The Vault Guide To Finance Interviews

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VAULT GUIDE TO
FINANCE
INTERVIEWS
D. BHATAWEDEKHAR, DAN JACOBSON,
HUSSAM HAMADEH
AND THE STAFF OF VAULT
Copyright © 2005 by Vault Inc. All rights reserved.
All information in this book is subject to change without notice. Vault makes no claims as to
the accuracy and reliability of the information contained within and disclaims all warranties.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, for any purpose, without the express written permission of Vault Inc.
Vault, the Vault logo, and “The Most Trusted Name in Career InformationTM” are trademarks
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150 W. 22nd Street, 5th Floor, New York, New York 10011-1772, (212) 366-4212.
Library of Congress CIP Data is available.
ISBN 1-58131-304-7
Printed in the United States of America
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We are extremely grateful to Vaults entire staff for all their help in the editorial,
production and marketing processes. Vault also would like to acknowledge the
support of our investors, clients, employees, family, and friends. Thank you!
INTRODUCTION 1
Landing a Gig . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY 5
The Finance Interview: An Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
VALUATION TECHNIQUES 19
How Much is it Worth? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Basic Accounting Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
Market Valuation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27
Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
Comparable Transactions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44
Multiple Analysis or Comparable Company Analysis . . . . . . . . .45
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47
EQUITY ANALYSIS AND PORTFOLIO
MANAGEMENT 61
Investment Management and Portfolio Theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62
Stock Analysis and Stock Picking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67
STOCKS 71
Equity vs. Debt (Stocks vs. Bonds) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72
Stock Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at www.vault.com/finance with
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Table of Contents
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
Table of Contents
BONDS AND INTEREST RATES 83
Bond Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84
Pricing Bonds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86
The Fed and Interest Rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .89
The Fed and Inflation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91
Effect of Inflation on Bond Prices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .92
Leading Economic Indicators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .93
CURRENCIES 99
Exchange Rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100
Influence of Interest Rates on Foreign Exchange . . . . . . . . . . . .101
Influence of Inflation on Foreign Exchange . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .102
Capital Market Equilibrium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103
Exchange Rate Effects on Earnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104
Effect of Exchange Rates on Interest Rates and Inflation . . . . .105
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106
OPTIONS AND DERIVATIVES 109
The Wild West of Finance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110
Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110
Writing Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .112
Options Pricing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .113
Forwards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .115
Futures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .115
Swaps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .117
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at www.vault.com/finance with
insider firm profiles, message boards, the Vault Finance Job Board and more. xi
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
Table of Contents
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at www.vault.com/finance with
insider firm profiles, message boards, the Vault Finance Job Board and more. xiii
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS 121
Why Merge? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122
Why Not Merge? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .123
Stock Swaps vs. Cash Offers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .124
Tender Offers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
Mergers vs. Acquisitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127
Will That Be Cash or Stock? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127
Accretive vs. Dilutive Mergers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .128
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129
BRAINTEASERS AND GUESSTIMATES 133
Stress Tests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134
Acing Guesstimates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .134
Brainteasers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .136
Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
FINAL ANALYSIS 147
APPENDIX 149
Finance Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150
About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .158
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INTRODUCTION
Landing a Gig
Money makes the world go round, and those in charge of money are the
financiers. Have thirst for relevance? The finance industry has always been a
competitive field, due in large part to the glamour and prestige assigned to the
working relationships with industry titans. Of course, the outstanding salaries
explain much of the pull as well. (Unless you can dunk a basketball or throw
football 50 yards, it’s hard to beat the pay in investment banking, where recent
college grads can come close to six figures.)
So what’s the secret to landing a finance gig? Naturally, identifying
opportunities is the first step. Many finance firms have structured on-campus
recruiting processes. If you’re in college or graduate school (especially business
school), check with the career services office to see which finance companies
recruit at your campus. If the company you’ve got your eye on doesn’t come to
your school, don’t despair. Many firms accept resumes from non-targeted
schools. Check the firm’s web site to find out how to submit your resume. Firm
web sites are also a good bet for those out of school looking to change jobs or
careers. Additionally, check with friends and alumni for openings at a specific
firm or in the finance industry in general.
Virtually every recruiter or professional agrees that no matter how you hear about
your position, the most important factor in getting a job is making a good
impression in your interview. No matter what your credentials, experience or
references, if you don’t come off in your interviews as someone who can do the
job and who will fit in at the company, you stand little to no chance of getting hired.
Don’t be too put off by the pressure. If you’ve landed an initial interview, you
can assume someone at the firm, in reviewing your resume, thinks you’ve got at
least the basics necessary to succeed. It’s now up to you to prove that to your
interviewers by being confident and knowledgeable. This guide will familiarize
you with the questions you’re likely to receive in the course of your interview.
As you’ll see, you can expect to tested to make sure you can work under
pressure, fit into the company’s culture and excel in your job.
Finance career opportunities can be broadly divided into several categories, most
prominently investment banking, commercial banking, asset management,
venture capital and private equity, and finance positions at a corporation like Dell
or The Coca-Cola Company (also referred to as “corporate finance”). There is
considerable movement between these positions  I-bankers leave to take posts
in industry, or with private equity firms, etc. Generally, the pinnacle for most
finance professionals is either as a partner or managing director of a bank, a
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
Introduction
© 2005 Vault Inc.
2
portfolio manager for an asset management firm, or as Chief Financial Officer
(CFO) of a company. The interviews for each of these industries are very similar.
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
Introduction
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at www.vault.com/finance with
insider firm profiles, message boards, the Vault Finance Job Board and more. 3
For more information on finance interviews and finance
careers, go to the Vault Finance Career Channel
Employer surveys on hundreds of top finance employers
The Vault Guide to Advanced and Quantitative Finance Interviews and the
Vault Finance Interviews Practice Guide
Thousands of top finance jobs on the Vault Finance Job Board
Finance Resume Review and Writing – named the “Top Choice” for resume
makeovers by The Wall Street Journal
One-on-one finance interview prep with Vault finance interview experts
The Vault Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers, the Vault Career Guide to
Investment Banking, the Vault Career Guide to Hedge Funds, the Vault Career
Guide to Investment Management, and other Vault finance guides
www.vault.com/finance
3M | A.T. Kearney | ABN Amro | AOL Time Warner | AT&T | AXA | Abbott Laboratorie
Accenture | Adobe Systems | Advanced Micro Devices | Agilent Technologies | Alco
nc. | Allen & Overy | Allstate | Altria Group | American Airlines | American Electri
Power | American Express | American International Group | American Managemen
Systems | Apple Computer | Applied Materials | Apria Healthcare Group | AstraZeneca
Automatic Data Processing | BDO Seidman | BP | Bain & Company | Bank One | Bank o
BellSouth | Berkshire Hathaway | Bertelsmann | Best Buy | Bloomberg | Boeing | Boo
Allen | Borders | Boston Consulting Group | Bristol-Myers Squibb | Broadview
nternational| Brown Brothers Harriman | Buck Consultants| CDI Corp.| CIBC Worl
Markets | CIGNA | CSX Corp| CVS Corporation | Campbell Soup Company| Cap Gemin
Ernst & Young| Capital One | Cargill| | Charles Schwab | ChevronTexaco Corp. | Chiquit
Brands International | Chubb Group | Cisco Systems | Citigroup | Clear Channel | Cliffor
Comerica | Commerce BanCorp | Computer Associates | Computer Science
Corporation | ConAgra | Conde Nast | Conseco | Continental Airlines | Corning
Corporate Executive Board | Covington & Burling | Cox Communications | Credit Suiss
First Boston | D.E. Shaw | Davis Polk & Wardwell | Dean & Company | Dell Computer
Deloitte & Touche | Deloitte Consulting | Delphi Corporation | Deutsche Bank | Dewe
Ballantine | DiamondCluster International | Digitas | Dimension Data | Dow Chemical
Dow Jones | Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein | Duracell | Dynegy Inc. | EarthLink
Eastman Kodak | Eddie Bauer | Edgar, Dunn & Company | El Paso Corporation
Electronic Data Systems | Eli Lilly | Entergy Corporation | Enterprise Rent-A-Car | Erns
& Young | Exxon Mobil | FCB Worldwide | Fannie Mae | FedEx Corporation | Federa
Reserve Bank of New York | Fidelity Investments | First Data Corporation | FleetBosto
Financial | Ford Foundation | Ford Motor Company | GE Capital | Gabelli Asse
Management | Gallup Organization | Gannett Company | Gap Inc | Gartner | Gateway
Genentech | General Electric Company | General Mills | General Motors | Genzyme
Georgia-Pacific | GlaxoSmithKline | Goldman Sachs | Goodyear Tire & Rubber | Gran
Thornton LLP | Guardian Life Insurance | HCA | HSBC | Hale and Dorr | Halliburton
Hallmark | Hart InterCivic | Hartford Financial Services Group | Haverstick Consulting
Hearst Corporation | Hertz Corporation | Hewitt Associates | Hewlett-Packard | Hom
Depot | Honeywell | Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin | Household International | IBM
KON Office Solutions | ITT Industries | Ingram Industries | Integral | Intel | Internationa
Paper Company | Interpublic Group of Companies | Intuit | Irwin Financial | J. Walte
Thompson | J.C. Penney | J.P. Morgan Chase | Janney Montgomery Scott | Janu
Capital | John Hancock Financial | Johnson & Johnson | Johnson Controls | KLA-Tenco
Corporation | Kaiser Foundation Health Plan | Keane | Kellogg Company | Ketchum
Kimberly-Clark Corporation | King & Spalding | Kinko's | Kraft Foods | Kroger | Kur
Salmon Associates | L.E.K. Consulting | Latham & Watkins | Lazard | Lehman Brothers
Manpower | Marakon Associates | Marathon Oil | Marriott | Mars & Company | McCann
Merck & Co. | Merrill Lynch | Metropolitan Life | Micron Technology | Microsoft | Mille
Brewing | Monitor Group | Monsanto | Morgan Stanley | Motorola | NBC | Nestle | Newe
Rubbermaid | Nortel Networks | Northrop Grumman | Northwestern Mutual Financia
Network | Novell | O'Melveny & Myers | Ogilvy & Mather | Oracle | Orrick, Herrington &
Sutcliffe | PA Consulting | PNC Financial Services | PPG Industries | PRTM | PacifiCar
Health Systems | PeopleSoft | PepsiCo | Pfizer | Pharmacia | Pillsbury Winthrop | Pitne
Procter & Gamble Company | Proskauer Rose | Prudential Financial | Prudentia
Securities | Putnam Investments | Qwest Communications | R.R. Donnelley & Sons
Wondering what it's like to
work at a specific employer?
