Notes to the Accounts
1. Accounting policies
Accounting policies have been consistently applied. FRS9 ‘Associates and Joint Ventures’ has been adopted and comparative figures have been restated to reflect associates’ interest in net interest payable. Net interest income arising within Lazard is included in operating profit, being part of its normal operating activities. FRS14 ’Earnings Per Share’ has also been adopted and comparative figures have been restated. FRS10 ‘Goodwill and Intangible Assets’ (see B below), FRS11 ‘Impairment of Fixed Assets and Goodwill’, and FRS13 ‘Derivatives and Other Financial Instruments: Disclosures’ have also been adopted.
A. Basis of accounting The accounts are prepared under the historical cost convention, modified by the revaluation of certain land and buildings and investments, and in accordance with applicable accounting standards. A summary of the significant accounting policies is set out below.
B. Basis of consolidation The consolidated accounts include the accounts of all subsidiary undertakings made up to 31 December. Where companies have become or ceased to be subsidiary or associated undertakings during the year the Group profit includes profits for the period during which they were subsidiary or associated undertakings.
From 1 January 1998 goodwill, being either the net excess of the cost of shares in subsidiary undertakings, partnerships and other associates over the value attributable to their net assets on acquisition or the cost of other goodwill by purchase, is capitalised and amortised through the profit and loss account over its estimated useful life not exceeding 20 years. Goodwill arising on acquisitions before 1 January 1998 has been deducted from reserves and is charged or credited to the profit and loss account on disposal or closure of the business to which it relates.
The profit of the Group includes the Group’s share of the profit of partnerships and other associates, and the consolidated balance sheet includes the Group’s interest in partnerships and other associates at the book value of attributable net tangible assets. The figures included in the financial statements have been based on audited accounts, adjusted where necessary by reference to unaudited management accounts for the subsequent period to 31 December.
C. Sales Sales represent the amount of goods and services, net of value added tax and other sales taxes, and excluding trade discounts and anticipated returns, provided to external customers and associated undertakings.
D. Foreign currencies Profit and loss accounts in overseas currencies are translated into sterling at weighted average rates. Balance sheets are translated into sterling at the rates ruling at 31 December. Exchange differences arising on consolidation are taken directly to reserves. Other exchange differences are taken to the profit and loss account where they relate to trading transactions and directly to reserves where they relate to investments.
The principal overseas currencies for the Group are the US dollar and the Spanish peseta. The weighted average rates for the year against sterling were $1.66 and Pta248.1 (1997: $1.63 and Pta242.1) and the year end rates were $1.66 and Pta235.8 (1997: $1.65 and Pta250.8).
E. Pension costs The regular pension cost of the Group’s defined benefit pension schemes is charged to the profit and loss account in order to apportion the cost of pensions over the service lives of employees in the schemes. Variations arising from a significant reduction in the number of employees are adjusted in the profit and loss account to the extent that the year’s regular pension cost, reduced by other variations, exceeds contributions payable for that year. Other variations are apportioned over the expected service lives of current employees in the schemes.
F. Post-retirement benefits other than pensions Post-retirement benefits other than pensions are accounted for on an accruals basis to recognise this obligation over the expected service lives of the employees concerned.
G. Channel 5 The Group’s share of certain Channel 5 initial costs is being amortised. These costs will be amortised by the end of the 10 year licence period. The Group’s share of other profits and losses is being equity accounted.
H. Tangible fixed assets The cost or subsequent valuation of tangible fixed assets other than freehold land and investment properties is depreciated over estimated economic lives in equal annual amounts at the rates indicated in note 12.
I. Leases Finance lease rentals are capitalised at the total amount of rentals payable under the leasing agreement (excluding finance charges) and depreciated in accordance with policy H above. Finance charges are written off over the period of the lease in reducing amounts in relation to the written down carrying cost. Operating lease rentals are expensed as incurred.
J. Fixed asset investments Fixed asset investments are stated at cost less provisions for diminution in value, or as revalued by the directors.
K. Stocks Stocks and work in progress are valued at the lower of cost and net realisable value.
L. Product development costs Revenue investment in the development of newspaper titles consists of measures to increase the volume and geographical spread of circulation. These measures include additional editorial content, distribution and remote printing. The extra costs arising are expensed as incurred. Pre publication costs, the direct costs incurred in the development of titles prior to their publication, are included within stocks and are amortised over their estimated economic lives. Advances to authors are included within debtors net of any provision required for net realisable value and are expensed at contracted rates based on sales of the related titles. Television programme production costs are included within stocks and are amortised over the estimated period in which the related revenue is forecast to be earned.
M. Deferred taxation Deferred taxation is provided, using the liability method, at the expected applicable rates, on all timing differences between accounting and taxation treatments, including those arising from the revaluation of fixed assets, which are expected to reverse in the foreseeable future.
N. Financial instruments The Group uses derivative financial instruments to manage its exposure to interest rate and foreign exchange risks. These include interest rate swaps, currency swaps and forward currency contracts. Amounts payable or receivable in respect of interest rate derivatives are accrued with net interest payable over the period of the contract. Where the derivative instrument is terminated early the gain or loss is spread over the remaining maturity of the original instrument. Foreign currency borrowings and their related derivatives are carried in the balance sheet at the relevant exchange rates at the balance sheet date. Gains or losses in respect of the hedging of overseas subsidiary undertakings are taken to reserves. Gains or losses arising from foreign exchange contracts are taken to the profit and loss account in line with the transactions which they are hedging.The Company participates in offset arrangements with certain banks whereby cash and overdraft amounts are offset against each other.
O. Liquid resources Liquid resources comprise short-term deposits of less than one year and investments which are readily realisable and held on a short-term basis.
P. Retained profits of overseas subsidiaries and associates No provision is made for any additional taxation, less double taxation relief, which would arise on the remittance of profits retained.