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Accounting practice and business finance: some case studies from the iron and coal industry 1865-1914

Edwards, John Richard ORCID: and Boyns, Trevor ORCID: 1994. Accounting practice and business finance: some case studies from the iron and coal industry 1865-1914. Journal of Business Finance & Accounting 21 (8) , pp. 1151-1178. 10.1111/j.1468-5957.1994.tb00369.x

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The use of secret reserves by British companies, both to manipulate the content of published reports and to influence investor perceptions of corporate progress during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, has been an important focus of historical enquiry. By way of contrast, relatively little attention has been devoted to the possible exploitation of fixed asset accounting practices to achieve similar financial reporting objectives. It is the aim of the present paper to help to redress this imbalance. The principal basis for the study is the archival records of four major iron and coal companies. Identified features of prudent financial policy include: a determination to restrict distributions and the level of activity to what the company could comfortably afford; and a reluctance to use loan finance. The selection of accounting practices was subordinated to the pursuit of these, and related, policy objectives. The identified use of prudent financial policies may be contrasted with Briefs (1976, p. 184) conclusion that nineteenth century companies consistently over-estimated profitability, with a consequential stimulation of business investment and economic growth.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
ISSN: 1468-5957
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 09:30

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