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Workplace culture
Compensation
Hours
Diversity
Hiring process
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THE FINANCIAL
SERVICES
INDUSTRY
The Finance Interview: An Overview
Investment banking and other finance positions are among the most stressful
and demanding positions on the planet and interviews in finance often test
an applicant's tolerance for such an environment. To test an applicant's
stamina, interviews in finance traditionally involve three or four rounds at a
minimum, and each round may have up to six interviews, with the number
of interviews generally increasing in each round. To test an applicant's
ability to handle stress, interviewers may adopt aversive or stressful
interviewing tactics. Insiders say that occasionally a bank or finance
interviewer will go so far as to use techniques from rapid-fire quantitative
questions such as “How many planes are currently flying over the United
States right now?” to confrontational questions such as, “Why should I give
you this job? Your resume doesn't fit our profile.” Firms may ask you
specific and detailed questions about your grades in college or business
school, even if your school policy prohibits such questions. At other firms,
interview rounds may be interspersed with seemingly casual and friendly
dinners. Don’t let down your guard! While these dinners are a good
opportunity to meet your prospective co-workers, your seemingly genial
hosts are scrutinizing you as well. (Read: Don’t drink too much.)
There are generally two parts to the finance hiring process: the “fit part” and
the “technical part.” The “fit part” is where the hiring firm deciphers
whether or not you fit into their group’s culture. The “technical part” is
where the interviewer judges your analytical and technical skills. If you
don’t know the basic concepts of finance and accounting, your interviewers
will believe (rightly) that you are either 1) not interested in the position or
2) not competent enough to handle the job. While a good deal of this book
is devoted to helping you ace the technical part of finance interviews, it is
arguably more important that you nail the fit interview, proving that you are
someone the people in the group would like to work with. As you go
through recruiting in finance interviews, understand that you compete with
yourself. Most firms are flexible enough to hire people that are a good fit.
The fit interview
They call it the O’Hare airport test, the Atlanta airport test, or the whatever-
city-you-happen-to-be-applying-in airport test. They also call it the fit
interview or the behavioral interview. It means: “Could you stand to be
stranded in an airport for eight hours with this person?
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
The Financial Services Industry
© 2005 Vault Inc.
6
Generally, while your performance in the fit interview partly depends as
the airport test suggests on your personality fit, it also depends on your
“career fit,” or your ability to portray yourself as a good fit as an investment
banker, asset manager, and so on. In other words, interviewers will try to
figure out what your attitude towards work is like, how interested you are in
a career in the industry, and how interested you are in the job for which you
are applying.
Im a hard worker
As a general rule, you should emphasize how hard you have worked in the
past, giving evidence of your ability to take on a lot of work and pain. You
don’t have to make things up or pretend that there’s nothing you’d want
more than to work 100-hour weeks. In fact, interviewers are sure to see
through such blatant lying. Says one I-banking interviewer, “If somebody
acted too enthusiastic about the hours, that’d be weird.” If you ask
investment bankers and others in finance what they dislike most about their
jobs, they will most likely talk about the long hours. Be honest about this
unpleasant part of the job, and convince your interviewer that you can
handle it well. For example, if you were in crew and had to wake up at five
every morning in the freezing cold, by all means, talk about it. If you put
yourself through school by working two jobs, mention that, too. And if no
experience applies, at least acknowledge the hours as a necessary part of a
career path you are choosing.
Got safe hands?
As with all job interviews, finance interviews will be focused on figuring out
whether you can handle the responsibility required of the position,
understandable considering that in many cases with finance positions, that
responsibility may mean making decisions with millions or billions of
dollars.
An interviewer will try and figure out if you’ve got safe hands and won’t be
dropping the ball. “This is a critical I-banking concept,” says one banker
about safe hands. “The idea is: ‘Can I give this person this analysis to do
and feel comfortable that they will execute it promptly and correctly?’ The
people with safe hands are the ones who advance in the company. They are
not necessarily the hardest workers but they are the most competent. Make
sure you bring up examples of taking responsibility and getting complex,
detail-oriented jobs done right.
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
The Financial Services Industry
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at hwww.vault.com/finance  with
insider firm profiles, message boards, the Vault Finance Job Board and more. 7
A mind to pick things apart
The world of finance involves a lot of number crunching and analytical
ability. And while you don’t have to be a world-class mathematician, you
do have to have an analytic mind if you are going to succeed. Explains one
insider at a numbers-heavy Wall Street firm, “you can’t be any old English
major. You’ve got to have a really logical, mathematical head.” Make sure
you have examples of your problem-solving and analytic strengths,
particularly those involving quantitative analysis.
T-E-A-M! Go team!
Teamwork is a popular buzzword for employers of all industries. Every
finance position (except, perhaps, for research) requires that an employee
work closely with others whether in investment banking deal teams or in
cross-fuctional corporate teams such as the finance officials working with
marketers at a large corporation. Interviewers will ask questions to make
sure that you have experience and have excelled in team situations. Sure,
you can break out those glory days stories about the winning touchdown
pass, but hopefully there are more poignant situations which can also help
describe your teamwork ability previous work experience, volunteer
activities, or school work in teams, to name a few.
Preparing for finance interviews
When you review career options, don’t discount the amount of time it takes
to prepare for finance interviews. First of all, you should evaluate whether
you actually want to be in finance. In short, you should know what you’re
getting into. Not only should you know this for your own sake (this is your
future, after all), but your interviewers want to know that you understand the
position and industry.
You should use the opportunity of non-evaluative settings (i.e., not an
interview) to ascertain if finance is for you. These are questions to which we
strongly suggest you have answers to before interviewing. Make a point to
attend recruiting presentations by firms. Informational interviews with
alumni and (for those in business school) second-years are also good ways
to get answers to some of your questions.
As for written materials, you can start with general business publications
like The Wall Street Journal,The Economist,BusinessWeek, and the
Financial Times. From there, you can move on to trade publications that will
give more industry-specific news and analysis. American Banker,
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
The Financial Services Industry
© 2005 Vault Inc.
8
Institutional Investor,Investment Dealers Digest and The Daily Deal are
some examples.
Your interaction with alumni can have direct results. The results can be
good if you prepare properly before contacting them, are sufficiently
informed, ask good and sincere questions, and show proper respect. You can
also assure yourself a ding if you don’t handle a meeting or phone
conversation correctly.
Here are some questions about finance positions you should ask before you
have your first interview:
• What is a typical day like?
• What are the hours in the industry really like? Are they 100 hours every
week or every other week? Is it the same for every firm?
• How do people cope with the lifestyle issues in the industry?
• What kind of money do people make in the industry?
• What are the things I-bankers (or commercial bankers, venture capitalists,
etc.) like about their jobs? What would they like to change?
• What is the future of the industry for the next few years? How will the
industry change? How will the margins change? The return on equity?
• What is the career track in the industry? What skills are required at what stage?
• What is so exciting about this job?
• What is the culture of an I-banking firm as compared to a Fortune 500
company? Compared to a startup?
• What are the exit opportunities after 10 years in the industry? After two years?
Research individual firms
Once you’ve answered questions about the industry, you should begin to
narrow your research to specific firms – both to know which firms to target,
and to be knowledgeable for your interviews. Good sources for research are
easily accessible publications like The Wall Street Journal,BusinessWeek
and Fortune. If you have the resources (perhaps at a school library), you can
also read through recent issues of trade publications like Investment
Dealers Digest. And of course, to get the inside scoop on culture, pay, and
hiring at top firms, read the company profiles on www.vault.com, as well as
Vault Guide to Finance Interviews
The Financial Services Industry
Visit the Vault Finance Career Channel at hwww.vault.com/finance  with
insider firm profiles, message boards, the Vault Finance Job Board and more. 9
guides like The Vault Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers and The Vault
Guide to the Top Financial Services Firms.
