Best Buy Stashes $756 Million In Liabilities Off-Balance Sheet
Investors should add back certain expenses and liabilities Best Buy excludes from operating lease obligations.
April 22, 2021
In its 2020 10-K, Best Buy (BBY), an electronics and technology products retailer, provides investors an incomplete snapshot of its operating lease liabilities. The company says it has $2.9 billion in operating lease liabilities. This understates Best Buy’s true liability, which strips out leases not yet commenced, taxes, and maintenance fees the company agreed to pay.

The additional liabilities are buried in two footnotes:

“Lease obligations exclude $56 million of legally binding fixed costs for leases signed but not yet commenced.”

“Operating lease obligations exclude payments to landlords covering real estate taxes and common area maintenance. These charges, if included, would increase total operating lease obligations by $0.7 billion as of January 30, 2021.”

The additional $756 million brings Best Buy’s operating lease liabilities to $3.67 billion, not $2.91 billion as the company would prefer investors believe. Excluding the liabilities in the footnotes understates Best Buy’s operating lease liabilities by 25.9% and its total liabilities by 5.2%.
Related: WMT, AMZN
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