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I teach corporate finance, valuation and investment philosophies at the Stern School of Business at New York University. I intend to have online versions of all three courses here, as well as other finance-related videos.
I laid out the structure for the class and an agenda of what I hope to accomplish during the next 15 weeks. In addition to describing the logistical details, I presented my view that corporate finance is the ultimate big picture class because everything falls under its purview. The “big picture” of corporate finance covers the three basic decisions that every business has to make: how to allocate scarce funds across competing uses (the investment decision), how to raise funds to finance these investments (the financing decision) and how much cash to take out of the business (the dividend decision). The singular objective in corporate finance is to maximize the value of the business to its owners. This big picture was then used to emphasize five themes: that corporate finance is common sense, that it is focused, that the focus shifts over the life cycle and that you cannot break first principles with immunity.
Slides (Syllabus): http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/cfsylls
In this class, we started on what the objective in running a business should be. While corporate finance states it to be maximizing firm value, it is often practiced as maximizing stock price. To make the world safe for stock price maximization, we do have to make key assumptions: that managers act in the best interests of stockholders, that lenders are fully protected, that information flows to rational investors and that there are no social costs. We started on why one of these assumptions, that stockholders have power over managers, fails and we will continue ripping the Utopian world apart next class.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session2atest.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session2atest.pdf
This session extended the discussion of everything that can wrong in the real world. Lenders, left unprotected, will be exploited. Information can be noisy and markets can be irrational. Social costs can be large. Relating back to class, I have a couple of items on the agenda and neither requires extensive reading or research. I would like you to think about market efficiency without any preconceptions. You may believe that markets are short term, volatile and over react, but I would like you to consider the basis of these beliefs. Is it because you have anecdotal evidence or because you have been told it is so or is it based upon something more concrete? i also want to think about how managers in publicly traded companies can position themselves best to consider the public good, without being charitable with other people's money, as a precursor to the next class. We have spent a couple of sessions being negative - managers are craven, markets are noisy and bondholders get ripped off
The objective function matters, and there are no perfect objectives. That is the message of the last two classes. Once you have absorbed that, I am willing to accept the fact that you still don't quite buy into the "maximize value" objective. That is fine and I would like you to keep thinking about a better alternative with three caveats. First, you cannot cop out and give me multiple objectives - I too would like to maximize stockholder wealth, maximize customer satisfaction, maximize social welfare and employee benefits at the same time but it is just not doable. Second, your objective function has to be measurable. In other words, if you define your objective as maximizing the social good, how would you measure social good? Third, take your objective (and the measurement device you have developed) and ask yourself a cynical question: How might managers game this system for maximum benefit, while hurting you as an owner? In the long term, you may almost guarantee that this will happ
In this session, we address the question of what risks get rewarded and which ones do not, by looking diversifiable versus non-diversifiable risk. The best way to understand diversifiable and non-diversifiable risk is to take a company and consider all of the risks that it is exposed to and then categorize these risks into whether they are likely to affect just the company, the company and a few competitors, the entire sector or the overall market. The marginal investor, if diversified, cares and prices in only the last type of risk. In the last part of the class, we introduced the notion of a risk free investment and how to measure the risk free rate.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session5test.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session5soln.pdf
We started this class by tying up the last loose ends with risk free rates: how to estimate the risk free rate in a currency where there is no default free entity issuing bonds in that currency and why risk free rates vary across currencies. The key lesson is that much as we would like to believe that riskfree rates are set by banks, they come from fundamentals - growth and inflation. I have a post on risk free rates that you might find of use:
http://aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com/2017/01/january-2017-data-update-3-cracking.html The rest of today's class was spent talking about equity risk premiums. The key theme to take away is that equity risk premiums don't come from models or history but from our guts. When we (as investors) feel scared or hopeful about everything that is going on around us, the equity risk premium is the receptacle for those fears and hopes. Thus, a good measure of equity risk premium should be dynamic and forward looking. We looked at three different ways of estim
This class covered the conventional approach to estimating betas, which is to run a regression of returns on a stock against returns on the market index. We first covered the estimation choices: how far back in time to go (depends on how much your company has changed), what return interval to use (weekly or monthly are better than daily), what to include in returns (dividends and price appreciation) and the market index to use (broader and wider is better). We also looked at the three key pieces of output from the regression:
1. The intercept: This is a measure of how good or bad an investment your stock was during the period of your regression. To compute the measure correctly, you net out Rf(1-Beta) from the Intercept:
Jensen's alpha = Intercept - Riskfree rate (1- Beta)
If this number is a positive (negative) number, your stock did better (worse) than expected, after adjusting for risk and market performance.
