IAS 36 goodwill impairment review, VIU basis, oil price and other assumptions, oil company

BP p.l.c. – Annual report – 31 December 2018

Industry: oil and gas
1. Significant accounting policies, judgements, estimates and assumptions (extract)
Impairment of property, plant and equipment, intangible assets, and goodwill
The group assesses assets or groups of assets, called cash-generating units (CGUs), for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset or CGU may not be recoverable; for example, changes in the group’s business plans, changes in the group’s assumptions about commodity prices, low plant utilization, evidence of physical damage or, for oil and gas assets, significant downward revisions of estimated reserves or increases in estimated future development expenditure or decommissioning costs. If any such indication of impairment exists, the group makes an estimate of the asset’s or CGU’s recoverable amount. Individual assets are grouped into CGUs for impairment assessment purposes at the lowest level at which there are identifiable cash flows that are largely independent of the cash flows of other groups of assets. A CGU’s recoverable amount is the higher of its fair value less costs of disposal and its value in use. Where the carrying amount of a CGU exceeds its recoverable amount, the CGU is considered impaired and is written down to its recoverable amount.

The business segment plans, which are approved on an annual basis by senior management, are the primary source of information for the determination of value in use. They contain forecasts for oil and natural gas production, refinery throughputs, sales volumes for various types of refined products (e.g. gasoline and lubricants), revenues, costs and capital expenditure. As an initial step in the preparation of these plans, various assumptions regarding market conditions, such as oil prices, natural gas prices, refining margins, refined product margins and cost inflation rates are set by senior management. These assumptions take account of existing prices, global supply-demand equilibrium for oil and natural gas, other macroeconomic factors and historical trends and variability. In assessing value in use, the estimated future cash flows are adjusted for the risks specific to the asset group that are not reflected in the discount rate and are discounted to their present value typically using a pre-tax discount rate that reflects current market assessments of the time value of money.

Fair value less costs of disposal is the price that would be received to sell the asset in an orderly transaction between market participants and does not reflect the effects of factors that may be specific to the group and not applicable to entities in general.

An assessment is made at each reporting date as to whether there is any indication that previously recognized impairment losses may no longer exist or may have decreased. If such an indication exists, the recoverable amount is estimated. A previously recognized impairment loss is reversed only if there has been a change in the estimates used to determine the asset’s recoverable amount since the last impairment loss was recognized. If that is the case, the carrying amount of the asset is increased to the lower of its recoverable amount and the carrying amount that would have been determined, net of depreciation, had no impairment loss been recognized for the asset in prior years. Impairment reversals are recognized in profit or loss. After a reversal, the depreciation charge is adjusted in future periods to allocate the asset’s revised carrying amount, less any residual value, on a systematic basis over its remaining useful life.

Goodwill is reviewed for impairment annually or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate the recoverable amount of the group of CGUs to which the goodwill relates should be assessed. In assessing whether goodwill has been impaired, the carrying amount of the group of CGUs to which goodwill has been allocated is compared with its recoverable amount. Where the recoverable amount of the group of CGUs is less than the carrying amount (including goodwill), an impairment loss is recognized. An impairment loss recognized for goodwill is not reversed in a subsequent period.

Significant judgements and estimates: recoverability of asset carrying values
Determination as to whether, and by how much, an asset, CGU, or group of CGUs containing goodwill is impaired involves management estimates on highly uncertain matters such as the effects of inflation and deflation on operating expenses, discount rates, production profiles, reserves and resources, and future commodity prices, including the outlook for global or regional market supply-and-demand
conditions for crude oil, natural gas and refined products. Judgement is required when determining the appropriate grouping of assets into a CGU or the appropriate grouping of CGUs for impairment testing purposes. For example, certain oil and gas properties with shared infrastructure may be grouped together to form a single CGU. Alternative groupings of assets or CGUs may result in a different outcome from impairment testing. See Note 14 for details on how these groupings have been determined in relation to the impairment testing of goodwill.

As disclosed above, the recoverable amount of an asset is the higher of its value in use and its fair value less costs of disposal. Fair value less costs of disposal may be determined based on expected sales proceeds or similar recent market transaction data or, where recent market transactions are not available for reference, using discounted cash flow techniques. Where discounted cash flow analyses are used to calculate fair value less costs of disposal, estimates are made about the assumptions market participants would use when pricing the asset, CGU or group of CGUs containing goodwill and the test is performed on a post-tax basis.

Details of impairment charges and reversals recognized in the income statement are provided in Note 4 and details on the carrying amounts of assets are shown in Note 12, Note 14 and Note 15.

The estimates for assumptions made in impairment tests in 2018 relating to discount rates, oil and gas properties and oil and gas prices are discussed below. Changes in the economic environment or other facts and circumstances may necessitate revisions to these assumptions and could result in a material change to the carrying values of the group’s assets within the next financial year.

