3 Critical judgements and accounting estimates

Estimates and judgements are continuously evaluated and are based on historical experience and other factors, including expectations of future events that are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances.

3.1 Critical judgements in applying the Group accounting policies

Revenue recognition

The Group is party to out-licensing agreements, which can involve upfront payments, development milestones, sales milestones and royalties that may occur over several years and involve certain future contract liabilities. For all out-licensing agreements whereby a license is transferred with other goods or services, the Group first makes an assessment about whether or not the license is to be considered as a distinct performance obligation or not. If the transfer of the license is considered to be a separate performance obligation, revenue relating to the transfer of the license is recognized at a point in time or over time depending on the nature of the license. Revenues are only recognized over time if the Group is performing development, manufacturing or other activities that could significantly affect the IP transferred, hereby exposing the licensee to the effects of these activities when these activities do not represent a separate service. If the Group assesses that these conditions are not fulfilled, revenue resulting from out-licensing agreements is recognized at the moment control over the license is transferred.

If revenues are recognized over time and in case the input method is assessed as the best method to reflect the transfer of control of the service to the customer, some judgement may be required in applying this method especially in estimating the total costs and hours to be incurred. In this case the Group uses its best estimate based on past experience and actual knowledge and progress of the service to be provided. Estimates are reassessed on a continuous basis. Seen the activities of the Group, in most cases, the input method provides the most faithful depiction of the transfer of the service to the customer.

For licenses that are bundled with other services (e.g. development or manufacturing services) the Group will apply judgment to assess whether the combined performance obligation is satisfied at a point in time or over time. If revenue is recognized over time, the Group will apply judgment in determining the period over which the services are provided. The Group will also apply judgment when allocating the components of the transaction price to the different performance obligations in case the out-licensing agreement includes other performance obligations in addition to the transfer of the license.

Revenue recognition for out-licensing agreements is therefore based on the specific conditions of each out-licensing agreement. This might result in cash receipts being initially recognized as contract liabilities and then released to revenue in subsequent accounting periods based on the different conditions specified in the agreement.

Discontinued operations

Operations that are classified as held for sale or have been disposed of, are presented as discontinued operations in the consolidated income statement when the operations represent a major separate line of business or geographical area of operations, are part of a single coordinated disposal plan or represent a subsidiary acquired exclusively with a view to resale. The assessment on what is a major separate line of business is done on a case by case basis and depends on the size of the operations in terms of revenues, gross profit or total value of assets and liabilities compared to the total operations of the Group.

Leases

Due to the changes in accounting policies resulting from the application of IFRS 16, following critical judgements relating to leases are made starting as from the date of initial application of IFRS 16 (1 January 2018):

In determining the lease term, management considers all facts and circumstances that create an economic incentive to exercise an extension or termination option. The assessment is reviewed if a significant event or a significant change in circumstances occurs which affects this assessment. During the current financial year, there was no material financial effect of revising lease terms to reflect the effect of exercising extension or termination options.

3.2 Critical accounting estimates and assumptions

The preparation of the financial statements in conformity with IFRS as adopted for use by the European Union requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements and the reported amounts of revenue and expenses during the reporting period.

Management bases its estimates on historical experience and various other assumptions that are reasonable under the circumstances, the results of which form the basis for making the reported amounts of revenue and expenses that may not be readily apparent from other sources. Actual results will by definition not equal those estimates. Estimates and assumptions are reviewed periodically and the effects of revisions are reflected in the financial statements in the period they are determined to be necessary.

3.2.1 Sales allowances

The Group has accruals for expected sales returns, chargebacks and other rebates, including the U.S. Medicaid Drug Rebate program and the U.S. Federal Medicare program, and similar rebates in other countries. Such estimates are based on analyses of existing contractual obligations or legislation, historical trends and the Group experience. After assessment of the Management, the total accruals for these items are adequate, based upon currently available information and interpretation of relevant regulations. As these deductions are based on management estimates, the actual deductions might differ from these estimates.

Such differences could impact the accruals recognized in the balance sheet in future periods and consequently the level of sales recognized in the income statement in future period, as there is often a time lag of several months between the recording of the estimate and the final accounting of the sales allowances. In general, the discounts, rebates and other deductions shown on the invoice are accounted for as an immediate deduction from gross sales in the income statement. The sales returns, chargebacks, rebates and discounts that are not mentioned on the invoice are estimated, deducted from sales and presented on the balance sheet in the appropriate accrual account and deducted from sales.

All sales allowances are considered as being part of the variable consideration included in the transaction price. The amount of variable consideration included in the transaction price is determined so that the total transaction price is the price estimated by management as not being constrained.

3.2.2 Intangible assets and goodwill

The Group has intangible assets with a carrying amount of € 870 million (Note 19) and goodwill with a carrying amount of € 4 970 million (Note 20). Intangible assets are amortized over their useful lives on a straight-line basis as from the moment they are available for use (i.e. when related products are launched for sale).

Management estimates that the useful life for acquired in-progress R&D compounds equates to the period these compounds benefit from patent protection or data exclusivity. For the intangible assets acquired through a business combination and which comprises compounds that are marketed but for which no patent protection or data exclusivity exists, management estimates that the useful life equates to the period in which these compounds will realize substantially all the cash contributions.

