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Global Intangible Value Exceeds US$50 Trillion for the First Time

17 October 2018
This article is more than 5 years old.

· Over 75% of the world’s intangible assets are kept off balance sheets as world’s public companies break new value records

· Amazon takes over from Apple as the most intangible company in the world but 98% of its value remains unreported

· Internet & Software companies report less than 10% of intangible value, despite topping the rankings of asset-rich giants

See the full Brand Finance GIFT™ 2018 report here

Global intangible value has surpassed US$50 trillion for the first time in history, reaching US$57.3 trillion at the beginning of the current financial year, according to the latest Brand Finance Global Intangible Finance Tracker (GIFT™). This constitutes 52% of the overall enterprise value of all publicly traded companies worldwide, which now amounts to an equally record-breaking US$109.3 trillion, exceeding the US$100 trillion mark also for the first time.

Worryingly, however, 76% of the world’s intangible value – US$43.7 trillion – remains unaccounted for on balance sheets. At US$35.0 trillion last year, undisclosed intangible value has grown by a whopping 25% year on year – five times faster than the value of disclosed intangible assets (up 5%) – and outpacing by far the overall global enterprise value growth (up 18%).

The past year has also seen a decline in the granularity of intangible asset reporting as the gap between disclosed intangible assets – accounted for in detail on balance sheets – and goodwill has widened dramatically. Goodwill is a premium paid over the fair value of assets in the event of a company being purchased and is sometimes used as a shortcut to avoid performing a more granular valuation of intangibles. Companies now list a stunning US$2.3 trillion more goodwill than disclosed intangible assets, compared to US$1.8 trillion last year.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“Insufficient reporting of intangible assets leads to a host of problems for analysts, investors, boards, and stakeholders. With little information on particular assets, analysts’ assessments are not as accurate, forcing investors to act with one eye closed. This, in turn, has negative effects on share price volatility, affecting the stability and sustainability of finance. Equally, the lack of granular information on the true value of assets leaves boards and shareholders prone to hostile takeovers or selling and licencing individual assets below competitive prices.”

Intangible assets (such as brands, relationships, know-how) make up a greater proportion of the total value of many businesses than tangible assets (such as plant, machinery, and real estate). However, current financial reporting rules allow intangible asset disclosure only during M&A activity, resulting in no knowledge of the worth and business importance of intangibles unless they are subject to an acquisition.

David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance, commented:

“A commitment to undertake an annual revaluation of all company assets, including tangible assets, acquired intangibles, and intangibles generated internally, would be a boon for boards, accountants, investors, and analysts. Newly-gained transparency and clarity would enable boards to make more effective use of their assets, accountants to have a more detailed picture of asset values, and investors and analysts to more accurately price shares.”

According to Brand Finance’s survey of financial analysts, conducted in 2016, the majority backs this demand for an annual revaluation of all intangible assets (73%), including the full disclosure not only of acquired intangibles (79%) but of all internally generated ones too (68%).

The problem is best highlighted by the stark disparity between the list of the world’s top 100 most intangible companies and an equivalent list ranked by disclosed – as opposed to total – intangible value. Amazon (with intangibles worth US$827 billion), taking over as the most intangible company in the world, as well as last year’s leader Apple (US$648 billion) do not even make the list of top 100 companies by disclosed intangible value. Their intangible value remains undisclosed at 98% and 99% respectively.

The Internet & Software sector, where Amazon is joined by other digital giants such as Alphabet and Alibaba, has a very high percentage of enterprise value attributable to intangibles overall (87%), placing it just behind the Cosmetics (90%) and Aerospace (90%) industries. It also has the second-highest absolute intangible value among all sectors of the economy, at US$6.8 trillion, behind only Banking’s US$8.5 trillion. Despite this exposure to intangible value, Internet & Software is among those sectors which account for a very low value of their intangibles, reporting just 9.1% in goodwill and disclosed assets.


About Brand Finance GIFT™

The Brand Finance Global Intangible Finance Tracker (GIFT™) is the world’s most extensive annual research exercise into intangible assets, considering 58,000 publicly quoted companies (with a total value of over US$100 trillion) across 179 jurisdictions.

