Why is it so hard to value intangibles?

Gavin Reid, Julia Smith

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


The paper uses a range of primary-source empirical evidence to address the question: ‘why is it to hard to value intangible assets?’ The setting is venture capital investment in high technology companies. While the investors are risk specialists and financial experts, the entrepreneurs are more knowledgeable about product innovation. Thus the context lends itself to analysis within a principal-agent framework, in which information asymmetry may give rise to adverse selection, pre-contract, and moral hazard, post-contract. We examine how the investor might attenuate such problems and attach a value to such high-tech investments in what are often merely intangible assets, through expert due diligence, monitoring and control. Qualitative evidence is used to qualify the more clear cut picture provided by a principal-agent approach to a more mixed picture in which the ‘art and science’ of investment appraisal are utilised by both parties alike.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSt Andrews
PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameCRIEFF Discussion Paper Series
PublisherUniversity of St Andrews
ISSN (Print)1364-453X


  • venture capital
  • financial reporting
  • high technology
  • intangible assets
  • accounting information


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