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Reading 25  Understanding Balance Sheets Introduction
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The balance sheet provides information on a company’s resources (assets) and its sources of capital (equity and liabilities/debt). This information helps an analyst assess a company’s ability to pay for its near-term operating needs, meet future debt obligations, and make distributions to owners. The basic equation underlying the balance sheet is Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

Analysts should be aware that different items of assets and liabilities may be measured differently. For example, some items are measured at historical cost or a variation thereof and others at fair value.1 An understanding of the measurement issues will facilitate analysis. The balance sheet measurement issues are, of course, closely linked to the revenue and expense recognition issues affecting the income statement. Throughout this reading, we describe and illustrate some of the linkages between the measurement issues affecting the balance sheet and the revenue and expense recognition issues affecting the income statement.

This reading is organized as follows: In Section 2, we describe and give examples of the elements and formats of balance sheets. Section 3 discusses current assets and current liabilities. Section 4 focuses on assets, and Section 5 focuses on liabilities. Section 6 describes the components of equity and illustrates the statement of changes in shareholders’ equity. Section 7 introduces balance sheet analysis. A summary of the key points and practice problems in the CFA Institute multiple-choice format conclude the reading.

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