Connect with us


Intangible Assets: A Hidden but Crucial Driver of Company Value



View the full-size version of this infographic.

Intangible Assets: A Hidden but Crucial Driver of Company Value

Intangible Assets Take Center Stage

View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here

In 2018, intangible assets for S&P 500 companies hit a record value of $21 trillion. These assets, which are not physical in nature and include things like intellectual property, have rapidly risen in importance compared to tangible assets like cash.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur highlights the growth of intangible asset valuations, and how senior decision-makers view intangibles when making investment decisions.

Tracking the Growth of Intangibles

Intangibles used to play a much smaller role than they do now, with physical assets comprising the majority of value for most enterprise companies. However, an increasingly competitive and digital economy has placed the focus on things like intellectual property, as companies race to out-innovate one another.

To measure this historical shift, Aon and the Ponemon Institute analyzed the value of intangible and tangible assets over nearly four and a half decades on the S&P 500. Here’s how they stack up:

Intangible vs. Tangible Assets

Source: Aon

In just 43 years, intangibles have evolved from a supporting asset into a major consideration for investors – today, they make up 84% of all enterprise value on the S&P 500, a massive increase from just 17% in 1975.

The Largest Companies by Intangible Value

Digital-centric sectors, such as internet & software and technology & IT, are heavily reliant on intangible assets.

Brand Finance, which produces an annual ranking of companies based on intangible value, has companies in these sectors taking the top five spots on the 2019 edition of their report.

RankCompanySectorTotal Intangible ValueShare of Enterprise Value
1MicrosoftInternet & Software$904B90%
2AmazonInternet & Software$839B93%
3AppleTechnology & IT$675B77%
4AlphabetInternet & Software$521B65%
5FacebookInternet & Software$409B79%
7TencentInternet & Software$365B88%
8Johnson & JohnsonPharma$361B101%
10AlibabaInternet & Software$344B86%
12Procter & GambleCosmetics & Personal Care$305B101%
13Anheuser-Busch InBevBeers$304B99%

Note: Percentages may exceed 100% due to rounding.

Microsoft overtook Amazon for the top spot in the ranking for 2019, with $904B in intangible assets. The company has the largest commercial cloud business in the world.

Pharma and healthcare companies are also prominent on the list, comprising four of the top 20. Their intangible value is largely driven by patents, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Johnson & Johnson, for example, reported $32B in patents and trademarks in their latest annual report.

A Lack of Disclosure

It’s important to note that Brand Finance’s ranking is based on both disclosed intangibles—those that are reported on a company’s balance sheet—and undisclosed intangibles. In the ranking, undisclosed intangibles were calculated as the difference between a company’s market value and book value.

The majority of intangibles are not reported on balance sheets because accounting standards do not recognize them until a transaction has occurred to support their value. While many accounting managers see this as a prudent measure to stop unsubstantiated asset values, it means that many highly valuable intangibles never appear in financial reporting. In fact, 34% of the total worth of the world’s publicly traded companies is made up of undisclosed value.

“It is time for CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs to start a long overdue reporting revolution.”

—David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance

Brand Finance believes that companies should regularly value each intangible asset, including the key assumptions management made when deriving their value. This information would be extremely useful for managers, investors, and other stakeholders.

A Key Consideration

Investment professionals certainly agree on the importance of intangibles. In a survey of institutional investors by Columbia Threadneedle, it was found that 95% agreed that intangible assets contain crucial information about the future strength of a company’s business model.

Moreover, 98% agree that more transparency would be beneficial to their assessment of intangible assets. In the absence of robust reporting, Columbia Threadneedle believes active managers are well equipped to understand intangible asset values due to their access to management, relationships with key opinion leaders, and deep industry expertise.

By undertaking rigorous analysis, managers may uncover hidden competitive advantages—and generate higher potential returns in the process.

Click for Comments


Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt has soared since the pandemic. Which countries have the biggest stockpile of debt outstanding in 2023?



