In the Impairment Aisle, Macy’s Is Tops

But its $4.5-$5b goodwill writedown for the May acquisition is only one of a half-dozen taken by companies this week, including retailer Office Dep...
Stephen TaubFebruary 25, 2009

Macy’s Inc. led another wave of companies taking writedowns of goodwill, reporting impairments totaling between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion for the fourth quarter stemming from the retailer’s August 2005 acquisition of May Department Stores Co.

Macy’s said that the impairment charge relates to the deterioration in the general economic environment and the resulting decline in the company’s share price and market capitalization. It said it could not make an actual determination of the amount of goodwill impaired at year-end because of the complexity of the impairment calculation process, and the need for appraisals and analyses that have not yet been obtained and performed.

Other retailers announcing impairment charges this week alone include Office Depot Inc.and Zale Corp. Office Depot took noncash charges totaling $1.27 billion recorded for goodwill and trade name impairments, while jewelry-store operator Zale reported charges of $5 million related to store impairments of $5 million, and charges related to goodwill impairments of $5 million.

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Outside the retail business, Parker Drilling Co. on Tuesday posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $39.5 million, mainly due to a one-time, $100.3 million goodwill impairment charge related to the value of prior acquisitions. The company said it eliminated all goodwill associated with its 1996 acquisitions of the Gulf of Mexico barge drilling business, Mallard Bay Drilling Inc. ($64.2 million), and the rental tools business, Quail Tools Inc. ($36.1 million).

Parker said that the impairment of goodwill was primarily driven by adverse financial market conditions that reduced the company’s equity market capitalization below  shareholders’ equity. “It takes into account the deteriorating macroeconomic environment, the reduced accessibility to the credit markets for customers, and the high degree of uncertainty about the eventual return to normalcy,” it added in its announcement.

Entercom Communications Corp., owner of three Milwaukee-area radio stations, reported a fourth-quarter noncash impairment charge of $395.2 million. And Great Wolf Resorts Inc., which owns indoor water parks, reported a 2008 quarterly net loss of $36.5 million that included pretax impairment charges of $17.4 million for goodwill, and $18.8 million for the company’s investment in one of its joint ventures. The last impairment included the related effect on income taxes of the nondeductibility of a majority of the goodwill impairment charge for income tax purposes.

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