Intellectual capital reporting in Malaysian companies: a multidimensional analysis
Mat Husin, Norhayati
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This Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research examines the status of intellectual capital (IC) reporting in Malaysian companies’ annual reports with a view to contributing to the understanding of IC reporting practices and the state of knowledge-based economy initiatives in Malaysia. The literature review provides evidence of the increasing interest in IC as part of companies’ value drivers, and shows the growing concern about how much IC information has been reported by companies. Numerous researchers have investigated IC reporting, but the review shows that there is a lack of reporting research conducted in developing countries like Malaysia, inconsistency in the application of content analysis, and lack of research that focuses on quality of IC reporting and types of IC management activities reported by companies. Therefore, to advance the research on IC reporting, research on Malaysian companies was conducted by analysing the extent of IC reporting, the quality of IC reporting, and the types of IC management activities reported in the 2008 annual reports of 30 largest Malaysian public listed companies. The analysis was also conducted with the aim of refining the research methodology used in IC reporting studies by discussing and illustrating challenges and issues associated with the use of IC indices and content analysis methodology. This research introduces proactive legitimacy theory as the theoretical foundation, which can be used to explain and comprehend company disclosure policies on IC. The findings of this research show that external capital is the most reported IC category and exhibits the highest level of quality in reporting as measured through forms and locations of disclosures. Analysis of the 30 Malaysian companies shows that IC information has been reported using all forms of disclosure, namely, narratives, numbers, and visual images, and in all five sections of the annual reports with narratives and sections referred to as others as the most popular choice for reporting IC. The analysis also shows that there is a lack of structure in the reporting of IC information, with very little IC information showing a resources-activities-effects relationship. The findings support the proposition that Malaysian companies, particularly those from knowledge-based industries, are proactively reporting IC information to legitimise their operation in an environment where the concept of the KBE has been incorporated into the government’s economic plan. This research also provides evidence that the IC index developed in the research can be extended to act as a policy measure of Malaysian government initiatives towards transforming Malaysia into a KBE. However, while the results suggest that there is progress towards developing a KBE and a knowledge-based nation, there are areas in which Malaysian companies are lacking, such as innovation and research and development.