Corporate Finance

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Posted by motoman 03/18/2009 @ 16:17

Tags : corporate finance, investors, finance

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Market Chatter -- Corporate finance press digest - Reuters
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Market Chatter -- Corporate finance press digest - Reuters
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Market Chatter -- Corporate finance press digest - Reuters
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Market Chatter -- Corporate finance press digest - Reuters
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Corporate finance

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Corporate finance is an area of finance dealing with the financial decisions corporations make and the tools and analysis used to make these decisions. The primary goal of corporate finance is to maximize corporate value while managing the firm's financial risks. Although it is in principle different from managerial finance which studies the financial decisions of all firms, rather than corporations alone, the main concepts in the study of corporate finance are applicable to the financial problems of all kinds of firms.

The discipline can be divided into long-term and short-term decisions and techniques. Capital investment decisions are long-term choices about which projects receive investment, whether to finance that investment with equity or debt, and when or whether to pay dividends to shareholders. On the other hand, the short term decisions can be grouped under the heading "Working capital management". This subject deals with the short-term balance of current assets and current liabilities; the focus here is on managing cash, inventories, and short-term borrowing and lending (such as the terms on credit extended to customers).

The terms Corporate finance and Corporate financier are also associated with investment banking. The typical role of an investment banker is to evaluate company's financial needs and raise the appropriate type of capital that best fits those needs.

Capital investment decisions are long-term corporate finance decisions relating to fixed assets and capital structure. Decisions are based on several inter-related criteria. Corporate management seeks to maximize the value of the firm by investing in projects which yield a positive net present value when valued using an appropriate discount rate. These projects must also be financed appropriately. If no such opportunities exist, maximizing shareholder value dictates that management return excess cash to shareholders. Capital investment decisions thus comprise an investment decision, a financing decision, and a dividend decision.

Management must allocate limited resources between competing opportunities ("projects") in a process known as capital budgeting. Making this capital allocation decision requires estimating the value of each opportunity or project: a function of the size, timing and predictability of future cash flows.

In general, each project's value will be estimated using a discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation, and the opportunity with the highest value, as measured by the resultant net present value (NPV) will be selected (applied to Corporate Finance by Joel Dean in 1951; see also Fisher separation theorem, John Burr Williams: Theory). This requires estimating the size and timing of all of the incremental cash flows resulting from the project. These future cash flows are then discounted to determine their present value (see Time value of money). These present values are then summed, and this sum net of the initial investment outlay is the NPV.

In conjunction with NPV, there are several other measures used as (secondary) selection criteria in corporate finance. These are visible from the DCF and include discounted payback period, IRR, Modified IRR, equivalent annuity, capital efficiency, and ROI; see list of valuation topics.

In many cases, for example R&D projects, a project may open (or close) paths of action to the company, but this reality will not typically be captured in a strict NPV approach. Management will therefore (sometimes) employ tools which place an explicit value on these options. So, whereas in a DCF valuation the most likely or average or scenario specific cash flows are discounted, here the “flexibile and staged nature” of the investment is modelled, and hence "all" potential payoffs are considered. The difference between the two valuations is the "value of flexibility" inherent in the project.

Given the uncertainty inherent in project forecasting and valuation, analysts will wish to assess the sensitivity of project NPV to the various inputs (i.e. assumptions) to the DCF model. In a typical sensitivity analysis the analyst will vary one key factor while holding all other inputs constant, ceteris paribus. The sensitivity of NPV to a change in that factor is then observed (calculated as Δ NPV / Δ factor). For example, the analyst will set annual revenue growth rates at 5% for "Worst Case", 10% for "Likely Case" and 25% for "Best Case" - and produce three corresponding NPVs.

Using a related technique, analysts may also run scenario based forecasts so as to observe the value of the project under various outcomes. Under this technique, a scenario comprises a particular outcome for economy-wide, "global" factors (exchange rates, commodity prices, etc...) as well as for company-specific factors (revenue growth rates, unit costs, etc...). Here, extending the example above, key inputs in addition to growth are also adjusted, and NPV is calculated for the various scenarios. Analysts then plot these results to produce a "value-surface" (or even a "value-space"), where NPV is a function of several variables. Another application of this methodology is to determine an "unbiased NPV", where management determines a (subjective) probability for each scenario - the NPV for the project is then the probability-weighted average of the various scenarios. Note that for scenario based analysis, the various combinations of inputs must be internally consistent, whereas for the sensitivity approach these need not be so.

