What Is a Capital Investment?

Capital investment is a sum of money provided to a company to further its business objectives. The term also can refer to a company's acquisition of long-term assets such as real estate, manufacturing plants, and machinery.

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Capital Investment

How Capital Investment Works

Capital investment is a broad term that can be defined in two distinct ways:

  • An individual, a venture capital group, or a financial institution may make a capital investment in a business. A sum of money is handed over as a loan or in return for a promise of repayment or a share of the profits down the road. In this sense of the word, capital means cash.
  • The executives of a company may make a capital investment in the business. They buy long-term assets that will help the company run more efficiently or grow faster. In this sense, capital means physical assets.

In either case, the money for capital investment has to come from somewhere. A new company might seek capital investment from any number of sources including venture capital firms, angel investors, and traditional financial institutions. The capital is to be used to further develop and market its products. When a new company goes public, it is acquiring capital investment on a large scale from many investors.

An established company might make a capital investment using its own cash reserves, or seek a loan from a bank. If it is a public company, it might issue a bond in order to finance capital investment.

There is no minimum or maximum capital investment. It can range from less than $100,000 in seed financing for a start-up to hundreds of millions of dollars for massive projects undertaken by companies in capital-intensive sectors such as mining, utilities, and infrastructure.

[Important: Capital investment is meant to benefit a company in the long run, but it nonetheless can have short-term downsides.]

Special Considerations

A decision by a business to make a capital investment is a long-term growth strategy. A company plans and implements capital investments in order to ensure its growth in the future.

Capital investments generally are made to increase operational capacity, capture a larger share of the market, and generate more revenue. The company may make a capital investment in the form of an equity stake in another company's complementary operations for the same purposes.

The Disadvantages of Capital Investment

The first funding option for capital investment is always a company's own operating cash flow, but that may not be enough to cover the anticipated cost. It is more likely that the company will resort to outside financing to make up for any internal shortfall.

Capital investment is meant to benefit a company in the long run, but it nonetheless can have short-term downsides. Intensive, ongoing capital investment tends to reduce earnings growth in the short term, and that is never a popular move among stockholders of a public company. Moreover, the total amount of debt a company has on the books is a figure that is closely watched by stock owners and analysts.

Key Takeaways

  • A capital investment can be defined as a sum of cash acquired by a company to pursue its objectives.
  • It also can refer to a company's acquisition of permanent assets.
  • In the latter case, the company is making an investment in its own future.