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Earnings management or forecast guidance to meet analyst expectations?

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We examine whether UK firms engage in earnings management or forecast guidance to ensure that their reported earnings meet analyst earnings expectations. We explore two earnings management mechanisms: (a) positive abnormal working capital accruals; and (b) classification shifting of core expenses to non-recurring items. We find no evidence of a positive association between income-increasing, abnormal working capital accruals and the probability of meeting analyst forecasts. Instead we find evidence consistent with a subset of larger firms shifting small core expenses to other non-recurring items to just hit analyst expectations with core earnings. We also find that the probability of meeting analyst expectations increases with downward-guided forecasts. Overall our results suggest that UK firms are more likely to engage in earnings forecast guidance or, for a subset of larger firms, in classification shifting rather than in accruals management to avoid negative earnings surprises.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/36806/

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