A further advancement is to construct stochastic or probabilistic financial models - as opposed to the traditional static and deterministic models as above. For this purpose, the most common method is to use Monte Carlo simulation to analyze the project’s NPV. This method was introduced to finance by David B. Hertz in 1964, although has only recently become common; today analysts are even able to run simulations in spreadsheet based DCF models, typically using an add-in, such as Crystal Ball.

Using simulation, the cash flow components that are (heavily) impacted by uncertainty are simulated, mathematically reflecting their "random characteristics". The simulation produces several thousand trials (in contrast to the scenario approach above) and outputs a histogram of project NPV. The average NPV of the potential investment - as well as its volatility and other sensitivities - is then observed. This histogram provides information not visible from the static DCF: for example, it allows for an estimate of the probability that a project has a net present value greater than zero (or any other value). See: Monte Carlo Simulation versus “What If” Scenarios.

Here, continuing the above example, instead of assigning three discrete values to revenue growth, the analyst would assign an appropriate probability distribution (commonly triangular or beta). This distribution - and that of the other sources of uncertainty - would then be "sampled" repeatedly so as to generate the several thousand realistic (but random) scenarios, and the output is a realistic, representative set of valuations. The resultant statistics (average NPV and standard deviation of NPV) will be a more accurate mirror of the project's "randomness" than the variance observed under the traditional scenario based approach.

The sources of financing will, generically, comprise some combination of debt and equity. Financing a project through debt results in a liability that must be serviced—and hence there are cash flow implications regardless of the project's success. Equity financing is less risky in the sense of cash flow commitments, but results in a dilution of ownership and earnings. The cost of equity is also typically higher than the cost of debt (see CAPM and WACC), and so equity financing may result in an increased hurdle rate which may offset any reduction in cash flow risk.

Management must also attempt to match the financing mix to the asset being financed as closely as possible, in terms of both timing and cash flows.

One of the main theories of how firms make their financing decisions is the Pecking Order Theory, which suggests that firms avoid external financing while they have internal financing available and avoid new equity financing while they can engage in new debt financing at reasonably low interest rates. Another major theory is the Trade-Off Theory in which firms are assumed to trade-off the tax benefits of debt with the bankruptcy costs of debt when making their decisions. An emerging area in finance theory is right-financing whereby investment banks and corporations can enhance investment return and company value over time by determining the right investment objectives, policy framework, institutional structure, source of financing (debt or equity) and expenditure framework within a given economy and under given market conditions. One last theory about this decision is the Market timing hypothesis which states that firms look for the cheaper type of financing regardless of their current levels of internal resources, debt and equity.

The dividend is calculated mainly on the basis of the company's unappropriated profit and its business prospects for the coming year. If there are no NPV positive opportunities, i.e. where returns exceed the hurdle rate, then management must return excess cash to investors. These free cash flows comprise cash remaining after all business expenses have been met.

This is the general case, however there are exceptions. For example, investors in a "Growth stock", expect that the company will, almost by definition, retain earnings so as to fund growth internally. In other cases, even though an opportunity is currently NPV negative, management may consider “investment flexibility” / potential payoffs and decide to retain cash flows; see above and Real options.

Management must also decide on the form of the distribution, generally as cash dividends or via a share buyback. There are various considerations: where shareholders pay tax on dividends, companies may elect to retain earnings, or to perform a stock buyback, in both cases increasing the value of shares outstanding; some companies will pay "dividends" from stock rather than in cash; see Corporate action. Today, it is generally accepted that dividend policy is value neutral (see Modigliani-Miller theorem).

Decisions relating to working capital and short term financing are referred to as working capital management. These involve managing the relationship between a firm's short-term assets and its short-term liabilities.

As above, the goal of Corporate Finance is the maximization of firm value. In the context of long term, capital investment decisions, firm value is enhanced through appropriately selecting and funding NPV positive investments. These investments, in turn, have implications in terms of cash flow and cost of capital.

The goal of Working capital management is therefore to ensure that the firm is able to operate, and that it has sufficient cash flow to service long term debt, and to satisfy both maturing short-term debt and upcoming operational expenses. In so doing, firm value is enhanced when, and if, the return on capital exceeds the cost of capital; See Economic value added (EVA).

Working capital is the amount of capital which is readily available to an organization. That is, working capital is the difference between resources in cash or readily convertible into cash (Current Assets), and cash requirements (Current Liabilities). As a result, the decisions relating to working capital are always current, i.e. short term, decisions.

In addition to time horizon, working capital decisions differ from capital investment decisions in terms of discounting and profitability considerations; they are also "reversible" to some extent. (Considerations as to Risk appetite and return targets remain identical, although some constraints - such as those imposed by loan covenants - may be more relevant here).

