Accounting and economics for decision making

This module is assessed by a written assignment covering accounting and economic theory applied in a decision-making context.

The assignment comprises 100 per cent of the assessment for this module. It will be in the form of a report and should be typed or word-processed; it should comprise no more than 4,000 words.
Assignment aim:
The aim of the assignment is for you to show your understanding of the accounting and economic concepts covered in this module and your ability to apply these concepts in a meaningful, insightful and balanced way. The assignment emphasises the wider application of a range of relevant accounting and economic techniques, as well as making use of appropriate financial information, to aid decision making by the many stakeholders in a business enterprise. The assessment should clearly demonstrate your knowledge of the concepts you have studied and show application of such techniques to aid decision-making and problem-solving within a business context.

The best practice for the assignment is by completing the activities that feature in this Study Book. Wherever possible, it would be helpful to think how you could develop your answers to the questions and seek out supporting arguments.

Assignment task:
Using the knowledge gained during your study of Units 1 to 8 prepare answers to the questions below. You should select a suitable company listed on a well-recognised international exchange such as, the London Stock Exchange FTSE 100 and make use of any related and associated data. There are three parts to this assessment.

You have been appointed to the financial team of your chosen company. You have been asked by the board to prepare an analytical review of the financial performance, position and reporting, using the most recently published financial statements (annual rather than half-year or other interim statements) and other information available, either in the public domain or from within the company.
[1,500 words, 40% of the total mark]

You should provide a clear and detailed assessment of the macroeconomic environment within which your chosen company operates, including its current and planned operations. You should also consider the microeconomic aspects of the company’s operations including, for example, aspects related to demand for its products and services and relevant aspects related to market structure, competition and consumer demand. Please ensure you make use of appropriate data and illustrations and employ appropriate economic concepts within your answer.
[1,500 words, 40% of the total mark]

Concluding remarks: you should provide a collective overview of your analyses, integrating both aspects covered within this module, accounting and economics.
[1,000 words, 20% of the total mark]

Assignment guidance:
Your report should introduce the key issues, defining the terms of reference. Use a concise, focused approach to set out your answer to each part in turn, before formally concluding at the end. Your answer needs to:

demonstrate sound knowledge of accounting, microeconomics and macroeconomics concepts
make use of relevant examples
make use of the financial press and other appropriate sources and the academic literature
show an ability to evaluate concepts and their appropriateness to applications.
You MAY choose the standpoint from which this report is made (as competitor, investor, potential acquirer, supplier, customer, landlord or lessee) and you should identify this in the introduction to the report. This is in order to give the report some ‘focus’ and does NOT mean that you should limit your analysis purely to factors specifically of interest to the type of organisation you represent.

You may NOT choose:

Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc since it is used as an illustration in the course material.
A private company or a subsidiary company or division of a larger group, since these entities are not subject to the ‘open market’ disciplines of a publicly listed company and this may give rise to business practices, transactions and accounting, which, while perfectly legal, are nevertheless ‘abnormal’.
Banks, insurance companies or other financial services businesses, they are almost always subject to different, enhanced, forms of regulation, which may often result in specialised forms of reporting and disclosure, which, in turn, may add additional problems for analysis.
A final point regarding your choice, you might find it useful to feature a company that you are familiar with. This might include the company that you work for, if applicable. However, in this case, this company must be publicly listed in an active stock market and should apply a recognisable accounting set of standards such as IFRS, UK GAAP, or comparable.

You will have to obtain copies of the published financial statements; this process is itself a significant exercise in investigating sources of financial information. If you are studying this module while based outside the UK, you may make your company selection from any internationally recognised stock exchange. If you are studying within the UK, we recommend that you select a company listed on the London Stock Exchange. You will need to identify sufficient appropriate companies to use for comparison during your analysis.

There are three common methods of obtaining published financial statements.

If you are a shareholder or employee, you may be sent a copy in the ordinary course of events.
A direct approach by phone or letter to the Company Secretary’s office or the Shareholder/Investor Relations Department will usually result in a copy being sent. Most companies now make their financial statements available on the internet via their website – search in Google for: investor relations (or similar) – from where you can usually download the statements themselves or apply online for a hard copy.
The financial press of your home country may facilitate this. For example, the UK site for the Financial Times offers downloadable financial statements and other information for many companies – often in several formats.
This is more an exercise in using financial information intelligently rather than computing ratios. You may choose to draw on financial databases, such as the FAME and/or Thomson One databases on the computer network: to get access to these databases, please use the following link: https://catalogue.brad.ac.uk/search/m?web_accounting_and_finance_databases (Links to an external site.)

These databases will enable the selection and extraction of company financial data. These data can then be analysed using the package or downloaded and analysed using spreadsheets or other techniques. Other sources of information maintained in the library (and online) are the Financial Times, FT.com website and Business Ratio and Key Note reports. Other special reports, for example those circulated by the broking arms of financial services companies, may also be available by direct request from the relevant organisations.
There are also many websites maintained by financial services organisations (e.g. Morningstar, Bloomberg, etc) that often freely provide useful information and commentary.

Content
The report should address the following aspects:

Analysis of the financial strengths and weaknesses revealed by the financial statements. Key ratios (e.g. profitability, liquidity, asset utilisation and gearing) should be compared against both prior years and with two suitably selected companies or other peer group/industry information. Note that while it is impossible entirely to separate the financial aspects from the strategic and wider management issues, the primary focus of the assignment remains financial. Please also note that the figures you use in your analysis should be taken from the most recent complete set of annual financial statements (NOT the interim statements) and should be those referred to in the statements as ‘Consolidated’ or ‘Group’ rather than any denoted as ‘Company’ or ‘Company only’.
Review of the market perception of the company in terms of stock price performance and response from the analyst community (you will need to employ the stock market performance indicators such as EPS, dividend yield, etc as discussed in the module).
Macroeconomic environment, microeconomic aspects relating to firm and consumer behaviour, competitive environment and market structure.
The report must include the following elements.

A key point or executive summary of conclusions (preferably at the beginning of the report) (Note: this IS included in the word-count).
Graphical illustration, where appropriate (graphs and tables are NOT included in the word count). Resist the temptation to relegate charts and tables to the appendices. You should place the ‘bulk’ data there and extract ‘mini’ tables/charts/graphs, placing them in the body of your report at the appropriate places to illustrate the points you are making. In particular, when dealing with the second task above, you should use a chart of share/stock price movements during the period under review and map significant rises or falls in the price against key events affecting the company in the review period.
A bibliography of sources of information and theoretical material used (Note: this is NOT included in the word count). It is essential to give acknowledgement of any external sources, making it clear whether the reference is being directly quoted or indirectly consulted. Not to do this may constitute plagiarism, which is considered a serious offence against academic integrity – and against which the official sanctions are severe!
Detailed tables, extracts or copies of financial information should be relegated to appendices (Note: which are NOT included in the word count) but may be referred to in the body of the report.

Please note the appendices must NOT exceed 10 pages. If you have substantial financial documents that you wish to include, then refer the reader to the appropriate website(s). Please note also that all main results/main arguments MUST be included in the main report and NOT relegated to an appendix to circumvent word counts. The argument and answer presented in the main report must be complete without requiring the reader to wade through material in the appendix.

Please note that you are NOT being asked to produce a marketing or strategic analysis of the selected company – and you will not receive credit for doing so! Neither will credit be given for extensive sections of background material. The principal focus of the report should be on the operational financial analysis, appropriate economic concepts and the strengths and weaknesses it reveals. Your work should focus on financial and economic issues and be groundiqued within evidence driven research.

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