IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Balance sheet versus earnings conservatism in Europe


  • Juan Manuel Garcia Lara
  • Araceli Mora


In this study we extend prior research on the international analysis of accounting conservatism (Joos and Lang, 1994; Ball et al., 2000; Giner and Rees, 2001), by examining the level of accounting conservatism across eight European countries (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Belgium), and assessing the statistical significance of the differences among them. The definitions of conservatism that we use are, on the one hand, the Feltham and Ohlson (1995) definition, which implies a persistent understatement of book value of shareholders' equity (balance sheet conservatism). On the other hand, we use the one proposed by Basu (1997), that is, a timelier recognition of bad news in earnings relative to good news (earnings conservatism). We also address the possible scale problems of the models used to measure balance sheet conservatism. Finally, we check whether our comparative results could be influenced by a different sample composition in each country. Our results show that there are both balance sheet and earnings conservatism practices in all countries under study. In addition, while continental countries show larger balance sheet conservatism, differences in earnings conservative practices between countries are not that pronounced, although they tend to be larger in the UK. We also find that the existence of balance sheet conservative practices is associated with reduced levels of earnings conservatism, which is consistent with the results in Pope and Walker (2003).

Suggested Citation

  • Juan Manuel Garcia Lara & Araceli Mora, 2004. "Balance sheet versus earnings conservatism in Europe," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 261-292.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:13:y:2004:i:2:p:261-292 DOI: 10.1080/0963818042000203347

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Clifford Jr. & Watts, Ross L., 1992. "The investment opportunity set and corporate financing, dividend, and compensation policies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 263-292, December.
    2. Leuz, Christian & Nanda, Dhananjay & Wysocki, Peter D., 2003. "Earnings management and investor protection: an international comparison," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 505-527, September.
    3. Easton, Peter D. & Harris, Trevor S. & Ohlson, James A., 1992. "Aggregate accounting earnings can explain most of security returns : The case of long return intervals," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2-3), pages 119-142, August.
    4. Beaver, William & Lambert, Richard & Morse, Dale, 1980. "The information content of security prices," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 3-28, March.
    5. Ivana Raonic & Stuart McLeay & Ioannis Asimakopoulos, 2004. "The Timeliness of Income Recognition by European Companies: An Analysis of Institutional and Market Complexity," Journal of Business Finance & Accounting, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(1-2), pages 115-148.
    6. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-De-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 1999. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(2), pages 471-517, April.
    7. Kothari, S. P. & Zimmerman, Jerold L., 1995. "Price and return models," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 155-192, September.
    8. Martien Lubberink & Carel Huijgen, 2001. "A Wealth-Based Explanation for Earnings Conservatism," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 5(3), pages 323-349.
    9. Holthausen, Robert W. & Watts, Ross L., 2001. "The relevance of the value-relevance literature for financial accounting standard setting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-3), pages 3-75, September.
    10. repec:bla:joares:v:38:y:2000:i:1:p:127-148 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Wendy Beekes & Peter Pope & Steven Young, 2004. "The Link Between Earnings Timeliness, Earnings Conservatism and Board Composition: evidence from the UK," Corporate Governance: An International Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(1), pages 47-59, January.
    12. repec:bla:joares:v:34:y:1996:i:2:p:209-234 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Ball, Ray & Kothari, S. P. & Robin, Ashok, 2000. "The effect of international institutional factors on properties of accounting earnings," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-51, February.
    14. repec:hrv:faseco:30747162 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:bla:joares:v:37:y:1999:i:2:p:319-352 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Ball, Ray & Robin, Ashok & Wu, Joanna Shuang, 2003. "Incentives versus standards: properties of accounting income in four East Asian countries," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-3), pages 235-270, December.
    17. Kumar Sivakumar & Gregory Waymire, 2003. "Enforceable Accounting Rules and Income Measurement by Early 20th Century Railroads," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 397-432, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Karampinis, Nikolaos I. & Hevas, Dimosthenis L., 2011. "Mandating IFRS in an Unfavorable Environment: The Greek Experience," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 304-332, September.
    2. Samira Demaria & Dominique Dufour, 2007. "First time adoption of IFRS, Fair value option, conservatism: Evidences from French listed companies," Post-Print halshs-00266189, HAL.
    3. Luis Rodriguez-Dominguez & Isabel Gallego-Alvarez & Isabel Garcia-Sanchez, 2009. "Corporate Governance and Codes of Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 90(2), pages 187-202, December.
    4. Ioannis Tsalavoutas & Lisa Evans, 2010. "Transition to IFRS in Greece: financial statement effects and auditor size," Managerial Auditing Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 25(8), pages 814-842, September.
    5. André, Paul & Filip, Andrei & Paugam, Luc, 2013. "Impact of Mandatory IFRS Adoption on Conditional Conservatism in Europe," ESSEC Working Papers WP1311, ESSEC Research Center, ESSEC Business School.
    6. Christina Dargenidou & Stuart McLeay & Ivana Raonic, 2006. "Expected earnings growth and the cost of capital: an analysis of accounting regime change in the European financial market," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 42(3-4), pages 388-414.
    7. repec:hal:journl:hal-00862683 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Araceli Mora Enguidanos & Juan Manuel García Lara & Beatriz García Osma & Ana Gisbert Clemente, 2004. "La Comparabilidad De La Información Contable En Europa: Efectos De La Manipulación Contable Sobre El Nivel De Conservadurismo," Working Papers. Serie EC 2004-14, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
    9. Clare Roberts & Yue Wang, 2009. "Accounting harmonization and the value-relevance of dirty surplus accounting flows," Review of Accounting and Finance, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 8(4), pages 340-368, October.
    10. Gérald Lobo & Luc Paugam & Lana Zhang & Jean-François Casta, 2013. "Effect Of Joint Auditor Pair On Conserv A Tism: Evidence From Impairment Tests," Post-Print hal-00993007, HAL.
    11. Christos A. Grambovas & Begoña Giner & Demetris Christodoulou, 2006. "Earnings conservatism: panel data evidence from the European Union and the United States," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 42(3-4), pages 354-378.
    12. repec:spr:manint:v:53:y:2013:i:4:d:10.1007_s11575-012-0152-1 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:13:y:2004:i:2:p:261-292. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.