Intellectual capital disclosures by Australian companies

Author: Woodcock, Richard James

Date: 2007

Type: Thesis

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University of Otago


Australia is shifting towards a knowledge-based economy. Even though there is an increasing emphasis on intellectual capital by Australian firms there is no mandatory intellectual capital disclosure standard. This suggests that what intellectual capital information Australian companies disclose is done voluntarily. This study examines whether this voluntary intellectual capital disclosure is occurring and whether a company’s characteristics influence the level of its intellectual capital disclosure by proposing two research questions. Firstly, what is the extent and content of voluntary intellectual capital disclosures by Australian companies? And secondly, what firm-specific characteristics are determinants of voluntary intellectual capital disclosures by Australian companies? Content analysis is used to gather data on intellectual capital disclosure levels and content of a sample of seventy listed Australian companies. Analysing the descriptive statistics of this data addresses this study’s first research question. In order to attend to the second research question five firm-specific characteristics are examined, industry classification, ownership concentration, leverage, listing age, and auditor type. Five hypotheses propose whether these five independent variables have an association with the level of intellectual capital disclosures or not. To operationalise the level of intellectual capital disclosure, as a dependent variable, the data gathered from the content analysis is utilised to calculate a disclosure index. Correlation and multiple regression analyses are performed to statistically test the five hypotheses. This study found that there is a limited awareness by Australian companies towards intellectual capital disclosures. The levels of intellectual capital disclosures were reasonably low and there was also inconsistency of the level of disclosure among firms. In terms of the content of disclosures, external capital was found to be the most frequently disclosed category of intellectual capital. This finding was consistent with previous intellectual capital disclosure studies in the Australian context. Through statistical testing, this study found that companies that operate in high intellectual capital intensive industries, and companies with a Big Four auditing firm disclose greater levels of intellectual capital information. It was found that a company’s ownership concentration, leverage level, and listing age do not influence its intellectual capital disclosure behaviour. The results of this study extend the scant research in this area of accounting, and they also provide practical implications for Australian accounting standard regulators.

Subjects: HF5601 Accounting

Citation: ["Woodcock, R. J. (2007). Intellectual capital disclosures by Australian companies (Dissertation, Bachelor of Commerce with Honours). Retrieved from"]