Insiders at business school who have gone through the recruiting process
suggest that you form research and interview practice teams. There is a lot
of material to cover, and it is not possible to do it all by yourself. Form teams
for researching industries and firms. Later, you can use the same teams to
practice interviews. If you are an undergraduate, you should try to see if
your school has an investment banking or finance club. If you are in business
school, your school will undoubtedly have such a club, or you may want to
team up with other students who are looking into finance careers. Teams of
four to six work quite well for this research process.
Practice your interviews
As you read this guide, you should prepare answers to common questions
given at finance interviews whether they be fit questions, technical
questions, or brainteasers. While this may be easiest for technical questions
and brainteasers (after all, we can help you to nail those questions with the
right answers), it is also important to prepare for fit questions even if there
are no right or wrong answers. We can steer you onto the right path with
these questions, but you’ll need to fill in the blanks. What’s the hardest thing
you’ve ever had to do? Can you give me an example of a time when you
came up with a creative solution? You don’t want to be cursing yourself after
an interview, thinking about what you should have said, or examples you
could have brought up.
One of the best ways to prepare answers to these questions is to use
mock/practice interviews. You can practice by role-playing with your
friends and classmates, or by taking advantage of interview training offered
by your school. Most MBA career centers, and many undergraduate career
centers, offer students the opportunity to perform mock interviews, which
are normally videotaped. These practice sessions are conducted either by
professional career counselors or by second-year students. The mock
interviewees are given the videotape of their critique to watch at home
(again and again). Students may choose what kind of interview they’d like
to receive: finance, consulting, etc.
What mistakes are commonly unearthed by the videotaped interview? One
business school career counselor says that he finds that “most MBAs don’t
have their story down. They can’t elaborate on why they came to business
school, and why they want to work in the industry.” The best candidates are
able to describe their background and career history, and make a pitch about
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The Financial Services Industry
© 2005 Vault Inc.
10
why they are interested in a firm, all in a minute or less, career counselors
say. Another problem is that many students apparently “can’t elaborate their
strengths. They have them, but can’t sell them. They are too modest.” While
there’s no use demurring when explicating your good points, career center
professionals warn that “there is also a danger of tooting your horn too
much” so make sure you’re not making any claims for competency you
can’t back up with relevant experience.
To take full advantage of their mock interviews, career counselors say, you
should take them as seriously as possible. Dress professionally “to get into
the interviewing mindset.” Afterwards, the interviewer will go over the
session, assessing your strengths and weaknesses. It’s a good idea to take
notes on this feedback.
Mock interviewers also coach students on appropriate answers. For
example,” explains one mock interviewer, many candidates are asked to
name their top three weaknesses. Answering with your actual weaknesses is
not a good idea. So when I identify a students weaker point maybe they
are weak on real teamwork experience we strategize on an appropriate
answer. It’s better to say something like ‘I wouldn’t call them weaknesses,
but there are three areas in which I still have room to grow,’ and then choose
three areas that are not deal-breakers.”
Do interviewers thus end up hearing the same canned answers over and over
again? “I do hear from some interviewers at certain schools not mine!
that they do hear identical answers to certain questions,” says one insider.
“My advice to students is to always put answers into their own words.
Prepare questions
Finally, don’t forget that finance interviewers often ask candidates whether
they have any questions. Don’t get caught looking like a job applicant who
hasn’t done research and is not curious about the opportunities. Read about
the firms, read about the industries, and prepare some intelligent questions.
Also, remember that, when in doubt, you can allow the interviewers to talk
about themselves with questions like, “Tell me about your career path” and
“Describe your typical day-to-day responsibilities.”
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Questions
1. Why do you want to do investment banking/investment management/
whatever career you plan to pursue?
This is a question you are almost guaranteed to receive. First and foremost,
you must emphasize that you know what the finance department in which
you are interviewing does. Talk to as many people in the industry before the
interview to get a good idea of the job function’s day-to-day tasks as well as
the general description of the work a person in that job is asked to perform.
Then, when asked the question, you need not state that you’ve yearned to be
in finance your life, but you should illustrate succinctly that you know the
job functions of the position for which you are interviewing, that you enjoy
performing these functions, and that you have developed the core skills
required (i.e., analytical ability, good communication skills, and, of course,
a strong work ethic and willingness to put in the hours to do the job).
2. What exactly do investment bankers (or investment managers, etc.)
do?
Don’t laugh. You’d be astonished at how many people go to interview with
Goldman Sachs or Fidelity Investments without having a clear idea of what
they’ll be doing if they actually get the job. You are very likely to receive
this question if you are a career-changer or if you have a non-financial
background. You’d better know the basics of your industry for example,
that investment bankers raise capital for companies in the public or private
marketplace or that investment managers manage money for individuals and
institutions.
3. Heres a whiteboard. Stand in front of it and present a chapter from
your favorite finance textbook. You have five minutes.
May we suggest not selecting the introduction? The point of this question is
twofold. First of all, the interviewers want to test your ability to explain
complicated financial matters in lucid terms. Secondly, they want to test
your on-the-spot presentation skills. Practice with a friend – even with your
professor, if you can – until you’re comfortable presenting this material.
4. Walk me through your resume.
Again, highlight those activities and previous positions that are most
applicable to the core finance skills. Also talk about the things you are proud
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of and that set you apart. Finally, illustrate that your educational and career
moves follow a logical sequence.
5. Let me give you a situation: It is Friday afternoon. Tomorrow
morning you have to catch a flight to Boston for your best friends
marriage, and you are in the wedding. You have informed your deal
team well in advance and they know that you will be gone. Just when
you are about to leave, you find out that a client wants to meet with the
banking team tomorrow. What will you do?
One of the big assets you bring to a finance position, especially those with
investment banks, is your attitude towards work. This is a rather tricky
question, but use this to express the fact that you understand the hardships
that an I-banking career would involve, and that you have endured such
sacrifice situations previously.
6. Say you are supposed to meet your girlfriend for dinner but the MD
asks you to stay late. What do you do? Can you give me an example of
a similar situation you have faced before?
Another attitude question. Be prepared.
7. Why should we hire you?
When answering an open-ended question like this, try to make them
insightful and entertaining like you did for your school applications. Again,
this question begs you to illustrate that you understand the position for
which you are interviewing and that you are hardworking, analytical, and
team-oriented. Prepare examples and as you do, think of them as if they
were speeches. What would your stories and anecdotes be? Would they be
exciting? Funny? Insightful? Absorbing? Something that the audience
would remember for a long time? Unique?
8. Why did you decide to do an MBA?
If you are an MBA student looking for a finance position, you are probably
going to get this question. If you came from a finance background, you can
talk about how you thought you would add to your skill set by going to
business school, and how that expectation has panned out. If you did not,
simply answer the question as honestly as you can. As an aside, it is
perfectly appropriate to respond that you are getting an MBA as a means for
changing careers.
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9. What types of activities did you pursue while in college?
While it may be all good and well to talk about the soup kitchen, remember
that you’re interviewing for intense, stressful positions. Says one
interviewer, “We love to see people who worked part-time, went to all six of
their classes, got As and don’t seem to need sleep. Frankly, banks like people
in debt who will kill themselves for the big bonus. I believe ‘hungry’ people
are highly valued in the interview process.”
10. Why are you applying to this firm?
Do your research and find out what each firm prides itself on, whether it be
international presence, team-orientation or social environment. Get ready to
talk about the industry and the firm specifically. For some firms (smaller,
specialized I-banks like Lazard, for example), this is an especially important
question. Says one insider at a boutique firm, “You definitely want to have
someone who knows what they’re getting into. I don’t think its advisable to
say I’m looking at all the bulge-bracket firms plus [yours]. You want to see
people who are very focused.” And even at those big firms that all seem the
same, your interviewer will be impressed and flattered if you can talk about
how his or her firm is different and why that interests you.
11. Give me an example of a project that youve done that involved
heavy analytical thinking.
Candidates without a financial background should have an answer prepared
for this question that describes a work or school project, focusing on the part
that required a lot of number crunching.
12. If you were the CEO of our bank, what three things would change?
An interesting question. This question assumes, first of all, that you’ve done
enough research on your potential future employer to answer this question.
Telling your interviewers that you’d open an office in Shanghai may be a
good answer but not if the firm already has an office in that city. Be
prepared to defend your answers. Avoid being too negative “I’d fire the
CFO” is a bad answer if one of your interviewers works with him.
13. What is your favorite web site?
Up to you. If you own stock, it’s fine to choose a site like Ameritrade. You
could choose Vault, for the research on your favorite firms. If you want to
impress them with your business savvy, you could simply choose a web site
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that you think is run especially well, like eBay. Just be prepared to back up
your answer with specific information.
14. Tell me about the stock price of a company in your prior line of
work.
Make sure you’re conversant with how your previous employers (or
competitors) are doing before you interview.