These intangible assets and goodwill are regularly reviewed for impairment and whenever there is an indication that an impairment might exist. The intangible assets that are not yet available for use and goodwill are subject to at least annual impairment testing.

To assess if there is any impairment, estimates are made of the future cash flows expected to result from the use of these assets and their eventual disposal. These estimated cash flows are then adjusted to the present value using an appropriate discount rate that reflects the risks and uncertainties associated with the forecasted cash flows.

Actual outcomes could vary significantly from such estimates of discounted future cash flows. Factors such as the entrance or absence of competition, technical obsolescence or lower than expected rights could result in shortened useful lives and impairments.

The Group applied the following key assumptions for the “value in use” calculations required for the impairment testing of intangible assets and goodwill at year-end:

  • growth rate for terminal value 3.0%
  • discount rate in respect of goodwill and Intangibles related to marketed products 6.41%
  • discount rate in respect of Intangibles related to pipeline products 13.0%

Since the cash flows also take into account tax expenses, a post-tax discount rate is used in the impairment testing.

Management estimates that the use of the post-tax discount rate approximates the results of using a pre-tax rate applied to pre-tax cash flows.

3.2.3 Environmental provisions

The Group has provisions for environmental remediation costs, which are disclosed in Note 33. The most significant elements of the environmental provisions consist of costs to fully clean and refurbish contaminated sites and to treat contamination at certain other sites, mainly related to the discontinued chemical and films activities of the Group.

Future remediation expenses are affected by a number of uncertainties that include, amongst others, the detection of previously unknown contaminated sites, the method and extent of remediation, the percentage of waste attributable to the Group, and the financial capabilities of the other potentially responsible parties. Given the inherent difficulties in estimating the liabilities in this area, it cannot be guaranteed that additional costs will not be incurred beyond the amounts currently accrued. The effect of resolution of environmental matters on results of operations cannot be predicted due to uncertainty concerning both the amount and timing of future expenditures and the results of future operations. Such changes that arise could impact the provisions recognized in the balance sheet in the future.

3.2.4 Employee benefits

The Group currently has many defined benefit plans, which are disclosed in Note 32. The calculation of the assets or liabilities related to these plans is based upon statistical and actuarial assumptions. This is in particular the case for the present value of the defined benefit obligation which is impacted by assumptions on discount rates used to arrive at the present value of future pension liabilities, and assumptions on future increases in salaries and benefits.

Furthermore, the Group uses statistically-based assumptions covering areas such as future withdrawals of participants from the plans and estimates of life expectancy. The actuarial assumptions used might differ materially from actual results due to changes in market and economic conditions, higher or lower employee turnover, longer or shorter life spans of participants, and other changes in the factors being assessed.

These differences could impact the assets or liabilities recognized in the balance sheet in future periods.

3.2.5 Tax positions

The Group operates in multiple jurisdictions with often complex legal and tax regulatory environments. The income tax positions taken are considered by the Group to be supportable and are intended to withstand challenge from tax authorities. However, it is acknowledged that some of the positions are uncertain and include interpretations of complex tax laws as well as transfer pricing considerations which could be disputed by tax authorities. The Group judges these positions on their technical merits and this on a regular basis using all the information available (legislation, case law, regulations, established practice, authoritative doctrine as well as the current state of discussions with tax authorities, where appropriate). A liability is recorded for each item that is not probable of being sustained on examination by the tax authorities, based on all relevant information. The liability is calculated taking into account the most likely outcome or the expected value, depending on which is thought to give a better prediction of the resolution of each uncertain tax position in view of reflecting the likelihood of an adjustment being recognized upon examination. These estimates are based on facts and circumstances existing at the end of the reporting period. The tax liability and income tax expense include expected penalties and late payment interests arising from tax disputes. An asset for tax audit adjustments is recorded when the Group considers it probable, based on the technical merits of the tax case, that a Mutual Agreement or Arbitration Procedure may provide for a corresponding adjustment in one or more jurisdictions. The asset is calculated as the expected value of the recoverability in corporate income taxes in the concerning jurisdiction upon completion of the Mutual Agreement or Arbitration procedure.

The Group has recognized net deferred tax assets of € 721 million (Note 31). The recognition of deferred tax assets is based upon whether it is probable that sufficient taxable profits will be available in the future against which the reversal of temporary differences can be used. Where the temporary differences relate to losses, the availability of the losses to offset against forecast taxable profits is also considered. For 2018, the Group also took into account the tax reform in Belgium, the United States and the UK.

Significant items on which management has exercised judgement include recognition on the balance sheet of deferred tax assets relating to losses in jurisdictions where losses have been made in prior periods but where profits now arise or are forecast to do so for the foreseeable future. Management has used its best estimate of the correct value of asset to recognize in such cases, which includes a judgement on the length of the future time period to use in such assessments. These judgments are made on a case by case basis taking into account the origin and nature of the expected revenues on an entity-by-entity basis, but this time period in most cases does not exceed five years.

Differences in forecasted taxable profits and actual profitability or a downgrade in future forecasted taxable profits could impact the deferred tax assets recognized in future periods.

No material deferred tax assets are recognized for entities that are currently still lossmaking. Significant items on which the Group has exercised accounting estimation and judgement include also tax liabilities related to audits arising in key jurisdictions. The Group engages constructively with the tax authorities and relevant government representatives. Where appropriate, we engage advisors and legal counsel to obtain opinions on tax legislation and principles.