Discount rates
For discounted cash flow calculations, future cash flows are adjusted for risks specific to the cash-generating unit. Value-in-use calculations are typically discounted using a pre-tax discount rate based upon the cost of funding the group derived from an established model, adjusted to a pre-tax basis. Fair value less costs of disposal calculations use the post-tax discount rate.

The discount rates applied in impairment tests are reassessed each year. In 2018 the post-tax discount rate was 6% (2017 6%) and the pre-tax discount rate was 9% (2017 9%). Where the cash-generating unit is located in a country which is judged to be higher risk an additional 2% premium was added to the discount rate (2017 2%). The judgement of classifying a country as higher risk takes into account various economic and geopolitical factors.

Oil and natural gas properties
For oil and natural gas properties, expected future cash flows are estimated using management’s best estimate of future oil and natural gas prices and production and reserves volumes. The estimated future level of production in all impairment tests is based on assumptions about future commodity prices, production and development costs, field decline rates, current fiscal regimes and other factors.

The recoverability of intangible exploration and appraisal expenditure is covered under Oil and natural gas exploration, appraisal and development expenditure above.

Oil and gas prices
The long-term price assumptions used to determine recoverable amount based on value-in-use impairment tests from 2024 onwards are derived from $75 per barrel for Brent and $4/mmBtu for Henry Hub, both in 2015 prices, inflated for the remaining life of the asset (2017 $75 per barrel and $4/mmBtu, both in 2015 prices, from 2023 onwards).

The price assumptions used for the five-year period to 2023 have been set such that there is a gradual transition from current market prices to the long-term price assumptions as noted above, with the rate of increase reducing in the later years.

Oil prices rebounded in 2018 in the face of cooperative production restraint from OPEC and some non-OPEC producers, but weakened late in the year as production restraint eased and US supply recorded record growth. BP’s long-term assumption for oil prices is higher than recent market prices, reflecting the judgement that recent prices are not consistent with the market being able to produce sufficient oil to meet global demand sustainably in the longer term, especially given the financial requirements of key low-cost oil producing economies.

US gas prices remained relatively low for much of 2018, before increasing temporarily in the final quarter due to a combination of low storage and cold weather. Strong growth of low-cost supply helped to moderate prices through much of the year. BP’s long-term price assumption for US gas is higher than recent market prices as US gas demand is expected to grow strongly, both domestic demand as well as exports of liquefied natural gas, absorbing the lowest cost resources from the sweet spots, and forcing producers to go to more expensive/drier gas, as well as requiring increased investment in infrastructure.

Oil and natural gas reserves
In addition to oil and gas prices, significant technical and commercial assessments are required to determine the group’s estimated oil and natural gas reserves. Reserves estimates are regularly reviewed and updated. Factors such as the availability of geological and engineering data, reservoir performance data, acquisition and divestment activity and drilling of new wells all impact on the determination of the group’s estimates of its oil and natural gas reserves. BP bases its proved reserves estimates on the requirement of reasonable certainty with rigorous technical and commercial assessments based on conventional industry practice and regulatory requirements.

Reserves assumptions for value-in-use and fair value tests reflect the reserves and resources that management currently intend to develop. The recoverable amount of oil and gas properties is determined using a combination of inputs including reserves, resources and production volumes. Risk factors may be applied to reserves and resources which do not meet the criteria to be treated as proved.

The interdependency of these inputs, risk factors and the wide diversity of our oil and gas properties limits the practicability of estimating the probability or extent to which the overall recoverable amount is impacted by changes to one or more of the underlying assumptions. The recoverable amount of oil and gas properties is primarily sensitive to changes in the long-term oil and gas price assumptions. Management do not expect a change in these long-term price assumptions within the next financial year that would result in a material impairment charge. However, sensitivity analysis may be performed if a specific oil and gas property is identified to have low headroom above its carrying amount. In 2018, the group identified oil and gas properties with carrying amounts totalling $22,000 million where the headroom, as at the dates of the last impairment test performed on those assets, was less than or equal to 20% of the carrying value, including $1,345 million in relation to equity-accounted entities. A change in the discount rate, reserves, resources or the oil and gas price assumptions in the next financial year may result in the recoverable amount of one or more of these assets falling below the current carrying amount.

Irrespective of whether there is any indication of impairment, BP is required to test annually for impairment of goodwill acquired in business combinations. The group carries goodwill of approximately $12.2 billion on its balance sheet (2017 $11.6 billion), principally relating to the Atlantic Richfield, Burmah Castrol, Devon Energy and Reliance transactions. If there are low oil or natural gas prices for an extended period or the long-term price outlook weakens, the group may need to recognize goodwill impairment charges against its Upstream segment goodwill. Sensitivities relating to impairment testing of goodwill in the Upstream segment are provided in Note 14.

14. Goodwill and impairment review of goodwill


Goodwill acquired through business combinations has been allocated to groups of cash-generating units that are expected to benefit from the synergies of the acquisition. For Upstream, goodwill is allocated to all oil and gas assets in aggregate at the segment level. For Downstream, goodwill has been allocated to Lubricants and Other.

For information on significant estimates and judgements made in relation to impairments see Impairment of property, plant and equipment, intangible assets and goodwill in Note 1.


