Is Netflix Hiding $3.68 Billion in Debt?
Accounting rules have allowed Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) to bury $3.68 billion in commitments and contingencies. Should investors be worried?
The video rental giant did not attempt to hide its current liabilities, which came in at nearly $1.5 billion. But under the "commitments and contingencies" section of the balance sheet, Netflix left a big, blank space.
Bloomberg's Cory Johnson dug through the company's 108-page quarterly SEC filing and found that Netflix has an additional $3.68 billion in commitments not listed on the balance sheet. More than $700 million is due in less than one year, and another $2.37 billion is due in less than three years.
According to Netflix, "Either the fee is not known or reasonably determinable for a specific title or it is known but the title is not yet available for streaming to subscribers."
Thus, Johnson said that Netflix has a contract and it knows how much money it will owe, but because the title is not yet available for streaming, accounting rules let the firm keep these commitments off the balance sheet.
Investors should note that the mysterious commitments are the minimum for what Netflix might owe. According to Johnson, "The company does not estimate what the total obligation may be beyond any minimum quantities."
However, Netflix did warn that the total obligation is "expected to be significant."
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