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A:

Despite all the differences among companies, there are only a few sources of funds available to all firms.

1. They make profit by selling a product for more than it costs to produce. This is the most basic source of funds for any company and hopefully the method that brings in the most money.

2. Like individuals, companies can borrow money. This can be done privately through bank loans, or it can be done publicly through a debt issue. The drawback of borrowing money is the interest that must be paid to the lender.

3. A company can generate money by selling part of itself in the form of shares to investors, which is known as equity funding. The benefit of this is that investors do not require interest payments like bondholders do. The drawback is that further profits are divided among all shareholders.

In an ideal world, a company would bring in all of its cash simply by selling goods and services for a profit. But, as the old saying goes, "you have to spend money to make money," and just about every company has to raise funds at some point to develop products and expand into new markets.

When evaluating companies, it is most important to look at the balance of the major sources of funding. For example, too much debt can get a company into trouble. On the other hand, a company might be missing growth prospects if it doesn't use money that it can borrow.

For more info on evaluating companies, check out Intro To Fundamental Analysis.

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