Apple, surprises and the value of accounting | MBA Learnings
First-year student Rohan Rajiv is blogging once a week about important lessons he is learning at Kellogg. Read more of his posts here.
If you’ve been following tech news, you’ve probably heard of the recent bankruptcy of Apple’s Sapphire glass partner – GT Advanced. This was the quote from Apple following the announcement:
“We are focused on preserving jobs in Arizona following GT’s surprising decision and we will continue to work with state and local officials as we consider our next steps.”
The quotes in news headlines the following morning used words like “unexpected,” “surprised,” etc. But if you look at the SEC filing of the company at the end of June, like we did in our accounting class, you will see this news should not have been “surprising.”
The cash flow statement shows that GT lost $165 million over the quarter and had only $330 million left. Now, this can’t be looked at in isolation of course. If they were due a massive repayment by a customer, then we would have to reconsider our conclusions. However, they only had $14 million of accounts receivable due. They were just stuck in a very expensive business without the necessary scale.
Given the rapid rate at which they were losing money, one could predict they wouldn’t last longer than two quarters. And, they didn’t. You could also argue that they could have raised a large amount of money via external financing. But, as you might imagine, the list of financiers who would like to get in at this stage was likely going to be very small.
Hence, it is actually very surprising that Apple and the media were “surprised” at the bankruptcy.
My learning was that a working knowledge of accounting goes a long way. Irrespective of whether or not you foresee yourself in a role that involves finance, the ability to read financial statements can help a lot. For example, most large corporations provide stock and stock options to employees. How many of these employees actually read their own company’s financial statements?
Perhaps reading financial statements of organizations whose fate influences us (e.g. a key customer or supplier or a target employer) may help prevent a bad surprise or two. That could end up saving us a lot of mental and financial pain.
Rohan Rajiv is a first-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to Kellogg he worked at a-connect serving clients on consulting projects across 14 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. He blogs a learning every day, including his MBA Learnings series, on www.ALearningaDay.com.