Working capital management decisions are therefore not taken on the same basis as long term decisions, and different criteria are applied here: the main considerations are cash flow and liquidity - cashflow is probably the more important of the two.

Guided by the above criteria, management will use a combination of policies and techniques for the management of working capital. These policies aim at managing the current assets (generally cash and cash equivalents, inventories and debtors) and the short term financing, such that cash flows and returns are acceptable.

Risk management is the process of measuring risk and then developing and implementing strategies to manage that risk. Financial risk management focuses on risks that can be managed ("hedged") using traded financial instruments (typically changes in commodity prices, interest rates, foreign exchange rates and stock prices). Financial risk management will also play an important role in cash management.

This area is related to corporate finance in two ways. Firstly, firm exposure to business risk is a direct result of previous Investment and Financing decisions. Secondly, both disciplines share the goal of creating, or enhancing, firm value. All large corporations have risk management teams, and small firms practice informal, if not formal, risk management.

Derivatives are the instruments most commonly used in Financial risk management. Because unique derivative contracts tend to be costly to create and monitor, the most cost-effective financial risk management methods usually involve derivatives that trade on well-established financial markets. These standard derivative instruments include options, futures contracts, forward contracts, and swaps.

Use of the term “corporate finance” varies considerably across the world. In the United States it is used, as above, to describe activities, decisions and techniques that deal with many aspects of a company’s finances and capital. In the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, the terms “corporate finance” and “corporate financier” tend to be associated with investment banking - i.e. with transactions in which capital is raised for the corporation.

Corporate finance utilizes tools from almost all areas of finance. Some of the tools developed by and for corporations have broad application to entities other than corporations, for example, to partnerships, sole proprietorships, not-for-profit organizations, governments, mutual funds, and personal wealth management. But in other cases their application is very limited outside of the corporate finance arena. Because corporations deal in quantities of money much greater than individuals, the analysis has developed into a discipline of its own. It can be differentiated from personal finance and public finance.

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Corporate Finance Associates

Corporate Finance Associates (CFA) is an international independent investment banking firm, headquartered in Los Angeles, with more than 30 offices in North America and 12 affiliates in Europe. CFA was founded in 1956 to provide M&A services to mid-sized private and public firms with revenues in the $10 million to $250 million range. The firm specializes in divestiture, merger, acquisition and financial resource advisory services.

In 1956 Michael M. Rothberg sold his interest in a furniture company and started Corporate Finance Associates (CFA). Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Mr. Rothberg established a consulting firm to serve the M & A needs of small to mid-sized business owners. In the late 1960s, looking for new ways to increase the number of "associates" in the firm, Mr. Rothberg articulated his philosophy of being in business for yourself rather than by yourself by adopting a franchise business model; one of the first for a consulting business. The network of associates grew and in 1969 the first international office was added. In 1972 the firm moved to Atlanta. The franchise model proved successful and in 1985 the firm continued its westward migration with a move to Denver, Colorado.

Recognizing an opportunity for bringing principals into direct contact with clients worldwide, the former franchise owners executed a management buyout of the company in 1996, creating the organization that exists today. The firm celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.

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The field of finance refers to the concepts of time, money and risk and how they are interrelated. Banks are the main facilitators of funding through the provision of credit, although private equity, mutual funds, hedge funds, and other organizations have become important. Financial assets, known as investments, are financially managed with careful attention to financial risk management to control financial risk. Financial instruments allow many forms of securitized assets to be traded on securities exchanges such as stock exchanges, including debt such as bonds as well as equity in publicly-traded corporations.

An entity whose income exceeds its expenditure can lend or invest the excess income. On the other hand, an entity whose income is less than its expenditure can raise capital by borrowing or selling equity claims, decreasing its expenses, or increasing its income. The lender can find a borrower, a financial intermediary such as a bank, or buy notes or bonds in the bond market. The lender receives interest, the borrower pays a higher interest than the lender receives, and the financial intermediary pockets the difference.

A bank aggregates the activities of many borrowers and lenders. A bank accepts deposits from lenders, on which it pays the interest. The bank then lends these deposits to borrowers. Banks allow borrowers and lenders, of different sizes, to coordinate their activity. Banks are thus compensators of money flows in space.

A specific example of corporate finance is the sale of stock by a company to institutional investors like investment banks, who in turn generally sell it to the public. The stock gives whoever owns it part ownership in that company. If you buy one share of XYZ Inc, and they have 100 shares outstanding (held by investors), you are 1/100 owner of that company. Of course, in return for the stock, the company receives cash, which it uses to expand its business; this process is known as "equity financing". Equity financing mixed with the sale of bonds (or any other debt financing) is called the company's capital structure.

