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Disappearing Revenue (or Another reason to hate Deferred Revenue)

This is a bit of an inside baseball kind of post on M&A accounting.

The issue we wanted to bring up is about revenue disappearing in an acquisition just because of accounting rules. The reason? GAAP (the standards for US accounting) require a buyer to adjust Deferred Revenue to its "fair value". That "fair value" is typically the cost of providing the service that underlies the Deferred Revenue.

Just to review;

  • Deferred Revenue is a balance sheet liability created when someone pays in advance for a service. If a customer pays you $240 for 12 months of service, 1st month revenue is $20 and Deferred Revenue goes up by $220. 
  • The next month the company receives no additional cash but books revenue of $20 and Deferred Revenue declines by $20.
  • This occurs every month until month 12, when the company books $20 of revenue and Deferred Revenue goes to $0.

So if the cost of providing the underlying service is 70% of the revenue, then on closing the value of Deferred Revenue goes down by 30% and all the revenue & income associated with it disappear for Income Statement purposes. The customers are still there and when they renew that revenue comes back at 100%.

How big an issue is this? Web.Com lost $8.6 million of quarterly revenue & earnings in Q1 '16, another $6 million in Q2 '16 and $1-2 million in every quarter since because of this. The percentage of annual payers and operating margin being the key drivers.

This kind of revenue loss can have a big impact on loan ratios, earn-out payments, budgets, etc. and is best identified and dealt with prior to closing.

For a more on this topic please feel free to give us a call or check out this Journal of Accounting article.

Cheval Capital, Inc.

Disclaimer: This post is for general information purposes and is not meant to be taken as financial advice, a recommendation to buy or sell any stocks mentioned above, a comprehensive discussion of valuation or how to do any calculations. Please be sure to consult your financial advisors when valuing your company, considering the sale of your business or making other financial decisions.

 

 

Frank Stiff

Aledxandria, VA 22314