Corporate Finance - Factors that Influence a Company's Capital-Structure Decision

The primary factors that influence a company's capital-structure decision are:

Business Risk
Excluding debt, business risk is the basic risk of the company's operations. The greater the business risk, the lower the optimal debt ratio.

As an example, let's compare a utility company with a retail apparel company. A utility company generally has more stability in earnings. The company has les risk in its business given its stable revenue stream. However, a retail apparel company has the potential for a bit more variability in its earnings. Since the sales of a retail apparel company are driven primarily by trends in the fashion industry, the business risk of a retail apparel company is much higher. Thus, a retail apparel company would have a lower optimal debt ratio so that investors feel comfortable with the company's ability to meet its responsibilities with the capital structure in both good times and bad.

2. Company's Tax Exposure
Debt payments are tax deductible. As such, if a company's tax rate is high, using debt as a means of financing a project is attractive because the tax deductibility of the debt payments protects some income from taxes.

3. Financial Flexibility
This is essentially the firm's ability to raise capital in bad times. It should come as no surprise that companies typically have no problem raising capital when sales are growing and earnings are strong. However, given a company's strong cash flow in the good times, raising capital is not as hard. Companies should make an effort to be prudent when raising capital in the good times, not stretching its capabilities too far. The lower a company's debt level, the more financial flexibility a company has.

The airline industry is a good example. In good times, the industry generates significant amounts of sales and thus cash flow. However, in bad times, that situation is reversed and the industry is in a position where it needs to borrow funds. If an airline becomes too debt ridden, it may have a decreased ability to raise debt capital during these bad times because investors may doubt the airline's ability to service its existing debt when it has new debt loaded on top.

4. Management Style
Management styles range from aggressive to conservative. The more conservative a management's approach is, the less inclined it is to use debt to increase profits. An aggressive management may try to grow the firm quickly, using significant amounts of debt to ramp up the growth of the company's earnings per share (EPS).

5. Growth Rate
Firms that are in the growth stage of their cycle typically finance that growth through debt, borrowing money to grow faster. The conflict that arises with this method is that the revenues of growth firms are typically unstable and unproven. As such, a high debt load is usually not appropriate.

More stable and mature firms typically need less debt to finance growth as its revenues are stable and proven. These firms also generate cash flow, which can be used to finance projects when they arise.

6. Market Conditions
Market conditions can have a significant impact on a company's capital-structure condition. Suppose a firm needs to borrow funds for a new plant. If the market is struggling, meaning investors are limiting companies' access to capital because of market concerns, the interest rate to borrow may be higher than a company would want to pay. In that situation, it may be prudent for a company to wait until market conditions return to a more normal state before the company tries to access funds for the plant.

Business and Financial Risk
Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Choose A Financial Advisor

    Many advisors display similar skillsets that can make distinguishing between them difficult. The following guidelines can help you better understand their qualifications and services.
  2. Investing

    Asset Manager Ethics: Investment Process and Actions

    Managers, in developing their investment process, need to determine some “general rules” that make it meaningful. We offer six.
  3. Professionals

    Career Advice: Financial Analyst Vs. Investment Banker

    Read an in-depth comparison about working as a Financial Analyst vs. working as an Investment Banker, two highly prestigious business careers.
  4. Professionals

    Advisors: Which Certifications Are Essential?

    The right advisor credentials can make all the difference, but wading through some 100 certifications can be a challenge. Here's some help.
  5. Investing Basics

    Asset Manager Ethics: Valuation Is A Tricky Business

    Asset managers must accurately represent all of a clients assets in the client portfolio. This can be tricky for unique and hard-to-value assets.
  6. Personal Finance

    Top 10 Most Valuable Sports Teams in 2015

    Cleats, pads and profits: we take a look at the top 10 most valuable sports teams in the world.
  7. Professionals

    Chinese Slowdown Affects Iron Ore Market

    The Chinese economy's ongoing slowdown is having a major impact on iron ore demand.
  8. Personal Finance

    Invest in Costco? First Understand Its Balance Sheet

    A strong balance sheet sets a company apart and boosts investor confidence. How healthy is Costco based on an analysis of its balance sheets from the last two years?
  9. Investing Basics

    Brokers and RIAs: One and the Same?

    Brokers and registered investment advisors have some key differences. Here's what you need to know.
  10. Professionals

    DCF Vs. Comparables: Which One To Use

    DCF and Comparables models are widely used in equity valuation. We explain the pros and cons of each method.
  1. Personal Financial Advisor

    Professionals who help individuals manage their finances by providing ...
  2. CFA Institute

    Formerly known as the Association for Investment Management and ...
  3. Chartered Financial Analyst - CFA

    A professional designation given by the CFA Institute (formerly ...
  4. Security Analyst

    A financial professional who studies various industries and companies, ...
  1. What are the differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified ...

    The differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) are many, but comes down ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

    According to the CFA Institute, a person who holds a CFA charter is not a chartered financial analyst. The CFA Institute ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What types of positions might a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) hold?

    The types of positions that a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is likely to hold include any position that deals with large ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who benefits the most from prepaid expenses?

    Prepaid expenses benefit both businesses and individuals. Prepaid expenses are the types of expenses that are bought or paid ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. If I am looking to get an Investment Banking job. What education do employers prefer? ...

    If you are looking specifically for an investment banking position, an MBA may be marginally preferable over the CFA. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I still pass the CFA Level I if I do poorly in the ethics section?

    You may still pass the Chartered Financial Analysis (CFA) Level I even if you fare poorly in the ethics section, but don't ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  2. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  3. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  4. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  5. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!