Visualizing $97 Trillion of Global Debt in 2023

Global debt is projected to hit $97.1 trillion this year, a 40% increase since 2019.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments introduced sweeping financial measures to support the job market and prevent a wave of bankruptcies. However, this has exposed vulnerabilities as higher interest rates are amplifying borrowing costs.

This graphic shows global debt by country in 2023, based on projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Debt by Country in 2023

Below, we rank countries by their general government gross debt, or the financial liabilities owed by each country:

CountryGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
🇺🇸 U.S.$33,228.934.2%123.3%
🇨🇳 China$14,691.715.1%83.0%
🇯🇵 Japan$10,797.211.1%255.2%
🇬🇧 UK$3,468.73.6%104.1%
🇫🇷 France$3,353.93.5%110.0%
🇮🇹 Italy$3,141.43.2%143.7%
🇮🇳 India$3,056.73.1%81.9%
🇩🇪 Germany$2,919.33.0%65.9%
🇨🇦 Canada$2,253.32.3%106.4%
🇧🇷 Brazil$1,873.71.9%88.1%
🇪🇸 Spain$1,697.51.7%107.3%
🇲🇽 Mexico$954.61.0%52.7%
🇰🇷 South Korea$928.11.0%54.3%
🇦🇺 Australia$875.90.9%51.9%
🇸🇬 Singapore$835.00.9%167.9%
🇧🇪 Belgium$665.20.7%106.0%
🇦🇷 Argentina$556.50.6%89.5%
🇮🇩 Indonesia$552.80.6%39.0%
🇳🇱 Netherlands$540.90.6%49.5%
🇵🇱 Poland$419.40.4%49.8%
🇬🇷 Greece$407.20.4%168.0%
🇹🇷 Türkiye$397.20.4%34.4%
🇷🇺 Russia$394.80.4%21.2%
🇦🇹 Austria$393.60.4%74.8%
🇪🇬 Egypt$369.30.4%92.7%
🇨🇭 Switzerland$357.70.4%39.5%
🇹🇭 Thailand$314.50.3%61.4%
🇮🇱 Israel$303.60.3%58.2%
🇵🇹 Portugal$299.40.3%108.3%
🇲🇾 Malaysia$288.30.3%66.9%
🇿🇦 South Africa$280.70.3%73.7%
🇵🇰 Pakistan$260.90.3%76.6%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$257.70.3%24.1%
🇮🇪 Ireland$251.70.3%42.7%
🇵🇭 Philippines$250.90.3%57.6%
🇫🇮 Finland$225.00.2%73.6%
🇳🇴 Norway$204.50.2%37.4%
🇨🇴 Colombia$200.10.2%55.0%
🇹🇼 Taiwan$200.00.2%26.6%
🇸🇪 Sweden$192.90.2%32.3%
🇷🇴 Romania$178.70.2%51.0%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh$175.90.2%39.4%
🇺🇦 Ukraine$152.80.2%88.1%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic$152.20.2%45.4%
🇳🇬 Nigeria$151.30.2%38.8%
🇦🇪 UAE$149.70.2%29.4%
🇻🇳 Vietnam$147.30.2%34.0%
🇭🇺 Hungary$140.00.1%68.7%
🇨🇱 Chile$132.20.1%38.4%
🇩🇰 Denmark$126.70.1%30.1%
🇮🇶 Iraq$125.50.1%49.2%
🇩🇿 Algeria$123.50.1%55.1%
🇳🇿 New Zealand$115.00.1%46.1%
🇮🇷 Iran$112.10.1%30.6%
🇲🇦 Morocco$102.70.1%69.7%
🇶🇦 Qatar$97.50.1%41.4%
🇵🇪 Peru$89.70.1%33.9%
🇦🇴 Angola$79.60.1%84.9%
🇰🇪 Kenya$79.10.1%70.2%
🇸🇰 Slovakia$75.40.1%56.7%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic$72.10.1%59.8%
🇪🇨 Ecuador$65.90.1%55.5%
🇸🇩 Sudan$65.50.1%256.0%
🇬🇭 Ghana$65.10.1%84.9%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan$60.70.1%23.4%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia$59.00.1%37.9%
🇧🇭 Bahrain$54.50.1%121.2%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica$53.90.1%63.0%
🇭🇷 Croatia$51.20.1%63.8%
🇺🇾 Uruguay$47.00.0%61.6%
🇯🇴 Jordan$46.90.0%93.8%
🇸🇮 Slovenia$46.80.0%68.5%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire$45.10.0%56.8%
🇵🇦 Panama$43.50.0%52.8%
🇲🇲 Myanmar$43.00.0%57.5%
🇴🇲 Oman$41.40.0%38.2%
🇹🇳 Tunisia$39.90.0%77.8%
🇷🇸 Serbia$38.50.0%51.3%
🇧🇴 Bolivia$37.80.0%80.8%
🇹🇿 Tanzania$35.80.0%42.6%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan$31.70.0%35.1%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe$30.90.0%95.4%
🇧🇾 Belarus$30.40.0%44.1%
🇬🇹 Guatemala$29.10.0%28.3%
🇱🇹 Lithuania$28.70.0%36.1%
🇸🇻 El Salvador$25.80.0%73.0%
🇺🇬 Uganda$25.30.0%48.3%
🇸🇳 Senegal$25.20.0%81.0%
🇨🇾 Cyprus$25.20.0%78.6%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg$24.60.0%27.6%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR$23.50.0%6.1%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria$21.70.0%21.0%