In its analysis, the Brand Finance GIFT™ 2018 report provides detailed insight into intangible value reporting by company, sector, and country. Consult the report document for graphs, executive commentary, and opinion pieces by our experts.

Brand Finance helped craft the internationally recognised standard on Brand Valuation – ISO 10668, and the recently approved standard on Brand Evaluation – ISO 20671.

Data compiled for Brand Finance reports are provided for the benefit of the media and are not to be used for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

Media Contacts

Penny Erricker
Communications Executive
Brand Finance

About Brand Finance

Brand Finance is the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy. Bridging the gap between marketing and finance for more than 25 years, Brand Finance evaluates the strength of brands and quantifies their financial value to help organizations of all kinds make strategic decisions.

Headquartered in London, Brand Finance has offices in over 20 countries, offering services on all continents. Every year, Brand Finance conducts more than 5,000 brand valuations, supported by original market research, and publishes over 100 reports which rank brands across all sectors and countries.

Brand Finance also operates the Global Brand Equity Monitor, conducting original market research annually on over 5,000 brands, surveying more than 150,000 respondents across 38 countries and 31 industry sectors. Combining perceptual data from the Global Brand Equity Monitor with data from its valuation database enables Brand Finance to arm brand leaders with the data and analytics they need to enhance brand and business value.

Brand Finance is a regulated accountancy firm, leading the standardization of the brand valuation industry. Brand Finance was the first to be certified by independent auditors as compliant with both ISO 10668 and ISO 20671 and has received the official endorsement of the Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) in the United States.

Definition of Brand

Brand is defined as a marketing-related intangible asset including, but not limited to, names, terms, signs, symbols, logos, and designs, intended to identify goods, services, or entities, creating distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefits.

Brand Strength

Brand strength is the efficacy of a brand’s performance on intangible measures relative to its competitors. Brand Finance evaluates brand strength in a process compliant with ISO 20671, looking at Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and the impact of those on Business Performance. The data used is derived from Brand Finance’s proprietary market research programme and from publicly available sources.

Each brand is assigned a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score out of 100, which feeds into the brand value calculation. Based on the score, each brand is assigned a corresponding Brand Rating up to AAA+ in a format similar to a credit rating.

Brand Valuation Approach

Brand Finance calculates the values of brands in its rankings using the Royalty Relief approach – a brand valuation method compliant with the industry standards set in ISO 10668. It involves estimating the likely future revenues that are attributable to a brand by calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for its use, to arrive at a ‘brand value’ understood as a net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market.

The steps in this process are as follows:

1 Calculate brand strength using a balanced scorecard of metrics assessing Marketing Investment, Stakeholder Equity, and Business Performance. Brand strength is expressed as a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score on a scale of 0 to 100.

2 Determine royalty range for each industry, reflecting the importance of brand to purchasing decisions. In luxury, the maximum percentage is high, while in extractive industry, where goods are often commoditised, it is lower. This is done by reviewing comparable licensing agreements sourced from Brand Finance’s extensive database.

3 Calculate royalty rate. The BSI score is applied to the royalty range to arrive at a royalty rate. For example, if the royalty range in a sector is 0-5% and a brand has a BSI score of 80 out of 100, then an appropriate royalty rate for the use of this brand in the given sector will be 4%.

4 Determine brand-specific revenues by estimating a proportion of parent company revenues attributable to a brand.

5 Determine forecast revenues using a function of historic revenues, equity analyst forecasts, and economic growth rates.

6 Apply the royalty rate to the forecast revenues to derive brand revenues.

7 Discount post-tax brand revenues to a net present value which equals the brand value.


Brand Finance has produced this study with an independent and unbiased analysis. The values derived and opinions presented in this study are based on publicly available information and certain assumptions that Brand Finance used where such data was deficient or unclear. Brand Finance accepts no responsibility and will not be liable in the event that the publicly available information relied upon is subsequently found to be inaccurate. The opinions and financial analysis expressed in the study are not to be construed as providing investment or business advice. Brand Finance does not intend the study to be relied upon for any reason and excludes all liability to any body, government, or organisation.

The data presented in this study form part of Brand Finance's proprietary database, are provided for the benefit of the media, and are not to be used in part or in full for any commercial or technical purpose without written permission from Brand Finance.

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