15. Give me an example of a time you worked as part of a team.
You’re sure to get this one. Draw on experiences from previous work
experience, from volunteer activities, and from any other situation in which
you worked with others toward a common goal. Highlight your strengths as
a team member: empathy, collaboration and consensus-building are good
themes to emphasize.
16. What is the most striking thing youve read recently in The Wall
Street Journal?
A variation of this question is: “What publications do you read regularly?”
With these questions, your interviews want to see how well read you are,
how interested you are in finance, and how well you can describe any of the
recent burning financial issues. Read the Journal regularly, especially when
it is close to the interview time. We suggest starting with 45 minutes a day
and gradually bringing that down as you become more efficient in your
information-gathering.
17. Describe a project you have worked on that you enjoyed.
Yet another opportunity to show that you are a hardworking, responsible,
analytical team player.
18. Lets say I give you this summer job/full-time job today. Now lets
move to the future and say that at the end of the summer, you find out
that you did not get a full-time offer, or that six months into the job you
are fired. Give me three reasons why this could happen, and what you
can do to prevent this.
This is a twist on the “what are your biggest weaknesses” question, made
specifically more stressful for the finance interview. Don’t lose your cool,
and have answers prepared.
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19. Think of a person you feel knows you very well both professionally
and socially. If I were to call this person and ask him to describe you,
what would he say?
Yet another version of the strengths and weaknesses question.
20. What motivates you?
Think through this one. First of all, you should indicate that you are highly
motivated. Second, remember the profile that finance interviews are
generally looking for. Appropriate answers include financial security,
problem-solving, deadlines, and productivity. Again, be prepared to give
examples.
21. Can you give me an example of an experience of failure?
You should have an answer prepared for this question. Be modest and admit
that you have experienced setbacks. Also, focus on how you bounced back
from the setback and what you learned from the experience.
22. You dont seem like you are a very driven person. How will you be
able to handle a job in banking?
A stress question that can easily hit you at the tail end of a long and tiring
interview process. After meeting with more than a dozen people in a day, it
may be very easy to appear worn out, which is precisely what you must
avoid you must convince your interviewer that you don’t wear out easily
by displaying good energy. Come up with good examples of a time when
you were totally driven despite fatiguing circumstances.
23. Tell me about an accomplishment that you are proud of.
This is your chance to shine. Remember: team-oriented, analytical,
hardworking, dependable.
24. What was your favorite course in school? Your least favorite?
Why? What were your grades in each?
Have a few choices ready and be prepared to justify them. Don’t say that
you didn’t like a class because it was “too hard” or “had too much math” or
even that “the professor was unreasonable” (because your interviewer may
wonder if you’ll think your boss unreasonable as well). Remember that your
interviewer most likely has your transcript in front of her, so don’t try to
inflate your grades.
25. Tell me how you have modeled with equations in the past.
If you’re an economics major, or if you’ve owned a business, you shouldn’t
have a problem answering this question. Even if you’re a non-finance
major, you should have at least one class or real-life example you can
provide. If you’ve never done financial modeling, do at least one example
before the interview or have someone walk you through the process.
26. Who have you talked to at our bank?
This is actually a good sign – your interviewer may ask them for impressions
of you. You should remember the names of any representatives who have
attended campus career events. Hopefully, in your research you’ve
connected with people at that firm.
27. Can you tell me about a time when you handled many things at the
same time?
In some finance positions, especially I-banking, multi-tasking is an
important attribute. Think through your background and prepare for this
question.
28. What would you like for me to tell you?
Remember, you will be asked if you have any questions. Do your research
and impress your interviewer with your knowledge and insight. However,
don’t ask transparent questions that seem like you are only asking them
because you have to. And, again, when in doubt, ask about their own
personal experiences.
29. What is a hedge fund?
This is obviously a popular question for those candidates interviewing for
the increasingly popular and prestigious hedge fund positions. Surprisingly,
many candidates have no feel for what distinguishes a hedge fund from other
types of funds.
A hedge fund is a private investment partnership which uses aggressive
strategies unavailable to other types of funds, most popularly mutual funds.
Hedge funds are required by law to have less than 100 investors, and
liberally use such financial techniques and vehicles as short-selling, swaps,
risk arbitrage and derivatives Since they are restricted by law to less than
100 investors, the minimum hedge-fund investment is typically $1 million.
(For more information, get the Vault Career Guide to Hedge Funds.)
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VALUATION
TECHNIQUES
How Much is it Worth?
Imagine yourself as the CEO of a publicly traded company that makes
widgets. You’ve had a highly successful business so far and want to sell the
company to anyone interested in buying it. How do you know how much to
sell it for? Likewise, consider the Bank of America acquisition of Fleet.
How did B of A decide how much it should pay to buy Fleet?
For starters, you should understand that the value of a company is equal to
the value of its assets, and that
Value of Assets = Debt + Equity
or
Assets = D + E
If I buy a company, I buy its stock (equity) and assume its debt (bonds and
loans). Buying a company’s equity means that I actually gain ownership of
the company if I buy 50 percent of a company’s equity, I own 50 percent
of the company. Assuming a company’s debt means that I promise to pay
the company’s lenders the amount owed by the previous owner.
The value of debt is easy to calculate: the market value of debt is equal to
the book value of debt. (Unless the debt trades and thus has a real “market
value.” This information, however, is hard to come by, so it is safe to use
the book value.) Figuring out the market value of equity is trickier, and
that’s where valuation techniques come into play.
The four most commonly used techniques are:
1. Discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis
2. Multiples method
3. Market valuation
4. Comparable transactions method
Generally, before we can understand valuation, we need to understand
accounting, the language upon which valuation is based.
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Valuation Techniques
© 2005 Vault Inc.
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Basic Accounting Concepts
Before we look at these valuation techniques, lets take a look at basic
accounting concepts that underpin valuation. MBAs interested in finance
careers should definitely be comfortable with these concepts (and may find
this overview to be very basic). Undergrads who have taken accounting
classes should already be familiar with these concepts as well.
Basic overview of financial statements
There are four basic financial statements that provide the information you
need to evaluate a company:
• Balance Sheets
• Income Statements
• Statements of Cash Flows
• Statements of Retained Earnings
These four statements are provided in the annual reports (also referred to as
“10Ks”) published by public companies. In addition, a company’s annual
report is almost always accompanied by notes to the financial statements.
These notes provide additional information about each line item of numbers
provided in the four basic financial statements.
The Balance Sheet
The Balance Sheet presents the financial position of a company at a given
point in time. It is comprised of three parts: Assets, Liabilities, and
Shareholders Equity. Assets are the economic resources of a company.
They are the resources that the company uses to operate its business and
include Cash, Inventory, and Equipment. (Both financial statements and
accounts in financial statements are capitalized.) A company normally
obtains the resources it uses to operate its business by incurring debt,
obtaining new investors, or through operating earnings. The Liabilities
section of the Balance Sheet presents the debts of the company. Liabilities
are the claims that creditors have on the company’s resources. The Equity
section of the Balance Sheet presents the net worth of a company, which
equals the assets that the company owns less the debts it owes to creditors.
In other words, equity is comprised of the claims that investors have on the
company’s resources after debt is paid off.
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The most important equation to remember is that
Assets (A) = Liabilities (L) + Shareholders Equity (SE)
The structure of the Balance Sheet is based on that equation.
This example uses the basic format of a Balance Sheet:
With respect to the right side of the balance sheet, because companies can
obtain resources from both investors and creditors, they must distinguish
between the two. Companies incur debt to obtain the economic resources
necessary to operate their businesses and promise to pay the debt back over
a specified period of time. This promise to pay is based on a fixed payment
schedule and is not based upon the operating performance of the company.
Companies also seek new investors to obtain economic resources. However,
they don’t promise to pay investors back a specified amount over a specified
period of time. Instead, companies forecast for a return on their investment
that is often contingent upon assumptions the company or investor makes
about the level of operating performance. Since an equity holders
investment is not guaranteed, it is more risky in nature than a loan made by
a creditor. If a company performs well, the upside to investors is higher.
The promise-to-pay element makes loans made by creditors a Liability and,
as an accountant would say, more “senior” than equity holdings, as it is paid
back before distributions to equity-holders are made.
To summarize, the Balance Sheet represents the economic resources of a
business. One side includes assets, the other includes liabilites (debt) and
shareholders equity, and Assets = L+E. On the liability side, debts owed to
creditors are more senior than the investments of equity holders and are
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Valuation Techniques
© 2005 Vault Inc.
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Media Entertainment, Inc
Balance Sheet
(December 31, 2005)
Assets
Cash 203,000
Accounts Receivable 26,000
Building 19,000
Total Assets 248,000
Liabilities
Accounts Payable 7,000
Equity
Common Stock 10,000
Retained Earnings 231,000
Total Liabilities & Equity 248,000
classified as Liabilities, while equity investments are accounted for in the
Equity section of the Balance Sheet.
The Income Statement
We have discussed two of the three ways in which a company normally
obtains the economic resources necessary to operate its business: incurring
debt and seeking new investors. A third way in which a company can obtain
resources is through its own operations. The Income Statement presents the
results of operations of a business over a specified period of time (e.g., one
year, one quarter, one month) and is composed of Revenues, Expenses and
Net Income.
