notes to consolidated financial statements
Note 1 (2 of 2)
Description of Business and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies
Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets
Goodwill is the excess of the acquisition cost of businesses over the fair value of the identifiable net assets acquired. Impairment testing for goodwill is performed annually in the fourth fiscal quarter or more frequently if indications of potential impairment exist. The impairment test for goodwill uses a two-step approach, which is performed at the reporting unit level. We have determined that in our case, the reporting units are our operating segments since that is the lowest level at which discrete, reliable financial and cash flow information is regularly reviewed by our chief operating decision maker. Step one compares the fair value of the reporting unit (calculated using a market approach and/or a discounted cash flow method) to its carrying value. If the carrying value exceeds the fair value, there is a potential impairment and step two must be performed. Step two compares the carrying value of the reporting unit’s goodwill to its implied fair value (i.e., fair value of reporting unit less the fair value of the unit’s assets and liabilities, including identifiable intangible assets). If the implied fair value of goodwill is less than the carrying amount of goodwill, an impairment is recognized.
Intangible Assets Not Subject to Amortization
A significant portion of our intangible assets are wireless licenses that provide our wireless operations with the exclusive right to utilize designated radio frequency spectrum to provide cellular communication services. While licenses are issued for only a fixed time, generally ten years, such licenses are subject to renewal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Renewals of licenses have occurred routinely and at nominal cost. Moreover, we have determined that there are currently no legal, regulatory, contractual, competitive, economic or other factors that limit the useful life of our wireless licenses. As a result, we treat the wireless licenses as an indefinite-lived intangible asset. We reevaluate the useful life determination for wireless licenses each year to determine whether events and circumstances continue to support an indefinite useful life.
We test our wireless licenses for potential impairment annually or more frequently if indications of impairment exist. We evaluate our licenses on an aggregate basis using a direct value approach. The direct value approach estimates fair value using a discounted cash flow analysis to estimate what a marketplace participant would be willing to pay to purchase the aggregated wireless licenses as of the valuation date. If the fair value of the aggregated wireless licenses is less than the aggregated carrying amount of the licenses, an impairment is recognized.
Interest expense incurred while qualifying activities are performed to ready wireless licenses for their intended use is capitalized as part of wireless licenses. The capitalization period ends when the development is discontinued or substantially complete and the license is ready for its intended use.
Intangible Assets Subject to Amortization
Our intangible assets that do not have indefinite lives (primarily customer lists and non-network internal-use software) are amortized over their useful lives and reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of the asset may not be recoverable. If any indications were present, we would test for recoverability by comparing the carrying amount of the asset to the net undiscounted cash flows expected to be generated from the asset. If those net undiscounted cash flows do not exceed the carrying amount, we would perform the next step, which is to determine the fair value of the asset and record an impairment, if any. We reevaluate the useful life determinations for these intangible assets each year to determine whether events and circumstances warrant a revision in their remaining useful lives.
For information related to the carrying amount of goodwill by segment, wireless licenses and other intangible assets, as well as the major components and average useful lives of our other acquired intangible assets, see Note 3.
Fair Value Measurements
Fair value of financial and non-financial assets and liabilities is defined as an exit price, representing the amount that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants. The three-tier hierarchy for inputs used in measuring fair value, which prioritizes the inputs used in the methodologies of measuring fair value for assets and liabilities, is as follows:
Level 1 –
Quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities
Level 2 –
Observable inputs other than quoted prices in active markets for identical assets and liabilities
Level 3 –
No observable pricing inputs in the market
Financial assets and financial liabilities are classified in their entirety based on the lowest level of input that is significant to the fair value measurements. Our assessment of the significance of a particular input to the fair value measurements requires judgment, and may affect the valuation of the assets and liabilities being measured and their placement within the fair value hierarchy.
Our effective tax rate is based on pre-tax income, statutory tax rates, tax laws and regulations and tax planning strategies available to us in the various jurisdictions in which we operate.
Deferred income taxes are provided for temporary differences in the bases between financial statement and income tax assets and liabilities. Deferred income taxes are recalculated annually at tax rates then in effect. We record valuation allowances to reduce our deferred tax assets to the amount that is more likely than not to be realized.
