Aviation insight: Going concern in the wave of a pandemic

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Given the current economic uncertainty and market volatility, for many aviation leasing companies, doubt may be cast over the ability to continue to operate as a going concern. As the aircraft leasing industry has been gravely impacted by Covid-19, the impact on operations and forecasted cash flows are likely to have been, and continue to be, significantly affected.

In accordance with the Companies Act 2014 (as amended), the Directors/Management have a statutory obligation to prepare financial statements that present a true and fair value of the financial position of the company. The company’s going concern assessment should document all information available which effects the financial position of the company for the foreseeable future, expected to be at least 12 months from the end of the reporting period.

The going concern is a fundamental accounting principle which assumes that any organization will continue to operate its business for the foreseeable future, with every decision taken with the objective of continuing to run the business rather than liquidating it. Given the current environment, management needs to assess whether the operating conditions precipitated by COVID-19, create significant doubt around the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.

When the Directors/Management are assessing a company’s ability to continue to operate as a going concern, they must, in the current environment, consider the existing impact of Covid-19, together with the expected future effects. Some of the key items to consider include:

  • Lease rental income deferrals continuing/expected future requests
  • Geographical risk of the SPV
  • The financial support available to the lessee
  • Scheduled debt repayments
  • Income and expenditure scenario planning

The Directors/Management are responsible for making a formal assessment as to whether the use of the going concern basis of accounting, is appropriate. If they are aware of any future events which may cast material uncertainty over the SPVs ability to continue as a going concern, this is required to be disclosed in the Directors Report.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) issued a revised International Standard on ‘Auditing – ISA 570, Going Concern’ in September 2019 which is effective for accounting periods commencing on or after 15 December 2019. The revised standard also places greater emphasis on the company’s going concern analysis and has an impact from both an SPV management perspective and from an auditor’s review perspective.

Under the revised going concern standard, the auditors are obliged to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence about the appropriateness of Director/Management’s use of the going concern basis of accounting and to conclude whether there is a material uncertainty about the entity’s ability to meet its obligations as they fall due. The requirement to challenge the company’s going concern assessment will give rise to increased scrutiny, particularly on its expected cashflow models considering the current market conditions in the aviation industry.

If the auditors are not satisfied that the company will continue to operate as a going concern for the foreseeable future, they may include a ‘Material Uncertainty Relating to Going Concern’ clause which explains the uncertainty. If the auditor concludes that the disclosures are inadequate, or if Directors/Management have not made any disclosure at all and refuse to remedy the situation, the opinion will be qualified or adverse.

Due to the uncertain future impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, an increase in qualified audit opinions may be expected over the coming months.

How we can help?

It’s important that aviation leasing companies and their auditors are working together to effectively manage the audit process. As a global financial services provider regulated in 14 jurisdictions, we have dedicated local experts in each jurisdiction and committed to working closely with clients and their advisors to support them throughout the audit process.

To discuss your entity’s aviation corporate service requirements, please contact us here

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