Review of Accounting Studies

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 103-130

First online:

An Empirical Evaluation of the Usefulness of Non-GAAP Accounting Measures in the Real Estate Investment Trust Industry

  • Thomas D. FieldsAffiliated withJ. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University
  • , Srinivasan RanganAffiliated withUniversity of California-Davis
  • , S. Ramu ThiagarajanAffiliated withJ. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University

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We conduct three sets of analyses to compare the usefulness of net income, based on generally accepted accounting principals (GAAP), and the industry-advanced funds from operations (FFO) in the context of the real estate investment trust (REIT) industry. In our first set of tests, we find that FFO is more strongly associated with one-year ahead FFO and one-year ahead operating cash flows than is net income. Conversely, we find that net income explains more variation in one-year ahead net income and current stock price than does FFO. Second, in support of the claim that some REITs manipulate FFO, we document that young REITs and REITs that are likely to access capital markets are more likely to manage FFO. Third, we find that, for a sample of firms that disclose current value information, both net income and FFO fail to reflect holding gains or losses on unsold properties in a timely manner. Overall, our analyses suggest that the REIT industry's claim that FFO is more useful than net income is premature because the superiority of one measure over the other is highly contextual.