Summary of Statement No. 141

Business Combinations (Issued 6/01)


This Statement addresses financial accounting and reporting for business combinations and supersedes APB Opinion No.16, Business Combinations, and FASB Statement No. 38, Accounting for Preacquisition Contingencies of Purchased Enterprises. All business combinations in the scope of this Statement are to be accounted for using one method, the purchase method.

Reasons for Issuing This Statement

Under Opinion 16, business combinations were accounted for using one of two methods, the pooling-of-interests method (pooling method) or the purchase method. Use of the pooling method was required whenever 12 criteria were met; otherwise, the purchase method was to be used. Because those 12 criteria did not distinguish economically dissimilar transactions, similar business combinations were accounted for using different methods that produced dramatically different financial statement results. Consequently:

  • Analysts and other users of financial statements indicated that it was difficult to compare the financial results of entities because different methods of accounting for business combinations were used.


  • Users of financial statements also indicated a need for better information about intangible assets because those assets are an increasingly important economic resource for many entities and are an increasing proportion of the assets acquired in many business combinations. While the purchase method recognizes all intangible assets acquired in a business combination (either separately or as goodwill), only those intangible assets previously recorded by the acquired entity are recognized when the pooling method is used.


  • Company managements indicated that the differences between the pooling and purchase methods of accounting for business combinations affected competition in markets for mergers and acquisitions.

Differences between This Statement and Opinion 16

The provisions of this Statement reflect a fundamentally different approach to accounting for business combinations than was taken in Opinion 16. The single-method approach used in this Statement reflects the conclusion that virtually all business combinations are acquisitions and, thus, all business combinations should be accounted for in the same way that other asset acquisitions are accounted for-based on the values exchanged.

This Statement changes the accounting for business combinations in Opinion 16 in the following significant respects:

  • This Statement requires that all business combinations be accounted for by a single method—the purchase method.


  • In contrast to Opinion 16, which required separate recognition of intangible assets that can be identified and named, this Statement requires that they be recognized as assets apart from goodwill if they meet one of two criteria—the contractual-legal criterion or the separability criterion. To assist in identifying acquired intangible assets, this Statement also provides an illustrative list of intangible assets that meet either of those criteria.


  • In addition to the disclosure requirements in Opinion 16, this Statement requires disclosure of the primary reasons for a business combination and the allocation of the purchase price paid to the assets acquired and liabilities assumed by major balance sheet caption. When the amounts of goodwill and intangible assets acquired are significant in relation to the purchase price paid, disclosure of other information about those assets is required, such as the amount of goodwill by reportable segment and the amount of the purchase price assigned to each major intangible asset class.

This Statement does not change many of the provisions of Opinion 16 and Statement 38 related to the application of the purchase method. For example, this Statement does not fundamentally change the guidance for determining the cost of an acquired entity and allocating that cost to the assets acquired and liabilities assumed, the accounting for contingent consideration, and the accounting for preacquisition contingencies. That guidance is carried forward in this Statement (but was not reconsidered by the Board). Also, this Statement does not change the requirement to write off certain research and development assets acquired in a business combination as required by FASB Interpretation No. 4, Applicability of FASB Statement No. 2 to Business Combinations Accounted for by the Purchase Method.

How the Changes in This Statement Improve Financial Reporting

The changes to accounting for business combinations required by this Statement improve financial reporting because the financial statements of entities that engage in business combinations will better reflect the underlying economics of those transactions. In particular, application of this Statement will result in financial statements that:

  • Better reflect the investment made in anacquired entity—the purchase method records a business combination based on the values exchanged, thus users are provided information about the total purchase price paid to acquire another entity, which allows for more meaningful evaluation of the subsequent performance of that investment. Similar information is not provided when the pooling method is used.


  • Improve the comparability of reported financial information—all business combinations are accounted for using a single method, thus, users are able to compare the financial results of entities that engage in business combinations on an apples-to-apples basis. That is because the assets acquired and liabilities assumed in all business combinations are recognized and measured in the same way regardless of the nature of the consideration exchanged for them.


  • Provide more complete financial information—the explicit criteria for recognition of intangible assets apart from goodwill and the expanded disclosure requirements of this Statement provide more information about the assets acquired and liabilities assumed in business combinations. That additional information should, among other things, provide users with a better understanding of the resources acquired and improve their ability to assess future profitability and cash flows.

Requiring one method of accounting reduces the costs of accounting for business combinations. For example, it eliminates the costs incurred by entities in positioning themselves to meet the criteria for using the pooling method, such as the monetary and nonmonetary costs of taking actions they might not otherwise have taken or refraining from actions they might otherwise have taken.

How the Conclusions in This Statement Relate to the Conceptual Framework

The Board concluded that because virtually all business combinations are acquisitions, requiring one method of accounting for economically similar transactions is consistent with the concepts of representational faithfulness and comparability as discussed in FASB Concepts Statement No. 2, Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information. In developing this Statement, the Board also concluded that goodwill should be recognized as an asset because it meets the assets definition in FASB Concepts Statement No. 6, Elements of Financial Statements, and the asset recognition criteria in FASB Concepts Statement No. 5, Recognition and Measurement in Financial Statements of Business Enterprises.

The Board also noted that FASB Concepts Statement No. 1, Objectives of Financial Reporting by Business Enterprises, states that financial reporting should provide information that helps in assessing the amounts, timing, and uncertainty of prospective net cash inflows to an entity. The Board noted that because the purchase method records the net assets acquired in a business combination at their fair values, the information provided by that method is more useful in assessing the cash-generating abilities of the net assets acquired than the information provided by the pooling method.

Some of the Board's constituents indicated that the pooling method should be retained for public policy reasons. For example, some argued that eliminating the pooling method would impede consolidation of certain industries, reduce the amount of capital flowing into certain industries, and slow the developmentof new technology. Concepts Statement 2 states that a necessary and important characteristic of accounting information is neutrality. In the context of business combinations, neutrality means that the accounting standards should neither encourage nor discourage business combinations but rather, provide information about those combinations that is fair and evenhanded. The Board concluded that its public policy goal is to issue accounting standards that result in neutral and representationally faithful financial information and that eliminating the pooling method is consistent with that goal.

The Effective Date of This Statement

The provisions of this Statement apply to all business combinations initiated after June 30, 2001. This Statement also applies to all business combinations accounted for using the purchase method for which the date of acquisition is July 1, 2001, or later.

This Statement does not apply, however, to combinations of two or more not-for-profit organizations, the acquisition of a for-profit business entity by a not-for-profit organization, and combinations of two or more mutual enterprises.