🇨🇲 Cameroon$20.60.0%41.9%
🇲🇿 Mozambique$19.70.0%89.7%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico$19.60.0%16.7%
🇳🇵 Nepal$19.30.0%46.7%
🇱🇻 Latvia$18.90.0%40.6%
🇮🇸 Iceland$18.70.0%61.2%
🇵🇾 Paraguay$18.10.0%40.9%
🇱🇦 Lao P.D.R.$17.30.0%121.7%
🇭🇳 Honduras$15.70.0%46.3%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea$15.70.0%49.5%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago$14.60.0%52.5%
🇦🇱 Albania$14.50.0%62.9%
🇨🇬 Republic of Congo$14.10.0%97.8%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan$14.10.0%18.2%
🇾🇪 Yemen$14.00.0%66.4%
🇯🇲 Jamaica$13.60.0%72.3%
🇲🇳 Mongolia$13.10.0%69.9%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso$12.70.0%61.2%
🇬🇦 Gabon$12.50.0%64.9%
🇬🇪 Georgia$11.90.0%39.6%
🇲🇺 Mauritius$11.80.0%79.7%
🇦🇲 Armenia$11.80.0%47.9%
🇧🇸 Bahamas$11.70.0%84.2%
🇲🇱 Mali$11.00.0%51.8%
🇲🇹 Malta$11.00.0%54.1%
🇰🇭 Cambodia$10.90.0%35.3%
🇧🇯 Benin$10.60.0%53.0%
🇲🇼 Malawi$10.40.0%78.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia$9.00.0%21.6%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of Congo$9.00.0%13.3%
🇷🇼 Rwanda$8.80.0%63.3%
🇳🇦 Namibia$8.50.0%67.6%
🇲🇬 Madagascar$8.50.0%54.0%
🇳🇪 Niger$8.30.0%48.7%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia$8.20.0%51.6%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina$7.70.0%28.6%
🇲🇻 Maldives$7.70.0%110.3%
🇬🇳 Guinea$7.30.0%31.6%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua$7.20.0%41.5%
🇧🇧 Barbados$7.20.0%115.0%
🇹🇬 Togo$6.10.0%67.2%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic$6.00.0%47.0%
🇲🇩 Moldova$5.60.0%35.1%
🇹🇩 Chad$5.40.0%43.2%
🇰🇼 Kuwait$5.40.0%3.4%
🇲🇷 Mauritania$5.10.0%49.5%
🇭🇹 Haiti$5.10.0%19.6%
🇬🇾 Guyana$4.90.0%29.9%
🇲🇪 Montenegro$4.60.0%65.8%
🇫🇯 Fiji$4.60.0%83.6%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan$4.20.0%5.1%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan$4.00.0%33.5%
🇧🇼 Botswana$3.90.0%18.7%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea$3.80.0%38.3%
🇸🇷 Suriname$3.80.0%107.0%
🇸🇸 South Sudan$3.80.0%60.4%
🇧🇹 Bhutan$3.30.0%123.4%
🇦🇼 Aruba$3.20.0%82.9%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone$3.10.0%88.9%
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde$2.90.0%113.1%
🇧🇮 Burundi$2.30.0%72.7%
🇱🇷 Liberia$2.30.0%52.3%
🇽🇰 Kosovo$2.20.0%21.3%
🇸🇿 Eswatini$2.00.0%42.4%
🇧🇿 Belize$1.90.0%59.3%
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia$1.80.0%74.2%
🇬🇲 Gambia$1.70.0%72.3%
🇩🇯 Djibouti$1.60.0%41.8%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda$1.60.0%80.5%
🇸🇲 San Marino$1.50.0%74.0%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau$1.50.0%73.9%
🇱🇸 Lesotho$1.50.0%61.3%
🇦🇩 Andorra$1.40.0%37.7%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic$1.40.0%50.1%
🇸🇨 Seychelles$1.30.0%60.8%
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines$0.90.0%86.2%
🇬🇩 Grenada$0.80.0%60.2%
🇩🇲 Dominica$0.70.0%93.9%
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis$0.60.0%53.2%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu$0.50.0%46.8%
🇰🇲 Comoros$0.50.0%33.3%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe$0.40.0%58.5%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands$0.40.0%22.2%
🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam$0.30.0%2.3%
🇼🇸 Samoa$0.30.0%36.2%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste$0.30.0%16.4%
🇵🇼 Palau$0.20.0%85.4%
🇹🇴 Tonga$0.20.0%41.1%
🇫🇲 Micronesia$0.10.0%12.5%
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands$0.10.0%18.1%
🇳🇷 Nauru<$0.10.0%29.1%
🇰🇮 Kiribati<$0.10.0%13.1%
🇹🇻 Tuvalu<$0.10.0%8.0%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR<$0.10.0%0.0%
🌐 World$97,129.8100%93.0%

