SWY » Topics » Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

This excerpt taken from the SWY 10-K filed Feb 26, 2008.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Critical accounting policies are those accounting policies that management believes are important to the portrayal of Safeway’s financial condition and results of operations and require management’s most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.

Workers’ Compensation    The Company is primarily self-insured for workers’ compensation, automobile and general liability costs. It is the Company’s policy to record its self-insurance liability, as determined actuarially, based on claims filed and an estimate of claims incurred but not yet reported, discounted at a risk-free interest rate. Any actuarial projection of losses concerning workers’ compensation and general liability is subject to a high degree of variability. Among the causes of this variability are unpredictable external factors affecting future inflation rates, discount rates, litigation trends, legal interpretations, benefit level changes and claim settlement patterns. For example, a 25-basis-point increase in the Company’s discount rate would reduce its liability by approximately $5 million.

The majority of the Company’s workers’ compensation liability is from claims occurring in California. California workers’ compensation has received intense scrutiny from the state’s politicians, insurers, employers and providers, as well as the public in general. Recent years have seen an escalation in the number of legislative reforms, judicial rulings and social phenomena affecting this business. Some of the many sources of uncertainty in the Company’s reserve estimates include changes in benefit levels, medical fee schedules, medical utilization guidelines, vocation rehabilitation and apportionment.

 

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Store Closures    Safeway’s policy is to recognize losses relating to the impairment of long-lived assets when expected net future cash flows are less than the assets’ carrying values. When stores that are under long-term leases close, Safeway records a liability for the future minimum lease payments and related ancillary costs, net of estimated cost recoveries. In both cases, fair value is determined by estimating net future cash flows and discounting them using a risk-adjusted rate of interest. The Company estimates future cash flows based on its experience and knowledge of the market in which the closed store is located and, when necessary, uses real estate brokers. However, these estimates project future cash flows several years into the future and are affected by factors such as inflation, real estate markets and economic conditions.

Employee Benefit Plans    In September 2006, the FASB issued SFAS No. 158, “Employers’ Accounting for Defined Benefit Pension and Other Postretirement Plans – an amendment of FASB Statements No. 87, 88, 106, and 132(R).” SFAS No. 158 requires an employer to recognize in its statement of financial position an asset for a plan’s overfunded status or a liability for a plan’s underfunded status, measure a plan’s assets and its obligations that determine its funded status as of the end of the employer’s fiscal year, and recognize changes in the funded status of a defined benefit postretirement plan in the year in which the changes occur. Additional disclosures are also required. Safeway adopted SFAS No. 158 as of December 30, 2006, as required.

The determination of Safeway’s obligation and expense for pension benefits is dependent, in part, on the Company’s selection of certain assumptions used by its actuaries in calculating these amounts. These assumptions are disclosed in Note I to the consolidated financial statements and include, among other things, the discount rate, the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets and the rate of compensation increases. Actual results in any given year will often differ from actuarial assumptions because of economic and other factors. In accordance with GAAP, actual results that differ from the actuarial assumptions are accumulated and amortized over future periods and, therefore, affect recognized expense and recorded obligation in such future periods. While Safeway believes its assumptions are appropriate, significant differences in actual results or significant changes in the Company’s assumptions may materially affect Safeway’s pension and other postretirement obligations and its future expense.

Safeway bases the discount rate on current investment yields on high quality fixed-income investments. The combined weighted-average discount rate used to determine 2007 pension expense was 5.9%. A lower discount rate increases the present value of benefit obligations and increases pension expense. Expected return on pension plan assets is based on historical experience of the Company’s portfolio and the review of projected returns by asset class on broad, publicly traded equity and fixed-income indices, as well as target asset allocation. Safeway’s target asset allocation mix is designed to meet the Company’s long-term pension requirements. For 2007 the Company’s assumed rate of return was 8.5% on U.S. pension assets and 7.0% on Canadian pension assets. Over the 10-year period ended December 29, 2007, the average rate of return was approximately 9% for U.S. and 8% for Canadian pension assets.

Sensitivity to changes in the major assumptions for Safeway’s pension plans are as follows (dollars in millions):

 

     United States          Canada
     

Percentage
point

change

   Projected benefit
obligation
decrease
(increase)
  

Expense

decrease
(increase)

         Projected benefit
obligation
decrease
(increase)
   Expense
decrease
(increase)

Expected return on assets

   +/-1.0 pt         $  17.3/(17.3)            $  3.2/(3.2)

Discount rate

   +/-1.0 pt    $  96.3/(138.4)    $ (8.9)/(9.6)       $  63.0/(75.3)    $ 6.3/(8.2)

Cash contributions, primarily in Canada, to the Company’s pension plans are expected to total approximately $35.6 million in 2008 and totaled $33.0 million in 2007, $33.1 million in 2006 and $22.4 million in 2005. Safeway expects to fund future contributions to the Company’s pension plans with cash flow from operations.

