Harnischfeger Corporation

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Vishal SachdevApril 19, 2013Harnischfeger Corporation
1. Describe clearly the accounting changes Harnischfeger made in 1984 as stated in Note 2 of its financial statements. Harnischfeger made two accounting changes from which one made its net sales increase, and the second change made its net income increase. For the net sales increases, they included sales from certain foreign subsidiaries which increased their net sales. Also, in the past when having sold equipment generated from their supplier Kobe Steel, they only included the gross margin from the sale of Kobe originated equipment, but now they include the net sales products purchased from Kobe and sold by Harnischfeger. This was done mainly to reflect more effectively on the transactions between the corporation and Kobe, since they were now working with a long-term supply agreement which was part of their restructuring plans. The other change was to use the straight-line method for the computation of depreciation expenses for plants, machinery and equipment. This changed method of computing depreciation made their net income rise by $11 million. 2. What is the effect of the depreciation accounting method change on the reported income in 1984? How will this change affect profits in future years? Depending on the useful life of the asset being depreciated, salvage value and purchase price, the straight line method (used in accounting changes for Harnischfeger), this computing method will spread the depreciation expense evenly in the useful life. Whereas the accelerated method of depreciation uses larger depreciation values in the beginning years of the asset's useful life, and for the remaining years it is a lower expense until becoming zero. The overall effect per year on net income with straight line methods is to make it appear a bit higher (depends on what type of business, manufacturing business makes net income higher since the cost of manufacturing equipment is usually very high leading to larger depreciation expense values). In the future years net income will remain steady using straight line depreciation methods, and when depreciation ends with the asset's useful life, it will either be disposed giving a temporary increase in net income or will be replaced with a new asset with a new depreciation expense. 3. What is the effect of the depreciation lives change? How will this change affect future reported profits? If the depreciation lives changes, there can be two of the following consequences:a) If the plant, property and manufacturing equipment are used for less time than the indicated useful life, the future profits could decrease if there is no productivity. Overhead expenses would reduce, but depreciation would still continue and would make profits smaller.b) If the plant, property and manufacturing equipment are used for a longer period than the estimated useful life, then the depreciation will reduce by the end of the useful life, but the maintenance expense will increase because as these assets get older, they need constant maintenance. If production output is not high enough to compensate maintenance expense, then profits could reduce. 4. The depreciation accounting changes assume that Harnischfeger’s plant and machinery will last longer and will lose their value more slowly. Given the business conditions Harnischfeger was facing in its primary industries in 1984, are these economic assumptions justified? The case said that they used straight line depreciation method in the accounting change, but it doesn't mean that the plant and machinery will last longer, the useful life of the plant and machinery will be the same. The only way it lasts longer is because less of it is being used because now Harnischfeger is buying their equipment from overseas to save on manufacturing costs and increase their profit. It is true that it will lose the value more slowly because the depreciation expense is divided in the years of useful life of the...
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