On January 22, 2010 the Ministry of Corporate Affairs issued the road map for transition to IFRS. It is clear that India has deferred transition to IFRS by a year. In the first phase, companies included in Nifty 50 or BSE Sensex, and companies whose securities are listed on stock exchanges outside India and all other companies having net worth of Rs 1,000 crore will prepare and present financial statements using Indian Accounting Standards converged with IFRS.
According to the press note issued by the government, those companies will convert their first balance sheet as at April 1, 2011, applying accounting standards convergent with IFRS if the accounting year ends on March 31. This implies that the transition date will be April 1, 2011. According to the earlier plan, the transition date was fixed at April 1, 2010.
The press note does not clarify whether the full set of financial statements for the year 2011-12 will be prepared by applying accounting standards convergent with IFRS. The deferment of the transition may make companies happy, but it will undermine India’s position. Presumably, lack of preparedness of Indian companies has led to the decision to defer the adoption of IFRS for a year. This is unfortunate that India, which boasts for its IT and accounting skills, could not prepare itself for the transition to IFRS over last four years. But that might be the ground reality.
Transition in phases
Companies, whether listed or not, having net worth of more than Rs 500 crore will convert their opening balance sheet as at April 1, 2013. Listed companies having net worth of Rs 500 crore or less will convert their opening balance sheet as at April 1, 2014. Un-listed companies having net worth of Rs 500 crore or less will continue to apply existing accounting standards, which might be modified from time to time. Transition to IFRS in phases is a smart move.
The transition cost for smaller companies will be much lower because large companies will bear the initial cost of learning and smaller companies will not be required to reinvent the wheel. However, this will happen only if a significant number of large companies engage Indian accounting firms to provide them support in their transition to IFRS. If, most large companies, which will comply with Indian accounting standards convergent with IFRS in the first phase, choose one of the international firms, Indian accounting firms and smaller companies will not benefit from the learning in the first phase of the transition to IFRS.
It is likely that international firms will protect their learning to retain their competitive advantage. Therefore, it is for the benefit of the country that each company makes judicious choice of the accounting firm as its partner without limiting its choice to international accounting firms. Public sector companies should take the lead and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) should develop a clear strategy to diffuse the learning.
Size of companies
The government has decided to measure the size of companies in terms of net worth. This is not the ideal unit to measure the size of a company. Net worth in the balance sheet is determined by accounting principles and methods. Therefore, it does not include the value of intangible assets. Moreover, as most assets and liabilities are measured at historical cost, the net worth does not reflect the current value of those assets and liabilities. Market capitalisation is a better measure of the size of a company.
But it is difficult to estimate market capitalisation or fundamental value of unlisted companies. This might be the reason that the government has decided to use ‘net worth’ to measure size of companies. Some companies, which are large in terms of fundamental value or which intend to attract foreign capital, might prefer to use Indian accounting standards convergent with IFRS earlier than required under the road map presented by the government. The government should provide that choice.
The government will come up with a separate road map for banking and insurance companies by February 28, 2010. Let us hope that transition in case of those companies will not be deferred further.