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Good news on goodwill and the impairment thereof: we have more of the former, and less of the latter.

Total goodwill impairment reported so far in 2016 annual reports is only $36.8 billion, among the 1,163 filers that have reported goodwill impairment this spring. Average impairment is only $31.6 million per filer, the lowest since 2013.

That’s a marked turnaround from goodwill impairment reported last year, even accounting for the larger data set we have for 2015 annual reports. (2016 reports will still be trickling into our databases for a while yet.) You might recall in a blog post last year on the subject, we described surging impairment levels as “really, pretty bad.”

Given the trend for 2016 numbers so far, it will be the best year for goodwill impairment since 2013, which recorded $36.9 billion among 1,512 filers.

As always, see our nifty table, below.

This drop in goodwill impairment isn’t a complete surprise. Goodwill impairment is reported on the income statement as a loss. So when goodwill impairment is particularly widespread or severe, we see net income decline for a quarter.

Well, you might recall another blog post on March 27, comparing net income for fourth-quarter 2016 against the year-earlier period. Net income did soar in fourth quarter 2016, but that was mostly due to eight filers that had reported huge, one-time drops in net income in 2015—including some very large goodwill impairment charges.

Those gigantic impairments (Yahoo writing off $4.1 billion; Freeport MacMoRan writing off $8.5 billion) didn’t happen in 2016. So therefore net income would be higher, which is exactly what we saw. We just confirmed that fact first, and the decline in goodwill impairments second.

Which companies did report the biggest goodwill impairments in 2016? That will be the subject of a separate report coming soon enough. Stay tuned.


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