So how much is a baker’s dozen?
The US is in a flap about the transparency of company accounts. Maybe it should look at Germany, where far bigger liberties are taken with figures. CEOs of German corporates sometimes proudly draw analysts' attention to their methods of bumping up numbers.
Heiner Kamps, the CEO of Germany's biggest bakery, Kamps, announced 2001 earnings in a conference call to analysts and explained that Ebitda was only slightly higher than the 2000 figures but this rise was deceptively small. The 2000 figures had already been bumped up by e20 million because of "provision movements".
Says one analyst: "A lot of German companies alter their accounts through provision movements. But few CEOs actually draw attention to it - it's usually something they keep quiet. I think management was trying to be helpful. What it actually shows is that management doesn't have a clue."