Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We’re always fascinated by unusual lines of business here at Calcbench, but one line of business intrigues us more than most — “Other.”

How do companies decide what qualifies as Other? How large can Other be, before the company gives it a more specific name? Does the person running Other have “vice president of Other” on his or her business card?

These questions were on our mind lately thanks to our recent post about American Water Works ($AWK), which has an Other division that seems to do nothing but lose money. We’re not even sure AWK’s Other division is a division, as much as it’s a hodge-podge of homeless operating costs that need to go into a segment somewhere.

As a simple experiment, we researched all firms that have filed 2018 financial statements so far an included an item tagged “Other Sundry Current Liabilities” and found 48. Then we compared that amount to the firm’s total current liabilities, expressed as a percentage. The table below shows our Top 10.

One logical question would be what these other current liabilities are or where they come from. Here’s the thing: lots of companies don’t say.

That is, you can find the disclosure itself. Just use our Multi-Company page and search by the XBRL tag for that line item, “OtherSundryLiabilitiesCurrent.” You’ll get a list of all companies that filed some line-item using that tag.

In theory, you could then use our Trace feature to follow that number back to some more detailed disclosure the company made about that line-item — except, for most companies, they have nothing to say about Other. Why would they? If it were material to the business, you’d call it something else.

Still, if you are Tyson Foods ($TSN) with $805 million in Other current liabilities, or Sprouts Farmers Market ($SFM) with nearly 20 percent of your current liabilities going to Other, that’s not exactly chump change.

So we continue to wonder about Other and what it means. At least our data analytics can help you get started on answering such questions, too.

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