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18 Aug, 2010 04:45

Dual accounting adds to corporate burden and investor confusion

Recent weeks have seen a spate of Russian companies posting first half results. But unlike their global peers most of them need to produce two sets of results – under both RAS and an international standard.

Corporate results are supposed to provide investors some sort of guide as to how the company is performing.

But For investors in Russian companies which have to report under Russian Accounting Standards, but also use an international standard – usually IFRS, but sometimes US GAAP – the reporting season can be nothing short of bewildering.

Adrian Dadd, Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers says trying to come to terms with the differing systems, and the reports they generate in the same reporting period, often leaves investors scratching their heads.

“Numbers can look very different sometimes, which makes you wonder why, how, that makes sense. If the transactions are identical why would you get different reporting of those transactions?”

Most major Russian companies fall into this category including most major banks, energy companies, and steelmakers. Being Russian, they’re required to report under RAS, but with a large global investor profile, and often being listed internationally as well, they also have to report under a global standard.

Accountants say the difference between them is largely one of legal form versus economic substance. That means differing treatments of cash flows and borrowing costs, differing scopes for management judgment, and impairment, and different treatments of exploration and evaluation costs.  That adds up to the need to maintain dual reporting systems – often involving two teams of accountants. And of course all taxation in Russia refers to the Russian standards.

Plans to move the move the Russian standards closer to the IFRS standard have been in the pipeline for some time, but little work has been done. Now the finance ministry is saying that making the move will clear the way for international investors.

Roland Nash, Head of Research and Chief strategist at Renaissance Capital, believes reducing the accounting duplication could make investment decisions more straightforward.

“Russia is part of the global financial community. The global financial community uses international standards – they exist for a reason. And it would certainly make my life a lot easier if we get rid of Russian accounting standards.”

Experts believe that with Russia’s desire to quickly become a global financial centre it is inevitable the country will switch to the IFRS.

But until they do, the reporting season for investors in Russia’s corporate giants – including Gazprom Rosneft, Severstal and VTB – involves getting the Russian accounting standards, and then waiting for up to 3 months before the same period is covered under a global standard