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Trading Terms

Non-current assets in financial management

Non-current assets: An equipped office representing non-current assets, property, etc.

In the world of business, non-current assets are a critical component that can greatly impact a company's success. These assets are not intended for immediate sale or consumption and can include items like property, equipment, and intellectual property. While they may not directly impact day-to-day operations, they are a long-term investment that can drive a company's growth and profitability. Understanding the importance of non-current assets is crucial for business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors looking to make informed decisions and maximize returns. By effectively managing these assets, companies can unlock their full potential and achieve long-term success. 

What are non-current assets?

They are long-term assets that are owned by a business and are expected to provide benefits over a period of time exceeding one accounting period, typically more than a year. Examples include property, plant, and equipment, intangible assets, and long-term investments.

They are normally not accounted for as expenses in the period in which they are acquired, but rather are capitalized on the balance sheet. Capitalization means that the cost of the asset is added to the company's balance sheet as an asset, rather than being recorded as an expense on the income statement. The reason for this is that these assets are expected to provide economic benefits over a longer period of time, and “expensing” them immediately would not accurately reflect their long-term value.

Non-current assets tend to be depreciated or amortized over their useful life. Depreciation and amortization are both methods of accounting for the gradual decrease in value of non-current assets over time.

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  • Depreciation is used for tangible assets such as buildings, vehicles, and equipment. It represents the allocation of the cost of these assets over their useful lives. For example, if a company buys a machine for $10,000 and expects it to last for 10 years, the company might depreciate the machine by $1,000 per year.
  • Amortization, on the other hand, is used for intangible assets such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. It represents the allocation of the cost of these assets over their useful lives. For example, if a company buys a patent for $50,000 and expects it to last for 5 years, the company might amortize the patent by $10,000 per year.

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Non-current assets vs. current assets

When it comes to managing your company's assets, it's important to understand the difference between non-current assets and current assets. You've already learnt that non-current assets are typically investments that offer long-term benefits. Current assets on the other hand are considered short-term investments. Unlike non-current assets, current assets can be quickly turned into cash to help support the day-to-day operations of the business.

Current assets are made up of various components, including accounts receivable, inventory, and prepaid expenses.

  • Accounts receivable represents the money that customers owe to a business, which is considered a current asset because it is expected to be collected within a year. Proper management of accounts receivable is essential to ensure timely payment from customers and maintain cash flow.

  • Inventory is another component of current assets, representing the goods that a company has available for sale. Managing inventory levels is crucial to prevent overstocking, which can tie up valuable resources and reduce profitability, or stock outs, which can lead to lost sales and dissatisfied customers.

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  • Prepaid expenses are yet another type of current asset that a company pays for in advance, such as rent, insurance, or administrative fees. These expenses are considered current assets because they offer benefits within a year of payment. By paying for these expenses upfront, a company can spread the cost over time and manage cash flow more effectively.
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Characteristics of a non-current asset

  1. One of the primary characteristics of non-current assets is their long-term nature, which is over one year. 
  2. They are also not planned for immediate sale, as they are generally considered long-term investments.
  3. Another key characteristic is their low liquidity. They are more challenging to sell or liquidate quickly.

How are non-current assets classified?

They can be classified as either tangible or intangible, based on their physical or non-physical nature.

  1. Tangible non-current assets are physical assets that have a finite useful life and can be seen, touched, and measured. Examples include property, plant, and equipment, natural resources, vehicles, furniture, and fixtures. These assets are typically subject to depreciation, which reflects their decline in value over time due to wear and tear, obsolescence, or other factors.
  2. Intangible non-current assets, on the other hand, are non-physical assets that do not have a physical presence but represent long-term economic value for the company. Examples include patents, trademarks, copyrights, goodwill, brand recognition, software licenses, and franchise agreements. These assets are not subject to depreciation but may be subject to impairment if their value declines due to changing market conditions, competition, or other factors.

Importance of knowing non-current assets for investors

  1. Investment decisions: If a company has a significant amount of non-current assets such as property, plant, and equipment, it may indicate that the company has a long-term growth strategy. This can in turn help investors make informed decisions about investing in such a company.
  2. Valuation: They can significantly impact a company's overall value. For example, a company with a large amount of valuable patents or trademarks may have a higher overall value than a company with fewer intangible assets.
  3. Risk assessment: They can also indicate potential risks associated with a company's operations. For example, a company that relies heavily on non-current assets such as property or equipment may be more vulnerable to changes in the economy or industry trends that affect the demand for these assets.
  4. Financial health: They can provide insight into a company's financial health and stability. A company with strong non-current assets, such as valuable patents, may be more financially stable and have a better chance of sustaining long-term growth.

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Summary

The importance of non-current assets in financial management cannot be overstated. Understanding a company's long-term investments is critical to assessing its financial health and potential profitability. These assets provide vital information for investors to make informed decisions and to determine the company's potential risks and rewards. Proper management of non-current assets is essential for long-term success.

Not investment advice. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future performance.

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