Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Accounting for spin-offs

Now that the Sally Beauty spin-off has occurred, it's time to figure out how to account for it. Thankfully, Quicken has a spin-off transaction type. Unfortunately, it isn't entirely clear how it works. After fiddling with it for a while, I think I understand the accounting.

The first principle is that you received both the parent and the spun-off company (plus the dividend) on the day you bought the original shares. So on September 18, 2006 I bought Alberto-Culver plus Sally Beauty (plus the dividend) for $49.40 a share (and on October 23, 2006 for $49.24). The spin-off event has a retroactive effect on the original transactions.

Second, the cost basis for each company is determined by the market on the day of the spin-off. For the sake of simplicity, I'll use the opening prices, but I have seen the average of the day high and low used. I believe Alberto-Culver will file the official ratio to be used for tax purposes sometime soon. At any rate, New Alberto traded at $20.10 and New Sally traded at $7.35 (and the dividend was $25). For our purposes, I'm going to lump the dividend into the value of New Sally, because the dividend was paid for through the money Sally borrowed. Therefore, the ratio to use is Sally—61.68% and New Alberto—38.32%.

Third, a "Return of Capital" transaction on the date of purchase lowers the cost basis of the parent company by cost basis of the spun-off company. So for September 18, Sally Beauty was acquired for 61.68% of $49.40 or $30.47 a share. (And on October 23 for $30.37 a share.) Therefore, Alberto's cost basis is reduced by the same amount.

Fourth, the dividend is recorded as a return on the Sally Beauty investment. Currently, Sally trades for $8.51 a share, which is quite a bit lower than my original cost. But when you add in the $25 dividend, those shares have returned about $3 each so far. Meanwhile, Alberto has gained a little over a dollar a share since I bought it.

I've been able to get my Yahoo portfolio to more or less work out, but it requires more faking since it doesn't properly account for dividends. I wish someone would provide a really useful online-portfolio tracking system.

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