With $33.2 trillion in government debt, the U.S. makes up over a third of the world total.

Given the increasing debt load, the cost of servicing this debt now accounts for 20% of government spending. It is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2028, surpassing the total spent on defense.

The world’s third-biggest economy, Japan, has one of the highest debt to GDP ratios, at 255%. Over the last two decades, its national debt has far exceeded 100% of its GDP, driven by an aging population and social security expenses.

In 2023, Egypt faces steep borrowing costs, with 40% of revenues going towards debt repayments. It has the highest debt on the continent.

Like Egypt, several emerging companies are facing strain. Lebanon has been in default since 2020, and Ghana defaulted on the majority of its external debt—debt owed to foreign lenders—in 2022 amid a deepening economic crisis.

Global Debt: A Regional Perspective

How does debt compare on a regional level in 2023?

RegionGross Debt (B)% of World TotalDebt to GDP
North America$36,451.837.5%117.6%
Asia and Pacific$34,257.435.3%92.5%
South America$3,164.93.3%77.2%
Africa $1,863.61.9%65.2%
Other/Rest of World$1,269.11.3%31.4%

We can see that North America has both the highest debt and debt to GDP compared to other regions. Just as U.S. debt has ballooned, so has Canada’s—ranking as the 10th-highest globally in government debt outstanding.

Across Asia and the Pacific, debt levels hover close to North America.

At 3.3% of the global total, South America has $3.2 trillion in debt. As inflation has trended downwards, a handful of governments have already begun cutting interest rates. Overall, public debt levels are projected to stay elevated across the region.

Debt levels have also risen rapidly in Africa, with an average 40% of public debt held in foreign currencies—leaving it exposed to exchange rate fluctuations. Another challenge is that interest rates are also higher across the region compared to advanced economies, increasing debt-servicing costs.

By 2028, the IMF projects that global public debt will exceed 100% of GDP, hitting levels only seen during the pandemic.

Continue Reading