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Undisclosed Reserves


Undisclosed reserves refer to assets or capital held by a financial institution or company that are not declared in its publicly available balance sheet or financial statements. They serve as a form of reserve capital that can be used in times of unexpected financial strain or to cover up potential losses. Such reserves are legal in some jurisdictions but can affect the company’s perceived financial stability and credibility.


ʌn.dɪˈskloʊzd rɪˈzɜːrvz

Key Takeaways


  1. Definition: Undisclosed Reserves refer to the reserves that are not disclosed or mentioned clearly in the company’s balance sheet. They form part of the owners’ equity or net resources of the company and can be important in maintaining stability and absorbing losses.
  2. Utilization: These reserves are generally used to improve the financial health of the company, pay off unexpected liabilities or to take advantage of sudden business opportunities. It’s important to bear in mind they are often not obvious to shareholders or potential investors.
  3. Risks and Controversies: Despite their benefits, undisclosed reserves can bring about criticisms due to lack of transparency and possible misuse. There is also a potential risk if seen as an attempt by management to manipulate the company’s financial statements, which could damage trust with stakeholders.



The term “Undisclosed Reserves” holds importance in the field of business/finance because it refers to reserves that are not openly reported or revealed in a company’s balance sheet or other financial statements, though are legally established to cover unexpected losses. They act as a form of financial safety net, allowing companies to sustain financial stability during challenging times. However, because they are not disclosed, they often limit the transparency of a company’s true financial condition. This mechanism can affect the decision-making of investors and stakeholders, as it could inhibit them from making fully informed decisions. Thus, undisclosed reserves play a dual, significant role in financial management and investor relations.


The purpose of undisclosed reserves, as a component of a company’s overall capital reserves, is to fortify a company’s financial standing and bolster its ability to withstand financial challenges. Undisclosed reserves are essentially funds that a company sets aside without making a respective disclosure in its financial statements. These funds serve as a safety net allowing businesses the flexibility to manage unexpected costs or losses, without necessitating immediate external funding or debt. Further, they can be used to smooth out dividends during lean years, thus sustaining investor confidence.Undisclosed reserves can also be used strategically for future business expansion, investment strategies or tackling unwarranted market volatility. However, while the company is aware of these reserves and their allocation, they are kept hidden from investors and stakeholders and are therefore often seen as a controversial practice due to the lack of transparency. Despite so, they offer companies certain tactical advantages when discretion and strategic investments are crucial for sustainable business growth.


1. Barclays Bank: In 2016, the UK-based international bank, Barclays, was revealed to have undisclosed reserves amounting to billions of pounds. This information was uncovered during a legal dispute which found that the bank had not declared these reserves in their financial statements. The use of undisclosed reserves can reflect negatively on a company’s reputation, as it suggests a lack of transparency in financial reporting.2. Tesco Accounting Scandal: In 2014, the UK retail giant Tesco was involved in a major accounting scandal. They admitted to overstating their profits by £263m by accelerating income recognition, delaying costs and using undisclosed reserves. The Scandal was among the UK’s worst accounting scandals and led to severe penalties for the company, including significant damage to its reputation.3. Lehman Brothers: In the 2008 financial crisis, investment bank Lehman Brothers used undisclosed reserves in the form of Repo 105 transactions to manipulate their balance sheet, show lower leverage and better financial health. By doing so, they technically did not disclose the reserves they had in place. This lack of transparency was one of the key factors leading to Lehman Brother’s bankruptcy, taking a massive toll on the global economy.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Undisclosed Reserves?

Undisclosed Reserves are financial safeguards that a company keeps but does not disclose in its financial statements. They are kept for the purpose of countering unforeseen financial losses or liabilities.

Why would a company keep Undisclosed Reserves?

Companies often keep Undisclosed Reserves as a safety measure to protect against future unanticipated losses or as a strategy to accumulate a surplus that is not immediately obvious to competitors, shareholders, or the public.

Are Undisclosed Reserves legal?

The legality of Undisclosed Reserves differs from one jurisdiction to another. In some countries, holding undisclosed reserves might be considered legal under certain circumstances, while in others it may be considered deceitful or misleading and prohibited under corporate laws.

How do Undisclosed Reserves impact a company’s financial health?

Undisclosed Reserves could indicate that a company is more financially robust than it appears on its financial statements. However, these reserves can also create a less transparent financial picture, which could possibly impact the company’s reputation or valuation.

Can shareholders access information on Undisclosed Reserves?

By their nature, Undisclosed Reserves are typically not disclosed to shareholders or included in financial reports. However, regulatory bodies in certain countries may have rules requiring disclosure under certain circumstances.

Where are Undisclosed Reserves recorded?

As the term suggests, Undisclosed Reserves are not explicitly recorded in a company’s financial statements. Instead, they may be concealed within other accounts or not listed at all.

Are Undisclosed Reserves the same as Hidden Assets?

No, they are not the same. While both terms refer to unreported items on a company’s balance sheet, hidden assets typically refer to tangible or intangible assets that are undervalued or not recognized, whereas undisclosed reserves refer specifically to financial reserves that are not reported.

Related Finance Terms

  • Capital Reserves
  • Surplus Reserves
  • Non-Distributable Reserves
  • Profit and Loss Reserves
  • Contingency Reserves

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