2. The slope: is the beta, albeit with standard error
3. The R squared: me
We spent most of this class talking about the determinants of betas. Before we do that, though, there is one point worth emphasizing. Betas measure only non-diversifiable or market risk and not total risk (explaining why Harmony can have a negative beta and Philip Morris a very low beta).
1. Betas are determined in large part by the nature of your business. While I am not an expert on strategy, marketing or productions, decisions that you make in those disciplines can affect your beta. Thus, your decision to go for a price leader as opposed to a cost leader (I hope I am getting my erminology right) or build up a brand name has implications for your beta. As some of you probably realized today, the discussion about whether your product or service is discretionary is tied to the elasticity of its demand (an Econ 101 concept that turns out to have value)... Products and services with elastic demand should have higher betas than products with inelastic demand. And if you do get a chance,
This session is a grind with numbers building on top of numbers. In specific, we looked at how to estimate the beta for not only a company but its individual businesses by building up to a beta, rather than trusting a single regression. With Disney, we estimated a beta for each of the five businesses it was in, a collective beta for Disney's operating businesses and a beta for Disney as a company (including its cash). If you got lost at some stage in the class, here are some of the ways you can get unlost:
1. Review the slides that we covered today.
2. Try the post-class test and solution. I think it will really help bring together some of the mechanical issues involved in estimating betas.
3. Read this short Q&A on bottom up betas which highlights the estimation process and some of its pitfalls:
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.e
In this shortened session (after the quiz), we looked at what should go into debt and the cost of debt. Specifically, we argued that debt should include all interest bearing debt & leases and that the cost of debt is the cost of borrowing money, long term, today.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session10test.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session10soln.pdf
This class represented a transition from hurdle rates to measuring returns. We started by completing the last pieces of the cost of capital puzzle: coming up with market values for equity (easy for a publicly traded company) and debt (more difficult). We then began our discussion of returns by emphasizing that the bottom line in corporate finance is cash flows, not earnings, that we care about when those cash flows occur and that we try to bring in all side costs and benefits into those cash flows. Defining investments broadly to include everything from acquisitions to big infrastructure investments to changing inventory policy, we set the table for investment analysis by setting up the Rio Disney investment. We will return to flesh out the details in the next session (after the break
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session11test.pdf
Post class test solution: http://w
In this class, we started by first revisiting the hurdle rate for the Rio Disney theme park, separating those risks that we should be bringing into it from those that we should not. We then started the move from earnings to cash flows, by making three standard adjustments: add back depreciation & amortization (which leaves the tax benefit of the depreciation in the cash flows), subtract out cap ex and subtract out changes in working capital. Finally, we introduced the key test for incremental cash flows by asking two questions: (1) What will happen if you take the project and (2) What will happen if you do not? If the answer is the same to both questions, the item is not incremental. That is why "sunk" costs, i.e., money already spent, should not affect investment decision making. It is also the reason that we add back the portion of allocated G&A that is fixed and thus has nothing to do with this project.
