International regulators discuss interactive data timetable

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TOKYO – International regulators are working out a timetable to implement interactive data initiatives for financial reporting, which will help international investors analyse data and view financial statements translated into other languages.

At the week-long meeting of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, Japanese finance minister Yoshimi Watanabe and Financial Services Agency commissioner Takafumi Sato together outlined an aggressive schedule to implement XBRL (extensible business reporting language) data tagging, in line with Japanese policy regarding public company reporting of financial statements, for the second quarter of 2008.

Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Securities Commission, highlighted that China was the first country to mandate XBRL reporting, and that it now requires interactive data filing of financial statements from all listed companies for quarterly, biannual and annual reports, in line with its own rules and those of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

“The global movement to interactive data for financial reporting is truly under way,” says Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

China’s progress is perhaps strongest. About 50 Chinese companies used voluntary XBRL reporting in 2003 and the current figure is 800. Taxonomy for fund companies is also in development.

Compare this to Canada or South Korea, where action toward adopting XBRL is still gathering steam. The Canadians began voluntary XBRL filing earlier this year. Korea began in 2006, with all publicly held Korean companies required to file XBRL financial statements in October 2007.

“Without question, 2008 will be a watershed year for interactive data,” says Cox.

The US has been slow to implement XBRL, although the SEC announced a $54 million programme to update its public company disclosure system through XBRL.

On November 27 and 28, Australia – where implementation is scheduled for 2010 – will host the 2007 Standard Business Reporting/ XBRL International Conference, with sessions presented by developers and regulators from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia.

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