 

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Stock-Based Employee Compensation    Safeway elected to early adopt SFAS No. 123R in the first quarter of 2005 using the modified prospective method. SFAS No. 123R requires all share-based payments to employees, including grants of employee stock options, to be recognized in the financial statements as compensation cost based on the fair value on the date of grant. The Company determines fair value of such awards using the Black-Scholes option pricing model. The Black-Scholes option pricing model incorporates certain assumptions, such as a risk-free interest rate, expected volatility, expected dividend yield and expected life of options, in order to arrive at a fair value estimate.

Goodwill    Safeway accounts for goodwill in accordance with SFAS No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.” As required by SFAS No. 142, Safeway tests for goodwill annually using a two-step approach with extensive use of accounting judgments and estimates of future operating results. Changes in estimates or the application of alternative assumptions and definitions could produce significantly different results. The factors that most significantly affect the fair value calculation are market multiples and estimates of future cash flows. Fair value is determined primarily by the discounted cash flow method and the guideline company methods.

Income Tax Contingencies    The Company is subject to periodic audits by the Internal Revenue Service as well as foreign, state and local taxing authorities. These audits may challenge certain of the Company’s tax positions such as the timing and amount of income and deductions and the allocation of taxable income to various tax jurisdictions. Income tax contingencies are accounted for in accordance with FASB Interpretation No. 48, “Accounting for Uncertainty in Income Taxes” (“FIN 48”), and may require significant management judgment in estimating final outcomes. Actual results could materially differ from these estimates and could significantly affect the Company’s effective tax rate and cash flows in future years.

This excerpt taken from the SWY 10-K filed Feb 26, 2007.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Critical accounting policies are those accounting policies that management believes are important to the portrayal of Safeway’s financial condition and results of operations and require management’s most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.

Workers’ Compensation    The Company is primarily self-insured for workers’ compensation, automobile and general liability costs. It is the Company’s policy to record its self-insurance liability, as determined actuarially, based on claims filed and an estimate of claims incurred but not yet reported, discounted at a risk-free interest rate. Any actuarial projection of losses concerning workers’ compensation and general liability is subject to a high degree of variability. Among the causes of this variability are unpredictable external factors affecting future inflation rates, discount rates, litigation trends, legal interpretations, benefit level changes and claim settlement patterns. A 25-basis-point increase in the Company’s discount rate would reduce its liability by approximately $4.5 million.

The majority of the Company’s workers’ compensation liability is from claims occurring in California. California workers’ compensation has received intense scrutiny from the state’s politicians, insurers, employers and providers, as well as the public in general. Recent years have seen escalation in the number of legislative reforms, judicial rulings and social phenomena affecting this business. Some of the many sources of uncertainty in the Company’s reserve estimates include changes in benefit levels, medical fee schedules, medical utilization guidelines, vocation rehabilitation and apportionment.

 

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Store Closures    Safeway’s policy is to recognize losses relating to the impairment of long-lived assets when expected net future cash flows are less than the assets’ carrying values. When stores that are under long-term leases close, Safeway records a liability for the future minimum lease payments and related ancillary costs, net of estimated cost recoveries. In both cases, fair value is determined by estimating net future cash flows and discounting them using a risk-adjusted rate of interest. The Company estimates future cash flows based on its experience and knowledge of the market in which the closed store is located and, when necessary, uses real estate brokers. However, these estimates project future cash flows several years into the future and are affected by factors such as inflation, real estate markets and economic conditions.

Employee Benefit Plans    In September 2006, the FASB issued SFAS No. 158, “Employers’ Accounting for Defined Benefit Pension and Other Postretirement Plans—an amendment of FASB Statements No. 87, 88, 106, and 132(R).” SFAS No. 158 requires an employer to recognize in its statement of financial position an asset for a plan’s overfunded status or a liability for a plan’s underfunded status, measure a plan’s assets and its obligations that determine its funded status as of the end of the employer’s fiscal year, and recognize changes in the funded status of a defined benefit postretirement plan in the year in which the changes occur. Additional disclosures are also required. Safeway adopted SFAS No. 158 as of December 30, 2006, as required.

