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Chrysler Lost $660 Million in Q2, But Who's (Ac-)counting?

image Daimler logoThere's a big difference between Chrysler's net loss by American accounting standards, according to Chrysler, versus the International Financial Reporting Standards that Daimler used to figure out how much money Daimler's 19.9 percent of Chrysler lost in the second quarter.

There's even an in-between number, because Chrysler disagrees with the number Daimler reported, even by the different accounting standard.

Daimler said on Oct. 23 that its 19.9 percent share of Chrysler had a net loss of 351 million euros in the second quarter. That's about $526.5 million, at the average exchange rate for the quarter.

Chrysler's agenda here is to stop journalists -- and possibly Wall Street analysts, who should know better -- from simply multiplying $526.5 million by five and concluding that Chrysler in total must have lost $2.6 billion, and assuming that number would have been reported by American accounting standards, if Chrysler were still public.

That's happened before in prior quarters. Chrysler's response in the past has been to say that's not accurate, because of accounting differences. However, Chrysler and privately held parent Cerberus, which owns 80.1 percent of Chrysler, wouldn't provide a better number.

This time, Chrysler reported what it says is an accurate number by American accounting standards, on a Chrysler company blog for journalists, about 15 minutes after Daimler reported its earnings. The Daimler report included its third-quarter earnings, plus the second-quarter number for its share of Chrysler.

According to Chrysler, Daimler's 19.9 percent share of Chrysler lost only 88 million euros by American accounting standards, or about $132 million for the second quarter. It gets a little silly here, but Chrysler refuses to do the math, which is to say that if 19.9 percent of Chrysler lost $132 million, then the whole company must have lost about $660 million. Publicly, Chrysler sticks to its position, "We're private, we don't report our results," even though indirectly that's what they did.

Chrysler also went on to differ with former partner Daimler over what number Daimler should have reported by International Financial Reporting Standards. According to Chrysler, Daimler's number included some results that weren't attributable to Chrysler in the relevant quarter.

GM must be watching all this with interest, if it's true GM is considering buying or partnering with Chrysler. Cerberus better be a lot more transparent behind closed doors than it is in public.

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