Revenue: Revenue is a source of income that normally arises from the sale
of goods or services and is recorded when it is earned. For example, when
a retailer of roller blades makes a sale, the sale would be considered revenue.
Expenses: Expenses are the costs incurred by a business over a specified
period of time to generate the revenues earned during that same period of
time. For example, in order for a manufacturing company to sell a product,
it must buy the materials it needs to make the product. In addition, that same
company must pay people to both make and sell the product. The company
must also pay salaries to the individuals who operate the business. These are
all types of expenses that a company can incur during the normal operations
of the business. When a company incurs an expense outside of its normal
operations, it is considered a loss. Losses are expenses incurred as a result
of one-time or incidental transactions. The destruction of office equipment
in a fire, for example, would be a loss.
Assets and expenses
Incurring expenses and acquiring assets both involve the use of economic
resources (i.e., cash or debt). So, when is a purchase considered an asset and
when is it considered an expense?
Assets vs. expenses: A purchase is considered an asset if it provides future
economic benefit to the company, while expenses only relate to the current
period. For example, monthly salaries paid to employees for services they
already provided to the company would be considered expenses. On the
other hand, the purchase of a piece of manufacturing equipment would be
classified as an asset, as it will probably be used to manufacture a product
for more than one accounting period.
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Net income: The Revenue a company earns, less its Expenses over a
specified period of time, equals its Net Income. A positive Net Income
number indicates a profit, while a negative Net Income number indicates
that a company suffered a loss (called a “net loss”).
Here is an example of an Income Statement:
To summarize, the Income Statement measures the success of a company’s
operations; it provides investors and creditors with information needed to
determine the enterprise’s profitability and creditworthiness. A company
has earned net income when its total revenues exceed its total expenses. A
company has a net loss when total expenses exceed total revenues.
The Statement of Retained Earnings
Retained earnings is the amount of profit a company invests in itself (i.e.,
profit that is not used to pay back debt or distributed to shareholders as a
dividend). The Statement of Retained Earnings is a reconciliation of the
Retained Earnings account from the beginning to the end of the year. When
a company announces income or declares dividends, this information is
reflected in the Statement of Retained Earnings. Net income increases the
Retained Earnings account. Net losses and dividend payments decrease
Retained Earnings.
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Valuation Techniques
© 2005 Vault Inc.
24
Media Entertainment, Inc
Income Statement
(For the year ended December 31, 2005)
Revenues
Services Billed 100,000
Expenses
Salaries and Wages (33,000)
Rent Expense (17,000)
Utilities Expense (7,000) (57,000)
Net Income 43,000
Here is an example of a basic Statement of Retained Earnings:
As you can probably tell by looking at this example, the Statement of
Retained Earnings doesn’t provide any new information not already
reflected in other financial statements. But it does provide additional
information about what management is doing with the company’s earnings.
Management may be reinvesting the company’s net income into the business
by retaining part or all of its earnings, distributing its current income to
shareholders, or distributing current and accumulated income to
shareholders. (Investors can use this information to align their investment
strategy with the strategy of a company’s management. An investor
interested in growth and returns on capital may be more inclined to invest in
a company that reinvests its resources into the company for the purpose of
generating additional resources. Conversely, an investor interested in
receiving current income is more inclined to invest in a company that pays
quarterly dividend distributions to shareholders.)
The Statement of Cash Flows
Remember that the Income Statement provides information about the
economic resources involved in the operation of a company. However, the
Income Statement does not provide information about the actual source and
use of cash generated during its operations. That’s because obtaining and
using economic resources doesn’t always involve cash. For example, let’s
say you went shopping and bought a new mountain bike on your credit card
in July but didn’t pay the bill until August. Although the store did not
receive cash in July, the sale would still be considered July revenue. The
Media Entertainment, Inc
Statement of Retained Earnings
(For the year ended December 31, 2005)
Retained Earnings, January 1, 2005 $200,000
Plus: Net income for the year 43,000
243,000
Less: Dividends declared (12,000)
Retained Earnings, December 31, 2005 $ 231,000
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Statement of Cash Flows presents a detailed summary of all of the cash
inflows and outflows during the period and is divided into three sections
based on three types of activity:
Cash flows from operating activities: Includes the cash effects of
transactions involved in calculating net income.
Cash flows from investing activities: Basically, cash from non-operating
activities or activities outside the normal scope of business. This involves
items classified as assets in the Balance Sheet and includes the purchase and
sale of equipment and investments.
Cash flows from financing activities: Involves items classified as
liabilities and equity in the Balance Sheet; it includes the payment of
dividends as well as issuing payment of debt or equity.
This example shows the basic format of the Statement of Cash Flows:
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Media Entertainment, Inc
Statement of Cash Flows
(For the year ended December 31, 2005)
Cash flows provided from operating activities
Net Income 33,000
Depreciation Expense 10,000
Increase in Accounts Receivable (26,000)
Increase in Accounts Payable 7,000 (19,000)
Net cash provided by operating activities 24,000
Cash flows provided from investing activities
Purchase of Building (19,000)
Sale of Long-Term Investment 35,000
Net cash provided by investing activities 16,000
Cash flows provided from financing activities
Payment of Dividends (12,000)
Issuance of Common Stock 10,000
Net cash provided by financing activities (2,000)
Net increase (decrease) in cash 38,000
Cash at the beginning of the year 165,000
Cash at the end of the year 203,000
As you can tell be looking at the above example, the Statement of Cash
Flows gets its information from all three of the other financial statements:
• Net income from the Income Statement is shown in the section “cash flows
from operating activities.”
• Dividends from the Statement of Retained Earnings is shown in the section
“cash flows from financing activities.”
• Investments, Accounts Payable, and other asset and liability accounts from
the Balance Sheet are shown in all three sections.
Market Valuation
Now let’s look at the major techniques of valuation. We’ll begin with
market valuation, as it is the simplest way to value a publicly traded firm. A
publicly traded firm is one that is registered on a stock exchange (like the
New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq). The company’s stock can be bought
and sold on that exchange. Most companies we are familiar with, such as
The Coca-Cola Company, IBM, and General Motors, are publicly traded.
Every publicly traded company is required to publish an annual report,
which includes financial figures such as annual revenues, income, and
expenses. The 10Ks (Annual Financials) and 10Qs (Quarterly Financials)
for publicly traded firms are available online through the SEC Edgar
database, www.edgar-online.com.
The value of a publicly traded firm is easy to calculate. All you need to do
is find the company’s stock price (the price of a single share), multiply it by
the number of shares outstanding, and you have the equity market value of
the company. (This is also known as market capitalization or “market cap”).
The market price of a single share of stock is readily available from
publications like The Wall Street Journal and from various quote services
available on the Internet; the number of shares outstanding can be obtained
from the cover of the most recent 10-K or 10-Q of the company, or from web
sites such as Yahoo! Finance, Hoovers Online, and cnnfn.com.
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Example:
Once you determine the market value of a firm, you need to figure out either
the discount or premium that it would sell for if the company were put on
the market. When a company sells for a discount it is selling for a value
lower than the market value; when it sells for a premium, it is selling for a
value greater than the market value. Whether a company sells at a premium
or a discount depends on those supply and demand forces you learned about
in Econ 101. Typically, if someone wants to acquire a firm, it will sell for a
price above the market value of the firm. This is referred to as an acquisition
premium. If the acquisition is a hostile takeover, or if there is an auction, the
premiums are pushed even higher. The premiums are generally decided by
the perception of the synergies resulting from the purchase or merger. (See
chapter on M&A.)
Discounted Cash Flow (DCF)
The DCF analysis is the most thorough way to value a company, and second-
year MBAs should expect to be tested on their ability to do a DCF in a
finance interview. There are two ways to value a company using the DCF
approach:
Adjusted Present Value (APV) method
• Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) method
Both methods require calculation of a company’s free cash flows (FCF) as
well as the net present value (NPV) of these FCFs. Before we look at these
methods, we’ll examine a few underlying concepts: net present value, the
Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), free cash flows, and terminal year
value.
Net Present Value
What do we mean when we talk about net present value? We’ll explain this
important concept with a simple example. Let’s say you had an arrangement
Company A stock price $60/share
No. of shares outstanding 200 million
___________________________
Equity Market Value (market cap) = $60 x 200 million = $12 billion
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under which you were set to receive $20 from a friend one year from now.
Now let’s say for some reason that you decide you don’t want to wait for a
year and would rather have the money today. How much should you be
willing to accept today? More than $20, $20, or less than $20?
In general, a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow for two
simple reasons. First, a dollar today can be invested at a risk-free interest
rate (think savings account or U.S. government bonds), and can earn a
return. A dollar tomorrow is worth less because it has missed out on the
interest you would have earned on that dollar had you invested it today.
Second, inflation diminishes the buying power of future money.
A discount rate is the rate you choose to discount the future value of your
money. A discount rate can be understood as the expected return from a
project that matches the risk profile of the project in which you'd invest your
$20.
