Musings On Markets

If there have been a competition for the most measured quantity in financing, the winner would be the cost of capital. Corporate and business finance departments throughout the world compute it as a fundamental element of investment analysis. Appraisers calculate it as a step towards estimating reduced or intrinsic cashflow value. Analysts spend disproportionate levels of their time focusing on it, though not for the right reasons or with the right inputs always.

There are three different ways to frame the expense of capital and each has its use. An excellent measure of cost of capital will find a way to bridge the variations between your three definitions and I believe that we can do this, with just a little common sense and some data. 1. Investors price companies based upon a reasonable evaluation of the company’s business blend (and country risk exposure) and what they can generate as expected comes back on alternative options of comparative risk. The former requires companies to provide information on the business mixes and the latter generally is simpler to do in a liquid, general public market.

2. A ongoing company that works in multiple businesses and many countries cannot use an individual, “company-wide” cost of capital as its hurdle rate in opportunities. It must adjust the price of capital for both the riskiness of the business where the investment is being planned and the part of the world that it’s heading to be situated in.

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3. The entire company’s cost of capital has to be a weighted average of the costs of capitals of the firms that it operates in, and as the business mix changes, the expense of capital will, as well. Having laid the groundwork, let’s reach specifics down. If you, as an investor, are given the task of estimating the expense of capital for a company, is the series of steps here. First, you have to estimate the business risk in the company by taking a weighted average of the potential risks of the firms that the business operates.

Second, you have to modify that risk measure for the effects of debt, which effectively magnifies your business risk publicity, and use the consolidated risk measure to estimate a cost of equity. Third, you have to generate the cost of borrowing, net of any tax benefit, that will reveal the default risk in the ongoing company. Finally, going for a weighted average of the cost of equity and after-tax cost of debt yields a price of capital. As a person who shows corporate financing and valuation, I am similarly thinking about both sides of the estimation process and one of my objectives in providing data is to help both sides.

To help companies in investment analysis, I try to calculate costs of capital by sector, in the wish that a multi-business company will be able to find the information here to build up business-specific costs of capital. Each year In my own data updates, I estimate the expense of capital, by sector, for companies both internationally and categorized by region (US, Europe, Japan, Emerging Markets).

In making these estimations, I start by breaking my total sample of 41 first,410 companies into 96 industry groupings, some of which might be much broader than you want to see. I favor this broad categorization for two reasons. First, I calculate a beta for every industry group by averaging the betas of the individual companies in that group, and these quotes are more specific with larger sample sizes. Second, from a first principles perspective, I think that since betas measure risk from a macro risk perspective, you are better served with broader categories than narrow ones.

Thus, rather than calculate the beta for shrimp fishing as a small business, I would rather estimate the beta for food processing businesses (assuming that the only reason that people buy shrimp is to eat them.). The total results right away of 2015 are captured in the attached spreadsheet, which includes costs of capital by sector not limited to global companies, but includes my local estimations also. Within my data analysis, I also make an effort to estimate the cost of capital for every of the 42,410 companies in my own database. Since it is impractical to analyze each company at length, I really do have to make some simplifying assumptions.


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