The determination of Safeway’s obligation and expense for pension benefits is dependent, in part, on the Company’s selection of certain assumptions used by its actuaries in calculating these amounts. These assumptions are disclosed in Note I to the consolidated financial statements and include, among other things, the discount rate, the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets and the rate of compensation increases. Actual results in any given year will often differ from actuarial assumptions because of economic and other factors. In accordance with GAAP, actual results that differ from the actuarial assumptions are accumulated and amortized over future periods and, therefore, affect recognized expense and recorded obligation in such future periods. While Safeway believes its assumptions are appropriate, significant differences in actual results or significant changes in the Company’s assumptions may materially affect Safeway’s pension and other postretirement obligations and its future expense.

Safeway bases the discount rate on current investment yields on high quality fixed-income investments. The discount rate used to determine 2006 pension expense was 5.7%. A lower discount rate increases the present value of benefit obligations and increases pension expense. Expected return on pension plan assets is based on historical experience of the Company’s portfolio and the review of projected returns by asset class on broad, publicly traded equity and fixed-income indices, as well as target asset allocation. Safeway’s target asset allocation mix is designed to meet the Company’s long-term pension requirements. For 2006 the Company’s assumed rate of return was 8.5% on U.S. pension assets and 7.0% on Canadian pension assets. Over the 10-year period ended December 30, 2006, the average rate of return was approximately 10% for U.S. and 9% for Canadian pension assets.

Sensitivity to changes in the major assumptions for Safeway’s pension plans are as follows (dollars in millions):

 

     United States         Canada
      Percentage
point
change
   Projected benefit
obligation
decrease
(increase)
   Expense
decrease
(increase)
        Projected benefit
obligation
decrease
(increase)
   Expense
decrease
(increase)

Expected return on assets

   +/-1.0 pt      -       $ 16.6/(16.6)         -       $ 2.7/(2.7)

Discount rate

   +/-1.0 pt    $ 122.4/(133.0)    $ (3.3)/(24.8)       $ 51.8/(60.0)    $ 6.5/(7.3)

Cash contributions, primarily in Canada, to the Company’s pension plans are expected to total approximately $31.8 million in 2007 and totaled $33.1 million in 2006, $22.4 million in 2005 and $19.0 million in 2004. Safeway expects to fund future contributions to the Company’s pension plans with cash flow from operations.

Stock-Based Employee Compensation    Safeway elected to early adopt SFAS No. 123R in the first quarter of 2005 using the modified prospective method. SFAS No. 123R requires all share-based payments to employees, including grants of employee stock options, to be recognized in the financial statements as compensation cost based on the fair

 

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value on the date of grant. The Company determines fair value of such awards using the Black-Scholes option pricing model. The Black-Scholes option pricing model incorporates certain assumptions, such as a risk-free interest rate, expected volatility, expected dividend yield and expected life of options, in order to arrive at a fair value estimate.

Goodwill    Safeway accounts for goodwill in accordance with SFAS No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.” As required by SFAS No. 142, Safeway tests for goodwill annually using a two-step approach with extensive use of accounting judgments and estimates of future operating results. Changes in estimates or the application of alternative assumptions and definitions could produce significantly different results. The factors that most significantly affect the fair value calculation are market multiples and estimates of future cash flows. Fair value is determined by an independent third-party appraiser who primarily used the discounted cash flow method and the guideline company method.

Income Tax Contingencies    The Company is subject to periodic audits by the Internal Revenue Service and other foreign, state and local taxing authorities. These audits may challenge certain of the Company’s tax positions such as the timing and amount of deductions and allocation of taxable income to the various tax jurisdictions. Loss and gain contingencies are accounted for in accordance with SFAS No. 5, “Accounting for Contingencies,” and may require significant management judgment in estimating final outcomes. Actual results could materially differ from these estimates and could significantly affect the effective tax rate and cash flows in future years.

This excerpt taken from the SWY 10-K filed Mar 10, 2006.

Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates

Critical accounting policies are those accounting policies that management believes are important to the portrayal of Safeway’s financial condition and results of operations and require management’s most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.

 

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Table of Contents

SAFEWAY INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of

Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

Workers’ Compensation The Company is primarily self-insured for workers’ compensation, automobile and general liability costs. It is the Company’s policy to record its self-insurance liability, as determined actuarially, based on claims filed and an estimate of claims incurred but not yet reported, discounted at a risk-free interest rate. Any actuarial projection of losses concerning workers’ compensation and general liability is subject to a high degree of variability. Among the causes of this variability are unpredictable external factors affecting future inflation rates, discount rates, litigation trends, legal interpretations, benefit level changes and claim settlement patterns. A 25-basis-point increase in the Company’s discount rate would reduce its liability by approximately $4.7 million.

The majority of the Company’s workers’ compensation liability is from claims occurring in California. California workers’ compensation has received intense scrutiny from the state’s politicians, insurers, employers and providers, as well as the public in general. Recent years have seen escalation in the number of legislative reforms, judicial rulings and social phenomena affecting this business. Some of the many sources of uncertainty in the Company’s reserve estimates include changes in benefit levels, medical fee schedules, medical utilization guidelines, vocation rehabilitation and apportionment.