Note: The discount rate is different than the opportunity cost of the money.
Opportunity cost is a measure of the opportunity lost. Discount rate is a
measure of the risk. These are two separate concepts.
To express the relationship between the present value and future value, we
use the following formula:
Here, “rdis the discount rate, and “n” is the number of years in the future.
The method of calculating the discount rate is different depending on the
method of valuation used (i.e., APV method vs. WACC method). Although
the discount rate varies, the concept of NPV, or net present value, is the
same.
Let’s say a series of cash flows is expressed as the following:
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Future Value
(1 + rd)n
Present Value =
Year
Free Cash
Flows
1
FCF1
2
FCF2
3
FCF3
4
FCF4
5
FCF5
6
FCF6
7
FCF7
8
FCF8
Net present value (NPV) in Year 0 of future cash flows is calculated with the
following formula:
Here again, rdis the discount rate, which is calculated differently depending
on whether you use APV or WACC (to be explained later).
Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)
In order to find the appropriate discount rate used to discount the company’s
cash flows, you use the Capital Asset Pricing Model, or (CAPM). This is a
model used to calculate the expected return on your investment, also
referred to as expected return on equity. It is a linear model with one
independent variable, Beta. Beta represents relative volatility of the given
investment with respect to the market. For example, if the Beta of an
investment is 1, the returns on the investment (stock/bond/portfolio) vary
identically with the market returns. A Beta less than 1, like 0.5, means the
investment is less volatile than the market. So if the Dow Jones Industrial
Average goes up or down 20 percent the next day, a less volatile stock (i.e.,
Beta < 1) would be expected to go up or down 10 percent. A Beta of greater
than 1, like 1.5, means the investment is more volatile than the market. A
company in a volatile industry (think Internet company) would be expected
to have a Beta greater than 1. A company whose value does not vary much,
like an electric utility, would be expected to have a Beta under 1.
Mathematically, CAPM is calculated as
re=rf+ß (rm- rf)
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FCF1FCF2FCF3FCF8
(1 + rd)1(1 + rd)2(1 + rd)3(1 + rd)8
+ + +...+
NPV =
or
NPV = FCFi
(1 + rd)i
( )
n
i = 1
Here:
re= Discount rate for an all-equity firm
rf= Risk-free rate (The Treasury bill rate for the period over which the
cash projections are being considered. For example, if we are
considering a 10-year period, then the risk-free rate is the rate for
the 10-year U.S. Treasury note.)
rm= Market return
rm- rf= Excess market return (This is the excess annual return of the stock
market over a U.S. Treasury bond over a long period of time. This
is usually assumed to be 7 percent for the U.S. Market.)
ß = Equity Beta
Equity Beta is given in various sources like Value Line or Internet sites like
Yahoo! Finance. If the firm you are valuing is not publicly traded, then you
need to find a firm with a similar Balance Sheet and Income Statement that
is publicly traded. (When calculating CAPM you should be careful to use
the “equity Beta” value, and not “assets Beta.”) If you have information for
Beta assets rather than Beta equity, you can derive Beta equity using the
following relationship:
Here:
D = Market value of debt (usually the book value of debt)
E = Market value of equity (the number of shares outstanding x
share price) (Also known as “market cap.”)
ßD= Beta debt (usually one can assume this to be equal to 0)
t = Corporate taxes, (usually assumed to be 35%)
Therefore:
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(E) (D)
(D+E) (D+E)
ßA= E)+ (1 - t) D)
Free cash flows
To capture the characteristics of an all-equity firm we recalculate a
company’s cash flows as if the firm had no debt. The free cash flow (FCF)
of an all-equity firm in year (i) can be calculated as:
Here:
Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (or EBIT) can be obtained from the
Income Statement (see section on major accounting concepts).
t = Corporate tax rate, usually assumed to be 35%.
Depreciation & Amortization of a firm can be obtained from the firm’s
Balance Sheet (see section on major accounting concepts).
Capital Expenditure and Net increase in working capital can be obtained
from the Statement of Cash Flows.
Other relevant cash flows for an all-equity firm would be items like asset
sale proceeds (selling a major piece of real estate, for example) or the use of
tax loss carry-forwards or tax credits.
While all of these items can be found in the firm’s financial statements for
historical periods, the free cash flow used for DCF analysis is expected
future free cash flow. Bankers will typically construct projections, using a
combination of guidelines from the company and a derivation of reasonable
estimates using their own assumptions. While historical financial
FCFi=Earnings Before Interest and Taxes x (1 - t)
+ Depreciation & Amortization
- Capital Expenditure (“CapEx”)
- Net increase in working capital (or + net
decrease in working capital)
+ Other relevant cash flows for an all equity firm
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(D + E)
(E)
ßE= ßA
statements are helpful in constructing projections, DCF analysis can only be
done with future cash flow projections.
Terminal year calculation
The terminal year represents the year (usually 10 years in the future) when
the growth of the company is considered stabilized.
In other words...
The cash flows of the first 10 years are determined by company management
or a financial analyst, based on predictions and forecasts of what will
happen. Then, a terminal year value needs to be calculated assuming that
after year 10 the cash flows of the company keep growing at a constant “g.
Values of “gare typically not as high as the first 10 years of growth, which are
considered unstabilized growth periods. Instead, g” represents the amount
the company can feasibly grow forever once it has stabilized (after 10 years).
The value of the terminal year cash flows (that is, the value in year 10) is given
by:
The present value of the terminal year cash flows (that is, the value today) is given
by:
Adding it up
Adding the discounted value of the first 10 year FCFs, and the terminal year
FCFs (CFs after year 10 into perpetuity) gives us the value of the company
under the DCF analysis.
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FCF10 (1 + g)
(rd- g)
TY FCF =
TY FCF
(1 + rd)10
FCF10 (1 + g)
(1 + rd)10 (rd- g)
PV (TY FCF) =
or
PV (TY FCF) =
Calculating discount rates
Remember when we said that there are several ways of calculating discount
rates? We’ll now look at the two most popular methods of discounted cash
flow (DCF) analysis tested in finance interviews: the WACC (Weighted
Average Cost of Capital) and APV (Adjusted Present Value). The key
difference between the two methods is the way in which the discount rate is
calculated. For WACC, we calculate the discount rate for leveraged equity
(reL) using the capital asset pricing model (CAPM); for APV, we calculate
the discount rate for an all-equity firm (reU).
WACC
For WACC, the discount rate is calculated with the following formula:
Here:
D = Market value of debt
E = Market value of equity
rD= Discount rate for debt = Average interest rate on long-term debt
reL= Discount rate for (leveraged) equity (calculated using the CAPM)
Note: The terms (E)/(D + E) and (D)/(D + E) represent the target equity
and debt ratios (also referred to as the equity-to-debt and debt-to-equity
ratios).
Here:
rf= Risk-free rate = the Treasury bond rate for the period for which the
projections are being considered
rm= Market return
rm-rf= Excess market return
ßL= Leveraged Beta
CAPM:
reL= rf+ ßL(rm- rf)
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(E) (reL)(D) (1 - t)(rD)
(D + E) (D + E)
rdWACC =+
The value of leveraged Beta can be derived from the unleveraged Beta using
the equation below, in a process also referred to as “unlevering the Beta”:
Here:
ßU= Unleveraged Beta (Again, ßUfor a specific company can be
obtained from Value Line or online sources like Yahoo!)
APV
For the APV calculation the discount rate is calculated with the following
formula:
Here:
ßU= Unleveraged Beta
Thus we see the key difference between WACC and APV. With the APV
calculation, we take the unleveraged equity discount rate (the discount rate
that assumes that a company has no debt), rather than a leveraged (historical)
discount rate that the WACC calculation uses.
To summarize:
reU= rf+ ßU(rm- rf)
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ßL=ßU1 + (1 - t) (D)
(E)
[ ]
APV
WACC
reU
reL
all equity
leveraged/historical
ßU
Method Discount
Rate
Type of Firm
(Assumption) Beta
ßL
So suppose a company has debt. Obviously, the APV does not capture the
real value of a comapny in this case. Why? Because interest payments are
tax deductible. Hence, to find the value of a company using APV, we add in
the value of the debt tax shield, or the amount of money a company saves by
not having to pay interest on debt. To compensate for this difference we add
a value for the debt tax shield separately to arrive at an overall valuation of
the company. The debt tax shield (DTS) for any year is given by:
Here:
D = Total debt for the company that year
rD= Weighted average interest rate on that debt calculated for each year
of the projected cash flows
t = Corporate tax rate
This principle is the main reason for the emergence of the LBO (leveraged
buyout) shops, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and its
famous takeover of RJR Nabisco, which inspired the bestseller Barbarians
at the Gate. KKR borrowed money (issued debt) to buy RJR Nabisco at a
price well above the market price. Since the company had no debt before
the takeover and has historically had highly reliable cash flows, KKR was
able to increase the company’s value through a financial restructuring and
save on taxes through the use of interest payments on debt and its
accompanying write-offs.
