Intangible assets are defined as identifiable non-monetary assets that cannot be seen, touched or physically measured. Examples of intangible assets include trade secrets, copyrights, patents, trademarks. If a company acquires assets at the prices above the book value, it may carry goodwill on its balance sheet. Goodwill reflects the difference between the price the company paid and the book value of the assets.
If a company (company A) received a patent through their own work, though it has value, it does not show up on its balance sheet as an intangible asset. However, if company A sells this patent to company B, it will show up on company Bs balance sheet as an intangible asset.
The same applies to brand names, trade secrets etc. For instance, Coca-Colas brand is extremely valuable, but the brand does not appear on its balance sheet, , because the brand was never acquired.
Some intangibles are amortized. Amortization is the depreciation of intangible assets.
Many intangibles are not amortized. They may still be written down when the company decides the asset is impaired.
Whenever you see an increase in goodwill over a number of years, you can assume its because the company is out buying other businesses above book value. GOOD if buying businesses with durable competitive advantage.
If goodwill stays the same, the company when acquiring other companies is either paying less than book value or not acquiring. Businesses with moats never sell for less than book value.
Intangibles acquired are on balance sheet at fair value.
Internally developed brand names (Coke, Wrigleys, Band-Aid) however are not reflected on the balance sheet.
One of the reasons competitive advantage power can remain hidden for so long.
Companies may change the way intangible assets are amortized, and this will affect their reported earnings.
Depreciation, Depletion and Amortization
, Total Assets* All numbers are in millions except for per share data
Valero Energy Corporation Annual Data
Valero Energy Corporation Quarterly Data