business should clearly warn the shareholders that GAAP have not been followed in one or more respects. The content of a private business’s annual financial report is often minimal. It includes the three primary financial statements – the balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows. There’s generally no letter from the chief executive, no photographs, no charts.
The price/earning (P/E) ratio is another measurement that’s of particular interest to investors in public businesses. The P/E ratio gives you an idea of how much you’re paying in the current price for stock shares for each dollar of earning. Earnings prop up the market value of stock shares, not the book value of the stock shares that’s reported in the balance sheet.
Publicly owned companies must report earnings per share (EPS) below the net income line in their income statements. This is mandated by generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP). The EPS gives investors a means of determining the amount the business earned on its stock share investments. In other words, EPS tells investors how much net income the business earned for each stock share they own. It’s calculated by dividing net income by the total number of capital stock share. It’s important to the stockholders who want the net income of the business to be communicated to them on a per share basis so they can compare it with the market price of their shares.