Earnings management and forecast accuracy : a study of Malaysian initial public offerings
This thesis explores the link between earnings management and forecast accuracy in the context of Malaysian IPO's following a revision of the regulation on earnings forecast disclosure made in 1996. The study involves three different stages. The first stage examines the accuracy of earnings forecasts contained in the IPO prospectuses of Malaysian companies seeking listing from 1996 to December 2002. The second stage of study provides evidence of positive discretionary accrual in financial statements of IPO issuers in the year of IPO, and in the 3 year period following the IPO. Finally, a correlation study examines the link between earnings management and forecast error and other variables representing unexpected change in economic condition and company specific characteristics. The results from the first stage of study indicate that Malaysian IPO companies on average have a negative forecast error, indicating positive bias in their forecast. Multivariate results indicate that regulation of earnings forecast disclosure has no significant impact on accuracy but that economic condition, management optimism, and auditor reputation have. The second stage, studying earnings management on a sample of IPO 1996,1998 and 2000 regulated companies, provides evidence consistent with the prediction that managers of Malaysian IPO companies manage earnings upwards in the year of forecast issuance, or in the year the company make their forecasts. The study also provides evidence that managers continue to manage earnings during the period after listing, so long as there is continuing regulatory scrutiny. The findings of the final stage of study provide evidence of a significant association between earnings management and the relative size and direction of forecast error, after controlling for other expected associations. The regression results reveal that earnings management of Malaysian IPO companies is associated with forecast error, the changes in economic condition represented by a recovery and crisis period, company age and management ownership. The study makes a contribution in terms of understanding the nature of earnings management at the time of an IPO and in particular providing empirical evidence on the link between the forecast error and the extent of earnings management. The result shows that managers appear to manage earnings upwards significantly during the economic crisis and recovery period in order to match or come closer to the forecast made in the prospectus. In a highly concentrated ownership, the actions of IPO managers appear to be contrary to the assumption of agency theory. It is speculated that managers of IPO companies are managing their earnings upwards and reporting towards meeting their forecasts in order to manage their legitimacy and to establish their company's good reputation. This is because, as newly listed companies, they are under close market scrutiny and are under great pressure to meet the projections made to investors.