Finance is used by individuals (personal finance), by governments (public finance), by businesses (corporate finance), as well as by a wide variety of organizations including schools and non-profit organizations. In general, the goals of each of the above activities are achieved through the use of appropriate financial instruments and methodologies, with consideration to their institutional setting.

Finance is one of the most important aspects of business management. Without proper financial planning a new enterprise is unlikely to be successful. Managing money (a liquid asset) is essential to ensure a secure future, both for the individual and an organization.

Personal financial decisions may involve paying for education, financing durable goods such as real estate and cars, buying insurance, e.g. health and property insurance, investing and saving for retirement.

Personal financial decisions may also involve paying for a loan, or debt obligations.

Managerial or corporate finance is the task of providing the funds for a corporation's activities. For small business, this is referred to as SME finance. It generally involves balancing risk and profitability, while attempting to maximize an entity's wealth and the value of its stock.

Long term funds are provided by ownership equity and long-term credit, often in the form of bonds. The balance between these forms the company's capital structure. Short-term funding or working capital is mostly provided by banks extending a line of credit.

Financial management is duplicate with the financial function of the Accounting profession. However, financial accounting is more concerned with the reporting of historical financial information, while the financial decision is directed toward the future of the firm.

Capital, in the financial sense, is the money that gives the business the power to buy goods to be used in the production of other goods or the offering of a service.

Budget is a document which documents the plan of the business. This may include the objective of business, targets set, and results in financial terms, e.g., the target set for sale, resulting cost, growth, required investment to achieve the planned sales, and financing source for the investment. Also budget may be long term or short term. Long term budgets have a time horizon of 5-10 years giving a vision to the company; short term is an annual budget which is drawn to control and operate in that particular year.

This concerns fixed asset requirements for the next five years and how these will be financed.

Working capital requirements of a business should be monitored at all times to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to meet short-term expenses.

Credit gives the customer the opportunity to buy goods and services, and pay for them at a later date.

This refers to the purchase of stock at the right time, at the right price and in the right quantities.

This refers to the number of times per year that the average level of stock is sold. It may be worked out by dividing the cost price of goods sold by the cost price of the average stock level.

Depreciation is the decrease in the value of an asset due to wear and tear or obsolescence. It is calculated yearly to ensure realistic book values for assets.

Insurance is the undertaking of one party to indemnify another, in exchange for a premium, against a certain eventuality.

There is currently a move towards converging and consolidating Finance provisions into shared services within an organization. Rather than an organization having a number of separate Finance departments performing the same tasks from different locations a more centralized version can be created.

Financial economics is the branch of economics studying the interrelation of financial variables, such as prices, interest rates and shares, as opposed to those concerning the real economy. Financial economics concentrates on influences of real economic variables on financial ones, in contrast to pure finance.

Financial Econometrics is the branch of Financial Economics that uses econometric techniques to parameterise the relationships.

Financial mathematics is a main branch of applied mathematics concerned with the financial markets. Financial mathematics is the study of financial data with the tools of mathematics, mainly statistics. Such data can be movements of securities—stocks and bonds etc.—and their relations. Another large subfield is insurance mathematics.

Experimental finance aims to establish different market settings and environments to observe experimentally and provide a lens through which science can analyze agents' behavior and the resulting characteristics of trading flows, information diffusion and aggregation, price setting mechanisms, and returns processes. Researchers in experimental finance can study to what extent existing financial economics theory makes valid predictions, and attempt to discover new principles on which such theory can be extended. Research may proceed by conducting trading simulations or by establishing and studying the behaviour of people in artificial competitive market-like settings.

Behavioral Finance studies how the psychology of investors or managers affects financial decisions and markets. Behavioral finance has grown over the last few decades to become central to finance.

A strand of behavioral finance has been dubbed Quantitative Behavioral Finance, which uses mathematical and statistical methodology to understand behavioral biases in conjunction with valuation. Some of this endeavor has been lead by Gunduz Caginalp (Professor of Mathematics and Editor of Journal of Behavioral Finance during 2001-2004) and collaborators including Vernon Smith (2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics), David Porter, Don Balenovich, Vladimira Ilieva, Ahmet Duran, Huseyin Merdan). Studies by Jeff Madura, Ray Sturm and others have demonstrated significant behavioral effects in stocks and exchange traded funds. Among other topics, quantitative behavioral finance studies behavioral effects together with the non-classical assumption of the finiteness of assets.

Intangible asset finance is the area of finance that deals with intangible assets such as patents, trademarks, goodwill, reputation, etc.

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Source : Wikipedia