In this session, we started by looking at two time-weighed cash flow returns, the NPV and IRR. We then looked at three tools for dealing with uncertainty: payback, where you try to get your initial investment back as quickly as possible, what if analysis, where the key is to keep it focused on key variables, and simulations, where you input distributions for key variables rather than single inputs. WUltimately, though, you have to be willing to live with making mistakes, if you are faced with uncertainty. I also mentioned Edward Tufte's book on the visual display of information. If you are interested, you can find a copy here:
It is a great book! I also talked about Crystal Ball in class. You have access to it as a student at Stern, at least on the school computers. You can also download a free, full-featured trial version from Oracle:
We started today's class by looking at mutually exclusive investments and why NPV and IRR may give you different answers: a project can have more than one IRR, IRR is biased towards smaller projects and the intermediate cash flows are assumed to be reinvested at the IRR. As to which rule is better, while NPV makes more reasonable assumptions about reinvestment (at the hurdle rate), companies that face capital rationing constraints may choose to use IRR. We then compared projects with different lives and considered how best to incorporate side costs and side benefits into investment analysis.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session14test.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session14soln.pdf
The bulk of today's class was spent on the HD Furniture case. While the case itself will soon be forgotten (as it should), I hope that some of the issues that we talked about today stay fresh. In particular, here were some of the central themes (most of which are not original):
Theme 1: The discount rate for a project should reflect the risk of the project, not the risk of the company looking at the project. Hence, it is the beta for furniture companies that drives the cost of capital for the furniture business, rather than the cost of capital for Home Depot as a company. That principle will get revisited when we talk about acquisition valuation... or in any context, where risk is a consideration.
Theme 2: To get a measure of incremental cash flows, you cannot just ask the question, "What will happen if I take this investment?". You have to follow up and ask the next question: "What will happen if I don't take the investment? It is the incremental effect that you should count. That was
In this class, we started our discussion of the financing question by drawing the line between debt and equity: fixed versus residual claims, no control versus control, and then used a life cycle view of a company to talk about how much it should borrow. We then started on the discussion of debt versus equity by looking at the pluses of debt (tax benefits, added discipline) and its minuses (expected bankruptcy costs, agency cost and loss of financial flexibility). Even with the general discussion, we were able to look at why firms in some countries borrow more than others, why having more stable earnings can make a difference in how much you can borrow and why having intangible assets can affect your borrowing capacity.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session16AXtest.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session16AX
In the shortened session that followed the quiz, I look at the Miller Modigliani theorem through the prism of the debt tradeoff. I then move on to looking at how the cost of capital can be used to optimize the right mix of debt and equity. We will continue with this discussion next week. Until next time!
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session17Atest.pdf
In this class, we continued our discussion of the cost of capital approach to deriving an optimal financing mix: the optimal one is the debt ratio that minimizes the cost of capital. To estimate the cost of capital at different debt ratios, we estimated the levered beta/ cost of equity at each debt ratio first and then the interest coverage ratio/synthetic rating/cost of debt at each debt ratio, taking care to ensure that if the interest expenses exceeded the operating income, tax benefits would be lost. The optimal debt ratio is the point at which your cost of capital is minimized. Using this approach, we estimated optimal debt ratios for Disney (40%), Tata Motors (20%), Vale (30% with actual earnings, 50% with normalized earnings). Disney was underlevered and Tata Motors was over levered.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session18test.pdf
Post class test solution:
In today’s class, we continued our discussion of the cost of capital approach to optimizing debt ratios by first looking at enhancements to the approach and then at the determinants of the optimal. In particular, it was differences in tax rates, cash flows (as a percent of value) and risk that determined why some companies have high optimal debt ratios and why some have low or no debt capacity. We then looked at the Adjusted Present Value (APV) approach to analyzing the effect of debt. In particular, this approach looks at the primary benefit of debt (taxes) and the primary costs (expected bankruptcy) and netted out the difference from the unlevered firm value.. We closed the discussion of optimal by noting that many firms decide how much to borrow by looking their peer group and argued that if you decide to go this route, you should use more of the information than just the average.
Post class test: http://www
In this session,we looked at applying closure to the optimal debt ratio analysis by looking at how quickly you should move to the optimal and what actions to take (recap versus taking projects), drawing largely on numbers that we have estimated already for the company (Jensen's alpha, ROC - Cost of capital). We then followed up by examining the process of finding the right debt for your firm, with a single overriding principle: that the cash flows on your debt should be matched up, as best as you can, to the cash flows on your assets. The perfect security will combine the tax benefits of debt with the flexibility of equity.
Post class test: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session20test.pdf
Post class test solution: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/pdfiles/cfovhds/postclass/session20soln.pdf