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Intangible asset disclosure in the telecommunications industry

Torsten J. Gerpott (Mercator School of Management, University of Duisburg‐Essen, Duisburg, Germany)
Sandra E. Thomas (Mercator School of Management, University of Duisburg‐Essen, Duisburg, Germany)
Alexander P. Hoffmann (Mercator School of Management, University of Duisburg‐Essen, Duisburg, Germany)

Journal of Intellectual Capital

ISSN: 1469-1930

Article publication date: 18 January 2008




The purpose of this paper is to investigate intangible disclosure quality (IDQ) in an international sample of 29 stock‐quoted telecommunications network operators (TNOs). IDQ is captured separately for annual reports and websites of TNOs using a set of seven intangible asset categories. The article also explores associations between annual report and website IDQ on the one hand and variables interpreted either as IDQ antecedents (e.g. firm size) or as IDQ performance consequences (e.g. market‐to‐book ratio) on the other.


TNOs' 2003 or 2003/2004 annual reports and TNOs' websites (as of May 2005) were subjected to content analytical procedures in order to quantify sample firms' disclosure quality levels for seven categories of intangible assets derived from a framework suggested by the Deutsche Schmalenbach Gesellschaft für Betriebswirtschaft eV.


Both annual report and website IDQ levels of TNOs were relatively low. Intangible disclosures were often limited to small pieces of qualitative information. Annual report and website IDQ are significantly positively interrelated. IDQ varies significantly by the home region of the TNO, with European TNOs displaying higher quality levels than their American counterparts. IDQ measures were not significantly related to TNOs' financial performance criteria.

Research limitations/implications

Research limitations result from the study's single industry focus, small sample size and the limited range of variables investigated as potential IDQ antecedents/consequences.

Practical implications

TNOs get insights on IDQ within their industry. Regulators/standard setting accounting institutions are encouraged to encounter industry‐specific intangible characteristics by industry‐focused intangible measurement rules in addition to an overall intangible reporting framework.


This study is the first investigation that simultaneously analyzes IDQ both in a firm's annual report and on its website. Further, it is unique in its use of uni‐ and multivariate analytical techniques exploring IDQ antecedents/consequences and in its single industry/TNO focus.



Gerpott, T.J., Thomas, S.E. and Hoffmann, A.P. (2008), "Intangible asset disclosure in the telecommunications industry", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 37-61.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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