Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Already we have written several times this year about the new accounting standard for operating leases that will go into effect at the end of this year — and the upheaval it could bring to many balance sheets, as companies suddenly start reporting their lease costs there.

So we decided to review companies that have already filed their Form 10-K reports for 2017, and see what their leasing costs are relative to total liabilities.

We found 36 companies, from Accenture and Apple to West Rock and Whole Foods, that have already filed 2017 reports and included leasing information. We examined “minimum future payments due.” That’s the amount these companies must pay, no matter what, because they’ve already assumed the lease liability. (They could always sign more leases in the future, too.)

Then we compared those lease liabilities, which are currently kept off the balance sheet, to total liabilities listed on the balance sheet. Which companies had the highest ratio? That is, which ones have gobs of operating lease liabilities, that might even exceed all other liabilities currently reported on the balance sheet?

The top 10, ranked by largest ratio, were as follows:

No surprise that retailers like Whole Foods, Starbucks, and Walgreens top the list; their commercial real estate needs are considerable.

We should also note that while Whole Foods tops this list, and the ratio rapidly declines from there (21 of the 26 companies we examined had ratios below 4 percent) — analysts should expect many more companies closer to Whole Foods’ situation in the future, as more 2017 reports arrive.

Calcbench has been keeping a close eye on operating leases for a while. In the more in-depth report we published last summer, we found numerous fast food chains, retailers, and related businesses whose operating leases exceeded total liabilities.

Calcbench subscribers can do your own quick-and-dirty research on our Multi-Company page. Just select the group of companies you want to research, and then look at that “Themes” pull-down menu on the right-hand side of the screen above the results. One of the menu options is “Operating Leases.”

Select that, and see what comes up: data!

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