Store Closures Safeway’s policy is to recognize losses relating to the impairment of long-lived assets when expected net future cash flows are less than the assets’ carrying values. When stores that are under long-term leases close, Safeway records a liability for the future minimum lease payments and related ancillary costs, net of estimated cost recoveries. In both cases, fair value is determined by estimating net future cash flows and discounting them using a risk-adjusted rate of interest. The Company estimates future cash flows based on its experience and knowledge of the market in which the closed store is located and, when necessary, uses real estate brokers. However, these estimates project future cash flows several years into the future and are affected by factors such as inflation, real estate markets and economic conditions.

Employee Benefit Plans The determination of Safeway’s obligation and expense for pension benefits is dependent, in part, on the Company’s selection of certain assumptions used by its actuaries in calculating these amounts. These assumptions are disclosed in Note I to the consolidated financial statements and include, among other things, the discount rate, the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets and the rate of compensation increases. Actual results in any given year will often differ from actuarial assumptions because of economic and other factors. In accordance with GAAP, actual results that differ from the actuarial assumptions are accumulated and amortized over future periods and, therefore, affect recognized expense and recorded obligation in such future periods. While Safeway believes its assumptions are appropriate, significant differences in actual results or significant changes in the Company’s assumptions may materially affect Safeway’s pension and other post-retirement obligations and its future expense.

Safeway bases the discount rate on current investment yields on high quality fixed-income investments. The discount rate used to determine 2005 pension expense was 5.8%. A lower discount rate increases the present value of benefit obligations and increases pension expense. Expected return on pension plan assets is based on historical experience of the Company’s portfolio and the review of projected returns by asset class on broad, publicly traded equity and fixed-income indices, as well as target asset allocation. Safeway’s target asset allocation mix is designed to meet the Company’s long-term pension requirements. For 2005, the Company’s assumed rate of return was 8.5% on U.S. pension assets and 7.0% on Canadian pension assets. Over the 10-year period ended December 31, 2005, the average rate of return was approximately 10% for U.S. and Canadian pension assets.

 

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Table of Contents

SAFEWAY INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of

Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

Sensitivity to changes in the major assumptions for Safeway’s pension plans are as follows (dollars in millions):

 

    

United States

  

Canada

    

Percentage
point
change

  

Projected benefit
obligation decrease
(increase)

  

Expense decrease
(increase)

  

Projected benefit
obligation decrease
(increase)

  

Expense decrease
(increase)

Expected return on assets

   +/-1.0 pt       $16.3/(16.3)       $2.3/(2.3)

Discount rate

   +/-1.0 pt    $188.5/(216.2)    $40.2/(26.6)    $47.3/(55.8)    $4.5/(5.3)

Cash contributions, primarily in Canada, to the Company’s pension plans are expected to total approximately $27.0 million in 2006 and totaled $22.4 million in 2005, $19.0 million in 2004 and $16.0 million in 2003. Safeway expects to fund future contributions to the Company’s pension plans with cash flow from operations.

Stock-Based Employee Compensation Safeway elected to early adopt SFAS No. 123R in the first quarter of 2005 using the modified prospective method. SFAS No. 123R requires all share-based payments to employees, including grants of employee stock options, to be recognized in the financial statements as compensation cost based on the fair value on the date of grant. The Company determines fair value of such awards using the Black-Scholes option pricing model. The Black-Scholes option pricing model incorporates certain assumptions, such as risk-free interest rate, expected volatility, expected dividend yield and expected life of options, in order to arrive at a fair value estimate.

Goodwill Safeway accounts for goodwill in accordance with SFAS No. 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.” As required by SFAS No. 142, Safeway tests for goodwill annually using a two-step approach with extensive use of accounting judgments and estimates of future operating results. Changes in estimates or application of alternative assumptions and definitions could produce significantly different results. The factors that most significantly affect the fair value calculation are market multiples and estimates of future cash flows. Fair value is determined by an independent third-party appraiser who primarily used the discounted cash flow method and the guideline company method.

Income Tax Contingencies The Company is subject to periodic audits by the Internal Revenue Service and other foreign, state and local taxing authorities. These audits may challenge certain of the Company’s tax positions such as the timing and amount of deductions and allocation of taxable income to the various tax jurisdictions. Loss and gain contingencies are accounted for in accordance with SFAS No. 5, “Accounting for Contingencies,” and may require significant management judgment in estimating final outcomes. Actual results could materially differ from these estimates and could significantly affect the effective tax rate and cash flows in future years.

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