Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Starbucks filed its 2019 annual report last week, and we noticed an interesting detail: the largest coffee shop in the world, with stores all over the place, had not yet adopted the new accounting standard for leases.

That’s because thanks to a quirk of the company’s fiscal year, Starbucks ($SBUX) is one of the last large filers to adopt the new leasing standard, known as ASC 842. Which gives us yet another opportunity to see how ASC 842 can affect a firm’s balance sheet.

Allow us to explain.

First, the standard itself. ASC 842 requires firms to report the value of operating leases on the balance sheet; until now, those numbers had been buried in the footnotes. Every firm must list the value of the leased item as a right-of-use (ROU) asset, and the cost of future lease payments as liabilities.

Second, the adoption date. All firms must begin reporting under ASC 842 with their first fiscal year that began on or after Dec. 15, 2018.

For most large firms, that adoption date was Jan. 1, 2019. But Starbucks’ fiscal year begins every Oct. 1 — so its fiscal 2019 was already underway by Dec. 15, 2018. Starbucks didn’t need to start compliance with ASC 842 until fiscal 2020, which began just a few weeks ago. We won’t see Starbucks’ first filings under ASC 842 until early next year.

Meanwhile, since Starbucks did disclose an estimate of its operating lease assets and liabilities in the footnotes. So we can still build a model that shows us how the application of ASC 842 could affect Starbucks’ balance sheet.

See Table 1, below. Starbucks says that ASC 842 will add “$8 billion to $9 billion” in both ROU assets and operating lease liabilities. We split the difference and added $8.5 billion to the total assets and liabilities Starbucks just reported for 2019.

As you can see, adopting ASC 842 will expand Starbucks’ balance sheet substantially, and that will have follow-on consequences for the company’s debt-to-equity ratio (total liabilities divided by equity) and its return on assets (net income divided by total assets).

All with no real change to Starbucks’ business operations. Indeed, Starbucks says in its accounting policy disclosures that when it does start reporting under ASC 842, the standard will have no material effect on income.

Balance sheet, however — that’s another matter.

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