Goodwill impairment recorded by U.S. public companies fell 10 percent, from $78.9 billion in 2018 to $71 billion in 2019, according to Duff & Phelps’ 2020 U.S. Goodwill Impairment Study. The total still marks the second-highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the annual review of over 8,800 U.S. publicly traded companies’ goodwill impairments.
General Electric’s (GE) $22.1 billion charge had the highest impact on the 2018 aggregate goodwill impairment amount. Excluding GE’s impairment event from 2018 totals, aggregate goodwill impairment would have risen by 25 percent in 2019, according to Duff & Phelps.
Industry trends: For seven of the 10 industries analyzed, goodwill impairment increased or remained at similar levels. Industrials saw its aggregate goodwill impairment drop by over 80 percent in 2019, driven by the GE charge, the report notes.
Communication services, consumer staples, and information technology were the top three industries with the largest increase in goodwill impairment in 2019, according to Duff & Phelps. Communication services saw its highest level since 2007 ($19.7 billion), while consumer staples reached a new record high in aggregate goodwill impairment ($12.9 billion), increasing for the third consecutive year.
Information technology saw a goodwill impairment increase from $2.7 billion in 2018 to $8.1 billion in 2019.
COVID-19 impact: A look at 2020 reveals the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on goodwill impairments for U.S.-based public companies up to the time of writing (through Jan. 28, 2021). The disclosed top 10 goodwill impairment events for 2020 reach a combined $54 billion, “far surpassing the top 10 in 2019, at $37.4 billion,” the analysis stated.
Duff & Phelps projects goodwill impairment may already exceed $120 billion in 2020 based on early results. “Energy is the most impacted industry, thus far, a reflection of the collapse in global oil prices following the classification of COVID-19 as a pandemic,” the firm said.