Equity method accounting is used when an investing company owns stocks of another affiliate company. There are several different ways of accounting for this ownership, but this method is perhaps the most popular.
Equity method accounting factors in the increase or decease in profits of the invested company. These differences are usually unrealized and not actually obtained by the investing company. The increase or decease is, of course, calculated on the percentage of stocks owned and does not account for dividends paid. For example, if an investor owns 100 shares of an affiliate's stock. And if that stock increases 10%, only those 100 shares will reflect the 10% increase. The investing company will then record that increase as profit on their ledger.
Before going further, it is important to note that if a parent company owns over 50% of a subsidiary company, equity method accounting is not allowed. Consolidated companies are required to combine the financial figures into one statement for the group of entities.
This information, found through equity method accounting, can be very helpful to a company. If understood correctly, the profits or losses of affiliate companies can help forecast the total equity of the company. This total equity can show trends of upward or downward value of the investing company.
If this information is wrongly considered, the effects can leave the company high and dry. Dry, in this case, meaning out of money. If the profits found with the equity method are considered physical liquid assets, the company's operating capital will be wildly off the mark. This is why it is very important to understand that equity method accounting determines value of investments, but rarely shows finances that can be readily used.
Equity method accounting highly increases the appearance of financial standing. Including all investment gains as profit really boosts the income side of the balance sheet. A major advantage to padding this stat is the likelihood of getting loans, raising capital, or getting investors.
Just think, as a loan officer, if a company showed records of $ 100,000 in profits instead of $ 75,000. That makes a big impact on whether or not to give a loan and how much to loan out. This scenario works the same for the decision of an outside investor or joint venture opportunity.
Other factors exist as to whether or not an investing company uses equity method accounting or not. There are tax requirements for the amount of investment in the affiliate company. If the investor has significant influence or not and the percent of ownership plays a role in using this method of accounting as well.