The tricky question now is: What discount rate should be used for
calculating the present value of the DTS? The answer is the discount rate
that would best capture the risk associated with the DTS. If you assume that
the ability to use the tax shield is as risky as the cash flows to an all-equity
firm, we would use the reU. If you assume that the tax shield is as risky as
the ability to repay the debt, then the discount rate should be the average
interest rate, or rD.
Note: The debt tax shield is similarly calculated for the terminal year and
discounted to the present year.
DTS = (t)(rD)(D)
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APV with DTS = APV without DTS + DTS
One simple approximation for DTS that can be used for most back-of-the-
envelope calculations in an interview is:
Here:
t = Tax rate
L = Leverage ratio (also referred to as the long-term debt ratio) = D/(D + E)
The main difference between the WACC and APV methods is that the
WACC takes the “target” debt-to-equity ratio to calculate the discount rate.
However, a target debt-to-equity ratio is not reached until a few years in the
future. Hence the method is not academically complete.” The APV method
takes this into consideration and looks at an “all-equity” firm.
However, the difference that amounts from assuming a target debt-to-equity
ratio is very small; most investment banks use the WACC method even
though most business schools teach both methods. The difference between
the two methods will become clearer as we go through an example of how
to calculate the appropriate discount rate.
Step 1: Assumptions
You are given the following information for the company you are valuing:
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DTS = APV without DTS X (Tax rate (t) X Long-term debt rate (L))
EBIT
Depreciation
Capital Expenditures
Increase in Working Capital
Year 1
7.0
2.9
Year 2
7.5
2.7
1.5
0.8
2.5
1.5
Year 3
7.9
2.7
2.5
1.5
Year 4
8.4
2.6
3.0
0.9
Step 2: Cash flows
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Tax Rate (t) 35%
Book Value Debt (D) 7.0
Book Value Equity (Ebook)10.0
Market Value Equity (Emarket)15.0
Beta (historical) L)1.5
Long-term T-Bond rate (rf)10.0%
Long-term debt rate (rD)
Long-term growth rate (g)
Long-term risk premium (rm- rf)
12.0%
6.0%
8.0%
Free cash flow to all equity firm = EBIT (1 - t) + Depr. - CAPX - Ch NWC.
Plugging in our data, we get:
Year One = 7.0 (1 - 0.35) + 2.9 - 1.5 - 0.8 = 5.15
Year Two = 7.5 (1 - 0.35) + 2.7 - 2.5 - 1.5 = 3.58
Year Three = 7.9 (1 - 0.35) + 2.7 - 2.5 - 1.5 = 3.84
Year Four = 8.4 (1 - 0.35) + 2.6 - 3.0 - 0.9 = 4.16
So our free cash flows look like this:
Year 1
5.15 3.58
Year 2
FCF
Year 3
3.84
Year 4
4.16
Step 3: Discount rates
APV
Remember that there are two ways to determine a discount rate. Let’s begin
with the APV analysis
Hence, the expected return on equity for an all-equity firm would be 19.2
percent. We will use this as the discount rate for the APV analysis.
Remember:
ßL= Beta for a firm with debt, or historical Beta (leveraged/historical
Beta)
ßU= Beta for the equivalent firm without debt, or an all-equity firm
(unleveraged Beta)
WACC
Let’s now look at the WACC method. For WACC, we need to know what
the target (long-term) debt-to-capital ratio for this company is. Let’s assume
that it is 40 percent. That is, in the long run, this company expects to finance
its projects with 40 percent debt and 60 percent equity.
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First get ßUfrom the ßLof 1.50
ßL
[1 + (1 - t)(D)]
E(market value)
1.50
1 + (1 - 0.35)(7.0)
(15.0)
reeU= rf+ ßU(rm- rf)
reU= 0.10 + (1.15)(0.08) = 0.0192 or 19.2%
ßU=
ßU== 1.15
Note: Here we calculate our expected return on equity, or reL, using the
target debt-to-equity ratio. We use this re
Lfor all years whether or not that
target ratio has been matched or not. Since our long-term debt rate is 12.0
percent, and our long-term debt is 40 percent, we can now calculate WACC.
Step 4: Terminal value
We assume that the company operates forever. But, we only have four years
of cash flow. We need to put a value on all the cash flows after Year Four.
The Year Four cash flow is 4.16 and we expect it to grow at 5 percent a year.
The value of all cash flows after Year Four (as of the end of Year Four) can
be calculated with our Terminal Value formula.
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First, we need to calculate ßL
ßL= ßU1 + (1 - t) D
E
ßL= 1.15
=1.64
reL= rf+ ßL(rm- rf)
reeL= (0.10) + (1.64)(0.08) = 0.2312 or 23.12%
1 + (1 - t) (D)
(E)
[ ]
1 + (1 - 0.35) (0.4)
(0.6)
[ ]
(E) (re
L) + (D) (1 - t)(rD)
(D + E) (D + E )
0.6 x0.2312 + 0.4 x(1 - 0.35) x0.13
0.1699 or 17.0%
rWACC =
WACC =
WACC =
Step 5: Taking the NPV of all the cash flows
Now we have to add up our cash flows
Add terminal value = 30.76
Using these cash flows, and our discount rate of 19.2 percent, we can
calculate the net present value.
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FCF4(1 + g)
(rd- g)
4.16 x(1 + 0.05)
(0.192 - 0.05)
TY FCF =
TY FCF = = 30.76
Using
APV
FCF4(1 + g)
(rd- g)
4.16 x(1 + 0.05)
(0.173 - 0.05)
TY FCF =
TY FCF = = 35.51
Using
WACC
Year 1
5.15 3.58
Year 2
FCF
Year 3
3.84
Year 4
4.16
5.15 3.58FCFadjusted 3.84 34.92
APV
FCF1FCF2FCF3FCF4
(1 + rd)1(1 + rd)2(1 + rd)3(1 + rd)4
5.15 3.58 3.84 34.92
(1 + 0.192) (1 + 0.192)2(1 + 0.192)3(1 + 0.192)4
4.32 + 2.52 + 2.27 + 17.30 = 26.41 (approximately)
++ +
NPV =
+++
NPV =
NPV =
Let’s add up the cash flows for the WACC method:
Add terminal value = 35.51
Using these cash flows, with a discount rate of 17.0 percent, we can calculate an
NPV (r = rWACC )
Step 6: Figuring out the companys value
For WACC, we are done with our calculation the value of the company is
approximately $28.0.
For APV, however, we add the present value of the interest tax shields
(DTS). We use the following formula:
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Year 1
5.15 3.58
Year 2
FCF
Year 3
3.84
Year 4
4.16
5.15 3.58FCFadjusted 3.84 39.67
WACC
FCF1FCF2FCF3FCF4
(1 + r)1(1 + r)2(1 + r)3(1 + r)4
5.15 3.58 3.84 34.92
(1 + 0.17) (1 + 0.17)2(1 + 0.17)3(1 + 0.17)4
4.4 + 2.6 + 2.4 + 18.6 = 28.0 (approximately)
++ +
NPV =
+ + +
NPV =
NPV =
To summarize:
The APV and WACC methods make slightly different assumptions about the
value of interest tax shields, resulting in slightly different values.
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Value of
tax shield
Total
APV
$26.41
$3.7
$30.1
$28.0
$28.0
WACC
Discounted
value of FCF
Comparable Transactions
To use the “comparable transactions” technique of valuing a company, you
need to look at the “comparable” transactions that have taken place in the
industry and accompanying relevant metrics such as multiples” or ratios
(e.g., price paid: EBITDA). For example, when NationsBank was
considering acquiring Montgomery Securities, it likely studied comparable
transactions, such as Bankers Trust’s acquisition of Alex Brown or Bank of
America’s acquisition of Robertson Stephens. In other words, NationsBank
looked at other acquisitions of investment banks by financial institutions that
had taken place in the recent past, ascertained the relevant multiples at which
these firms were acquired (EBIT or Book Value, for example) and applied
these multiples to the company which they were trying to value.
With the comparable transactions method, you are looking for a key
valuation parameter. That is, were the companies in those transactions
valued as a multiple of EBIT, EBITDA, revenue, or some other parameter?
If you figure out what the key valuation parameter is, you can examine at
what multiples of those parameters the comparable companies were valued.
You can then use a similar approach to value the company being considered.
As an example, let’s assume that there is an Internet start-up called
echicago.com that is planning to go public. Let’s also say that this is a health
care Internet company. The question the company’s financial management,
their investment bankers, and the portfolio managers who are planning to
buy stock in the company will ask is: “How much is the company worth?”
To obtain a value for the company, they can look at recent comparable
transactions. For example, suppose eharvard.com and estanford.com are
other health care Internet companies that have recently successfully gone
public. The financials of the companies are summarized below (assume all
companies have no net debt, so their Equity and Enterprise Values are
identical):
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Company Value
(Market Cap) (mil)
Sales
(mil)
EBITDA
(mil)
Earnings
(Losses) (mil)
Sales Multiples
(Market Cap/Sales)
echicago.com ? 80 20 (10) ?
estanford.com 2100 70 17 (12) 30
eharvard.com 3000 75 18 (8) 40
Because the three companies are in the same industry and have similar
financials, the transaction for echicago.com can be valued at multiples
similar to those used for the other two. The value for echicago.com could
be anywhere from 30 x 80 to 40 x 80, i.e., 2,400 to 3,200 millions of dollars,
or $2.4 billion to $3.2 billion. (Bankers would value the company using this
range in valuation; at the time of heavy speculation in Internet stocks,
however, we would not be surprised if investors valued the company at an
even higher price.)
