Classification & measurement
Freestanding derivative instruments (e.g., warrants) and embedded derivative features (e.g., conversion option in convertible debt) that are indexed to an issuer’s own stock may be eligible for a scope exception from derivative accounting; that is, mark-to-market may not be required. While the existence of down-round protection alone may have precluded application of the scope exception, a recent accounting standard change reversed that position.
The new guidance provides relief for instruments with down-round protection as defined in the standard. Therefore, issuers should carefully evaluate the down-round protection mechanism to determine if it satisfies the definition, in particular for warrants. Additional criteria must be met for instruments and features to qualify for the scope exception. Issuers may not have paid much attention to these other criteria as the down-round protection on its own disqualified the instrument from the scope exception. Application of the new guidance will require a re-examination of the other criteria that were not previously considered.
For new issuances, down-round investor protection may even be a deciding factor in assessing the nature of the host contract and, in turn, could impact the embedded features that need to be separately accounted for as derivatives.
Beneficial conversion feature (BCF)
More convertible debt and convertible preferred instruments can qualify for the derivative scope exception under the new down-round guidance such that conversion rights would not be separately accounted for as embedded derivatives. However, issuers will need to consider if a down-round may adjust the conversion price to create a BCF, that is, an in-the-money conversion option..
For convertible debt that does not fall within the cash-conversion guidance, the recognition of a BCF results in incremental interest expense. Otherwise, for convertible preferred stock, the BCF results in a deemed dividend that reduces EPS.
Earnings per share (EPS)
Under the new down-round guidance, down-round protection in freestanding instruments (e.g., warrants) will impact EPS only when a down-round occurs. At that time, the down-round protection value is recognized as a deemed dividend and reduces income available to common shareholders for purposes of basic EPS (a reduction to basic EPS numerator).
Valuations from appraisers likely will be needed to measure the effect of the down-round protection which is calculated as the difference between (i) the fair value of the instrument without down-round protection immediately prior to the adjustment and (ii) the fair value of the instrument without the down-round protection immediately after the adjustment.
Companies are required to disclose terms, such as down-round protection, that may change the conversion or exercise prices of financial instruments. Disclosures should describe the feature and its effect when triggered. In addition, when a down-round adjustment occurs, issuers are required to disclose the down-round value that is recognized in EPS. Companies in the process of going public should also consider the impact to disclosures in their registration statements and subsequent periodic filings if a down-round feature is triggered, such as pro forma EPS, capitalization, and dilution disclosures.
Other considerations, including modification accounting
Amendments to outstanding financings such as convertible debt and convertible preferred stock require determining if the amendment constitutes a modification or an extinguishment for accounting. For example, a preferred stock modification may require recognition of an immediate deemed dividend, and consequential EPS charge, for the value transferred between common and preferred shareholders.