COVID-19 Impacts on European Audit Opinions

This post will be updated to reflect the current number of filings citing the COVID-19 pandemic in a going concern opinion, key audit matter, or emphasis of matter.

Overall Statistics

As of the week ended 12 June 2020, Audit Analytics has observed the following trends in European audit opinions referencing COVID-191:

  • Going Concern Modification: 106
  • Key Audit Matter: 173
  • Emphasis of Matter Paragraph: 175

Based on company headquarters, the United Kingdom has continued to see the most audit opinions referencing COVID-19, with over 150 opinions issued referencing the pandemic in a going concern modification, a key audit matter (KAM), or an emphasis of matter paragraph. Belgium and Poland each have at least 30 filings referencing the coronavirus in those components of the audit opinion.

Going Concern Audit Opinion

A going concern modification is the expressed uncertainty that a company is able to continue in the near future. Generally speaking, this uncertainty relates to whether the company will exist for another 12 months. The specifics of the long-term and extensive impacts of the coronavirus are currently unknown, but it is known that COVID-19 has the potential to materially impact operations across a wide variety of companies.

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As of the week ended 12 June 2020, non-Big Four auditors have signed the majority of going concern audit opinions for European filers referencing COVID-19. The vast majority of the companies receiving going concern audit opinions are small- cap companies, with a market capitalization under €100 million; less than 5 going concern audit opinions have been issued to large- cap companies, suggesting that smaller companies are being significantly impacted by the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Of companies that have received a going concern audit opinion related to coronavirus, 47% are in the Services or Manufacturing industry.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted consumer behavior, it is unsurprising that companies in the Manufacturing industry have received nearly 23% of audit opinions with a going concern modification. Due to the nature of the Manufacturing industry, it is not uncommon to have long-term contracts; the uncertainty caused by the pandemic has made it difficult to discern the viability of executing and recovering known and expected future revenues from long-term contracts. Additionally, companies in this industry may also be struggling with fewer new customers, lower demand from existing customers, and a reduction in milestones, which can result in difficulties securing financing. To what extent these companies will be impacted is as of yet unknown, contributing to uncertainty whether or not the company will be able to continue as a going concern for the next 12 months.

Key Audit Matters (KAMs)

KAMs are intended to increase the usefulness and information provided in the auditor’s opinion. The disclosures made by the auditor are supposed to describe an area of significant audit risk, a summary of the auditor’s procedures to test the audit area, and any key observations of the auditor with respect to that risk (where appropriate). Considering the uncertainties regarding future impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, auditors may address the risk of that uncertainty in a KAM.

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As of the week ended 12 June 2020, PwC has identified the most KAMs related to COVID-19 in audit opinions for European filers. The majority of the companies receiving KAMs related to the coronavirus have been small- cap companies with a market capitalization under €100 million; however, mid- cap companies with a market capitalization between €100 million and €1,000 million continue to be a close second. Nearly 33% of companies that have received a KAM related to the pandemic to this point have been in the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate industry, while 39% have been in either the Manufacturing or Services sector.

Emphasis of Matter

An emphasis of matter paragraph is a component of the auditor’s report on financial statements that addresses matters that the auditor considers is fundamental to the overall understanding of financial statements. Given the widespread effects of coronavirus on companies and their financials, it is not surprising to see the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned as an emphasis of matter in financial statements.

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As of the week ended 12 June 2020, of the Big Four firms, PwC and EY have each more than 20 audit opinions that reference COVID-19 in an emphasis of matter paragraph for European filers; non-Big Four auditors have signed over 105 opinions containing an emphasis of matter related to the pandemic. Roughly 60% of the companies with an emphasis of matter paragraph referencing the pandemic are small- cap companies, with a market capitalization under €100 million. Nearly 55% of companies to have an audit opinion referencing the coronavirus are in the Manufacturing or Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate sector.


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1.This analysis is based on audit opinions collected by Audit Analytics. Weekly totals reflect the total number of filings per week and may change over time as filings are added to the database. Firms without an available market cap are excluded from the market cap analyses in the tables, but are included in the weekly totals. For dual signed audit opinions, both auditors are included in the auditor analyses in the table and are included in the cumulative count by auditor, but the opinion is counted once in the weekly totals.