ESEF – How uniform reporting will beginn in 2020
Not all annual reports for the last financial year have yet been published and nobody is thinking about the report in two years – except for the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), which has been providing a solution for better international comparability in reporting since the end of 2017. On 1 January 2020 this will become binding for all issuers within the EU under the name ESEF (European Single Electronic Format).
Translated, this means machine readability and 5,300 reports with the same code numbers in the same places in the text. This would enable software to analyse and evaluate a large number of annual reports in no time at all. This creates transparency and saves time, especially for investors, analysts and journalists. Listed companies, on the other hand, first have to cope with the requirements, whereby after the one-off changeover in the following years it should theoretically function smoothly.
Financial reports already have to be submitted in XML format. The XHTML code with embedded XBRL tags is going to replace XML. Also, in this format the report can be designed visually appealing for the human viewer, because the tags are only visible for one computer. By the XBRL taxonomy based on IFRS definitions all reports become uniform in the structure and in the designations, at least as regards the company information like name and seat as well as the closing tables (balance sheet, profit and loss statement) and their explanations concerns. The notes to the consolidated financial statements are not to be labelled with 234 additional tags until 2022, after a two-year adaptation period.
The ESEF-compliant report will finally be uploaded to the Bundesanzeiger. According to current information, a PDF document is still sufficient for the Deutsche Wertpapierbörse (German Stock Exchange). Voluntary information, as before with the XML format, remain completely outside. The same applies to the design and printing of the reports.
XBRL tags are technically nothing new. Some countries, including the USA, have been using the technology for some time. Nevertheless, the tags cannot be converted automatically. Even the most modern programs have to be taught at least once more. Of course, this is also due to the variety of formatting and labeling of the business key figures. Henryk Deter, CEO of cometis AG, is sure that “this will probably remain the case,” and “companies will therefore hardly deviate from the usual reporting formats. XML will be replaced by ESEF, but this will not immediately change much regarding the communication on the capital market. As IR consultants, however, we are naturally challenged here and will inform our customers in good time of any necessary adjustments in the preparation of reports”.