Sometimes when your profits need a little boost, the best thing to do is change an accounting policy, amiright?

CapitaLand Ltd., a property developer in Singapore has pulled the double-entry sleight of hand to get a big boost in their first quarter profits:

The company […] said net profit for the three months ended March 31 was 101.5 million Singapore dollars (US$82.1 million), up from a restated S$29.8 million a year earlier, and was “underpinned by higher development profits and portfolio gain.” The company’s year-earlier net profit before the revision was S$115.4 million.

Okay, “higher development profits and portfolio gain” sounds a little vague so let’s see what else is helping these numbers:

The large increase also reflects a change in comparable figures for the year earlier due to an accounting policy change at the start of this year.

The new policy means overseas projects and local projects on a deferred payment scheme have to be fully completed before they are recognized.

This will result in “income recognition that is lumpy and back-ended, thus creating more volatility in profit recognition even though the underlying projects’ cashflows have not changed,” CapitaLand said in a statement.

Investors will likely view the results with caution as a result, analysts say.

“As CapitaLand has mentioned, this new policy gives rise to lumpy earnings that are not very meaningful, especially since over 50% of CapitaLand’s earnings are from overseas,” CIMB analyst Donald Chua said, adding other developers with large overseas market exposure will also be affected.

CapitaLand Net Surges on Accounting Change [WSJ]