We use a two-step approach for recognizing and measuring tax benefits taken or expected to be taken in a tax return. The first step is recognition: we determine whether it is more likely than not that a tax position will be sustained upon examination, including resolution of any related appeals or litigation processes, based on the technical merits of the position. In evaluating whether a tax position has met the more-likely-than-not recognition threshold, we presume that the position will be examined by the appropriate taxing authority that has full knowledge of all relevant information. The second step is measurement: a tax position that meets the more-likely-than-not recognition threshold is measured to determine the amount of benefit to recognize in the financial statements. The tax position is measured at the largest amount of benefit that is greater than 50 percent likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. Differences between tax positions taken in a tax return and amounts recognized in the financial statements will generally result in one or more of the following: an increase in a liability for income taxes payable, a reduction of an income tax refund receivable, a reduction in a deferred tax asset, or an increase in a deferred tax liability.
The accounting standard relating to income taxes generated by leveraged lease transactions requires that changes in the projected timing of income tax cash flows generated by a leveraged lease transaction be recognized as a gain or loss in the year in which the change occurs.
Significant management judgment is required in evaluating our tax positions and in determining our effective tax rate.
We measure and recognize compensation expense for all stock-based compensation awards made to employees and directors based on estimated fair values. See Note 10 for further details.
Foreign Currency Translation
The functional currency of our foreign operations is generally the local currency. For these foreign entities, we translate income statement amounts at average exchange rates for the period, and we translate assets and liabilities at end-of-period exchange rates. We record these translation adjustments in Accumulated other comprehensive income, a separate component of Equity, in our consolidated balance sheets. We report exchange gains and losses on intercompany foreign currency transactions of a long-term nature in Accumulated other comprehensive income. Other exchange gains and losses are reported in income.
Employee Benefit Plans
Pension and postretirement health care and life insurance benefits earned during the year as well as interest on projected benefit obligations are accrued currently. Prior service costs and credits resulting from changes in plan benefits are generally amortized over the average remaining service period of the employees expected to receive benefits. Expected return on plan assets is determined by applying the return on assets assumption to the actual fair value of plan assets. Actuarial gains and losses are recognized in operating results in the year in which they occur. These gains and losses are measured annually as of December 31 or upon a remeasurement event. Verizon management employees no longer earn pension benefits or earn service towards the company retiree medical subsidy (see Note 11).
We recognize a pension or a postretirement plan’s funded status as either an asset or liability on the consolidated balance sheets. Also, we measure any unrecognized prior service costs and credits that arise during the period as a component of Accumulated other comprehensive income (loss), net of applicable income tax.
We have entered into derivative transactions primarily to manage our exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates, equity and commodity prices. We employ risk management strategies, which may include the use of a variety of derivatives including cross currency swaps, foreign currency and prepaid forwards and collars, interest rate and commodity swap agreements and interest rate locks. We do not hold derivatives for trading purposes.
We measure all derivatives, including derivatives embedded in other financial instruments, at fair value and recognize them as either assets or liabilities on our consolidated balance sheets. Our derivative instruments are valued primarily using models based on readily observable market parameters for all substantial terms of our derivative contracts and thus are classified as Level 2. Changes in the fair values of derivative instruments not qualifying as hedges or any ineffective portion of hedges are recognized in earnings in the current period. Changes in the fair values of derivative instruments used effectively as fair value hedges are recognized in earnings, along with changes in the fair value of the hedged item. Changes in the fair value of the effective portions of cash flow hedges are reported in Other comprehensive income and recognized in earnings when the hedged item is recognized in earnings.
Recent Accounting Standards
During May 2011, an accounting standard update regarding fair value measurement was issued to provide a consistent definition of fair value and ensure that the fair value measurement and disclosure requirements are similar between U.S. GAAP and International Financial Reporting Standards. This standard update also changes certain fair value measurement principles and enhances the disclosure requirements particularly for Level 3 fair value measurements. We will adopt this standard update during the first quarter of 2012. The adoption of this standard update is not expected to have a significant impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In June 2011, an accounting standard update regarding the presentation of comprehensive income was issued to increase the prominence of items reported in other comprehensive income. The update requires that all nonowner changes in stockholders’ equity be presented either in a single continuous statement of comprehensive income or in two separate, but consecutive statements. This standard update is effective during the first quarter of 2012. The adoption of this standard is not expected to have a significant impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In September 2011, an accounting standard update regarding testing of goodwill for impairment was issued. This standard update gives companies the option to perform a qualitative assessment to first assess whether the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount. If an entity determines it is not more likely than not that the fair value of the reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, then performing the two-step impairment test is unnecessary. This standard update is effective during the first quarter of 2012. The adoption of this standard is not expected to have a significant impact on our consolidated financial statements.