Setters of international accounting standards are to soften their stance on a draft standard that would have forced the territory's companies to write off their intangible assets over 20 years. The move was seen as good news for some of Hong Kong's largest companies as the draft standard could have cost them billions of dollars in amortisation costs if it had been implemented in its unamended form. The international standard would almost certainly have been adopted in Hong Kong. The International Accounting Standards Committee indicated it was planning to make it easier for companies to amortise their intangibles over a longer period of time. This stance was driven by strong opposition from senior British accounting authorities to forced amortisation over a 20-year period. Michael Sharpe, chairman of the committee told Business Post the body would no longer consider forcing companies to amortise intangibles over a 20-year period. 'There are times the period could be a lot longer,' he said. Mr Sharpe hinted the committee may, in exceptional circumstances, allow the amortisation period to be extended to 100 years, but he specified that in most cases write-offs should occur over a 20-year period. Where companies did amortise over a period in excess of 20 years, there would be a 'tremendous impairment test' required to justify such a move. 'Companies have to prove there is a cash flow to this asset to justify what they have left,' he said. 'People have to believe the written down amortisation value would produce a cash flow that would justify that valuation.' The softening of the committee's stance followed a storm of controversy over the intangibles issue, with the chairman of the British Accounting Standards Board, Sir David Tweedie, lashing out at the draft international standard. Sir David was also a board member of the committee and his criticism was a serious blow to the intangibles proposals - forcing the committee to search for a compromise to ensure broad agreement on the standard. The British accounting chief said he believed intangibles in many instances, should not be amortised at all. He said recently it was 'unfair to say that a 100-year old masthead of, for instance, an established daily newspaper is worthless'. It was a stance that was backed up by companies internationally, and which has put pressure on Mr Sharpe to compromise on the proposed 20-year amortisation period. The committee would issue what it hopes to be a final exposure draft on intangibles when it meets in Barcelona in September. The meeting aimed to ensure final approval on the issue from all the leading accounting regimes around the world.