The table above shows the carrying amount of goodwill for the segment and the excess of the recoverable amount, based upon a post-tax value-in-use calculation, over the carrying amount (headroom) at the date of the test. The increase in headroom principally arises from acquisitions, new activity and changes in US tax. In the prior year, the recoverable amount was estimated using a fair value less costs of disposal calculation and was based on cash flows estimated for the impairment test performed in 2016 as permitted by IAS 36.

The value in use is based on the cash flows expected to be generated by the projected oil or natural gas production profiles up to the expected dates of cessation of production of each producing field, based on current estimates of reserves and resources, appropriately risked. Midstream and supply and trading activities and equity-accounted entities are generally not included in the impairment review of goodwill, because they are not part of the grouping of cash-generating units to which the goodwill relates and which is used to monitor the goodwill for internal management purposes. Where such activities form part of a wider Upstream cash-generating unit, they are reflected in the test. As the production profile and related cash flows can be estimated from BP’s past experience, management believes that the cash flows generated over the estimated life of field is the appropriate basis upon which to assess goodwill and individual assets for impairment. The estimated date of cessation of production depends on the interaction of a number of variables, such as the recoverable quantities of hydrocarbons, the production profile of the hydrocarbons, the cost of the development of the infrastructure necessary to recover the hydrocarbons, production costs, the contractual duration of the production concession and the selling price of the hydrocarbons produced. As each producing field has specific reservoir characteristics and economic circumstances, the cash flows of the fields are computed using appropriate individual economic models and key assumptions agreed by BP management. Capital expenditure, operating costs and expected hydrocarbon production profiles are derived from the business segment plan adjusted for assumptions reflecting the price environment at the time that the test was performed. Estimated production volumes and cash flows up to the date of cessation of production on a field-by-field basis are consistent with this. The production profiles used are consistent with the reserve and resource volumes approved as part of BP’s centrally controlled process for the estimation of proved and probable reserves and total resources.

The most recent review for impairment was carried out in the fourth quarter. The key assumptions used in the value-in-use calculation are oil and natural gas prices, production volumes and the discount rate. Oil and gas price assumptions for the first five years are based on management’s best estimate of prices over those five years, with the long-term price applied from year 6 onwards. Price assumptions and
discount rate assumptions used were as disclosed in Note 1. The value-in-use calculation has been prepared solely for the purposes of determining whether the goodwill balance was impaired. Estimated future cash flows were prepared on the basis of certain assumptions prevailing at the time of the test. The actual outcomes may differ from the assumptions made. For example, reserves and resources estimates and production forecasts are subject to revision as further technical information becomes available and economic conditions change, and future commodity prices may differ from the forecasts used in the calculations.

Sensitivities to different variables have been estimated using certain simplifying assumptions. For example, lower oil and gas price sensitivities do not reflect the specific impacts for each contractual arrangement and will not capture fully any favourable impacts that may arise from cost deflation. Therefore a detailed calculation at any given price or production profile may produce a different result.

It is estimated that if the oil price assumption for all future years was approximately $14 per barrel lower in each year, this would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment. It is estimated that no reasonable fall in the gas price assumption would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment.

Estimated production volumes are based on detailed data for each field and take into account development plans agreed by management as part of the long-term planning process. The average production for the purposes of goodwill impairment testing over the next 15 years is 829mmboe per year (2017 889mmboe per year). It is estimated that if production volumes were to be reduced by approximately 13% for this period, this would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment.

It is estimated that if the post-tax discount rate was approximately 11% for the entire portfolio, an increase of 5% for all countries not considered ‘higher risk’ and 3% for countries considered ‘higher risk’, this would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment.


Cash flows for each cash-generating unit are derived from the business segment plans, which cover a period of up to five years. To determine the value in use for each of the cash-generating units, cash flows for a period of 10 years are discounted and aggregated with a terminal value.

As permitted by IAS 36, the detailed calculations of Lubricants’ recoverable amount performed in the most recent detailed calculation in 2013 were used as the basis for the tests in 2014-2017 as the criteria of IAS 36 were considered satisfied: the headroom was substantial in 2013; there have been no significant changes in the assets and liabilities; and the likelihood that the recoverable amount would be less than the carrying amount is remote. IAS 36 does not specify for how many years such an approach is appropriate and management determined that a re-performance of the test was appropriate in 2018 given the passage of time since 2013. There was no significant change in the outcome of this test compared to that in 2013.

The key assumptions to which the calculation of value in use for the Lubricants unit is most sensitive are operating unit margins, sales volumes, and discount rate. Operating margin and sales volumes assumptions used in the detailed impairment review of goodwill calculation are consistent with the assumptions used in the Lubricants unit’s business plan and values assigned to these key assumptions reflect past experience. No reasonably possible change in any of these key assumptions would cause the unit’s carrying amount to exceed its recoverable amount. Cash flows beyond the plan period are extrapolated using a nominal 2.8% growth rate (2013 3%).