Multiple Analysis or Comparable
Company Analysis
Quite often, there is not enough information to determine the valuation using
the comparable transactions method. In these cases, you can value a
company based on market valuation multiples, which you can do using more
readily available information. Examples of these valuation multiples
include price/earning multiples (also known as P/E ratios, this method,
which compares a company’s market capitalization to its annual income, is
the most commonly used multiple) EBITDA multiples, and others. Once
you have done this, you can add debt to ascertain enterprise value. When
using these methods, you look at which multiples are used for other
companies in the industry to ascertain equity value.
Let’s look at an example. What is the value of a company in the
semiconductor industry with $100 million in net debt that posts annual sales
of $180 million, EBITDA of $70 million, and earnings of $40 million (let’s
call it Wharton Semiconductor). Companies in the semiconductor industry
might be valued with sales, EBITDA or earning multiples. The numbers
used for EBITDA or earnings might be figured for the 12 months trailing
(the previous 12 months), the last fiscal year, 12 months projected, or the
next fiscal year projected. These figures can be obtained from research
reports published by various research departments within investment banks
or brokerage houses.
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Let’s assume that there are four semiconductor companies similar to
Wharton Semiconductor. An investment bank would perform a “Common
Stock Comparison” to determine relevant multiples:
Notice above that Enterprise Value is divided by sales or EBITDA to
ascertain the sales and EBITDA multiples, while Equity Value is divided by
Net Income to ascertain the price-to-earnings multiple.
Using the average multiples from the Common Stock Comparison, we can
estimate Wharton Semiconductors value as follows:
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Company
900
Value
(Market Cap)
Chicago Semiconductor
Sales
220
EBITDA
115
Earnings
82
700Harvard Semiconductor 190 90 60
650Kellogg Semiconductor 280 68 42
320
Stanford Semiconductor 150 45 26
Sales
Multiples
Market Cap
Sales
Company
4.1
Chicago Semiconductor 7.8 11.0
3.7Harvard Semiconductor 7.8 11.7
2.3Kellogg Semiconductor 9.6 15.5
2.1
Stanford Semiconductor
3.1 8.1 12.6AVERAGE
7.1 12.3
Price-to-
Earnings
Multiples
Market Cap
Earnings
EBITDA
Multiples
Market Cap
EBITDA
( ) ( ) ( )
Using the sales multiple: Wharton’s sales of $180 million x 3.1 (average
sales multiple) = $558 million (Enterprise Value) - $100 million (Net Debt)
= $458 million (Equity Value)
Using the EBITDA multiple: Wharton’s EBITDA of $70 million x 8.1
(average EBITDA multiple) = $565 million (Enterprise Value) - $100
million (Net Debt) = $465 million (Equity Value)
Using the price-to-earnings multiple: Wharton’s earnings of $40 million x
12.6 (average price-to-earnings multiple) = $505 million (Equity Value)
So using the multiples method, we can estimate the Equity Value of Wharton
Semiconductor at between $449 and $505 million. This means that, adding
in debt, we arrive at Wharton’s Enterprise Value of between $549 and $605
million.
Questions
1. What is the difference between the Income Statement and the
Statement of Cash Flows?
The Income Statement is a record of Revenues and Expenses while the
Statement of Cash Flows records the actual cash that has either come into or
left the company. The Statement of Cash Flows has the following
categories: Operating Cash Flows, Investing Cash Flows, and Financing
Cash Flows.
Interestingly, a company can be profitable as shown in the Income
Statement, but still go bankrupt if it doesn’t have the cash flow to meet
interest payments.
2. What is the link between the Balance Sheet and the Income
Statement?
The main link between the two statements is that profits generated in the
Income Statement get added to shareholders equity on the Balance Sheet as
Retained Earnings. Also, debt on the Balance Sheet is used to calculate
interest expense in the Income Statement.
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3. What is the link between the Balance Sheet and the Statement of Cash
Flows?
The Statement of Cash Flows starts with the beginning cash balance, which
comes from the Balance Sheet. Also, Cash from Operations is derived using
the changes in Balance Sheet accounts (such as Accounts Payable, Accounts
Receivable, etc.). The net increase in cash flow for the prior year goes back
onto the next years Balance Sheet .
4. What is EBITDA?
A proxy for cash flow, EBITDA is Earnings Before Interest, Taxes,
Depreciation, and Amortization.
5. Say you knew a company’s net income. How would you figure out its
“free cash flow”?
Start with the company’s Net Income. Then add back Depreciation and
Amortization. Subtract the company’s Capital Expenditures (called
“CapEx” for short, this is how much money the company invests each year
in plant and equipment). The number you get is the companys free cash
flow:
Net Income
+ Depreciation and Amortization
Capital Expenditures
Increase (or + decrease) in net working capital
= Free Cash Flow (FCF)
6. Walk me through the major line items on a Cash Flow statement.
The answer: first the Beginning Cash Balance, then Cash from Operations,
then Cash from Investing Activities, then Cash from Financing Activities,
and finally the Ending Cash Balance.
7. What happens to each of the three primary financial statements when
you change a) gross margin b) capital expenditures c) any other change?
Think about the definitions of the variables that change. For example, gross
margin is gross profit/sales, or the extent to which sales of sold inventory
exceeds costs. Hence, if a) gross margin were to decrease, then gross profit
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decreases relative to sales. Thus, for the Income Statement, you would
probably pay lower taxes, but if nothing else changed, you would likely have
lower net income. The cash flow statement would be affected in the top line
with less cash likely coming in. Hence, if everything else remained the
same, you would likely have less cash. Going to the Balance Sheet, you
would not only have less cash, but to balance that effect, you would have
lower shareholders equity.
b) If capital expenditure were to say, decrease, then first, the level of capital
expenditures would decrease on the Statement of Cash Flows. This would
increase the level of cash on the balance sheet, but decrease the level of
property, plant and equipment, so total assets stay the same. On the income
statement, the depreciation expense would be lower in subsequent years, so
net income would be higher, which would increase cash and shareholders
equity in the future.
c) Just be sure you understand the interplay between the three sheets.
Remember that changing one sheet has ramifications on all the other
statements both today and in the future.
8. How do you value a company?
Valuing a company is one of the most popular technical tasks you will be
asked to perform in finance interviews. Remember the several methods that
we discussed, and good luck. MBAs looking for I-banking or finance in a
company positions are sure to get this question.
One basic answer to this question is to discount the company’s projected
cash flows using a “risk-adjusted discount rate.” This process involves
several steps. First you must project a company’s cash flows for 10 years.
Then you must choose a constant growth rate after 10 years going forward.
Finally, you must choose an appropriate discount rate. After projecting the
first five or 10 years performance, you add in a Terminal Value,” which
represents the present value of all the future cash flows another 10 years.
You can calculate the Terminal Value in one of two ways: (1) you take the
earnings of the last year you projected, say year 10, and multiply it by some
market multiple like 20 times earnings, use that as your terminal value; or
(2) you take the last year, say year 10, and assume some constant growth rate
after that like 10 percent. The present value of this growing stream of
payments after year 10 is the Terminal Value. Finally, to figure out what
“discount rate” you would use to discount the company’s cash flows, tell
your interviewer you would use the “Capital Asset Pricing Model” (or
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“CAPM”). (In a nutshell, CAPM says that the proper discount rate to use is
the risk-free interest rate adjusted upwards to reflect this particular
company’s market risk or “Beta.”) For a more advanced answer, discuss the
APV and WACC methods.
You should also mention other methods of valuing a company, including
looking at comparables” – that is, how other similar companies were
valued recently as a multiple of their sales, net income, or some other
measure.
9. The CEO of a $500 million company has called you, her investment
banker. She wants to sell the company. She wants to know how much
she can expect for the company today.
It might sound different, but this is the same question as No. 8: How do you
value a company?
10. What is the formula for the Capital Asset Pricing Model?
The Capital Asset Pricing Model is used to calculate the expected return on
an investment. Beta for a company is a measure of the relative volatility of
the given investment with respect to the market, i.e., if Beta is 1, the returns
on the investment (stock/bond/portfolio) vary identically with the market’s
returns. Here “the market” refers to a well diversified index such as the
S&P 500. The formula for CAPM is as follows:
Here:
rf= Risk-free rate = the Treasury bond rate for the period for which the
projections are being considered
rm= Market return
rm- rf= Excess market return
ßL= Leveraged Beta
re
L= Discount rate for (leveraged) equity (calculated using the CAPM)
CAPM:
reL= rf+ ßL(rm- rf)
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11. Why might there be multiple valuations for a single company?
As this chapter has discussed, there are several different methods by which
one can value a company. And even if you use the rigorously academic DCF
analysis, the two main methods (the WACC and APV method) make
different assumptions about interest tax shields, which can lead to different
valuations.
12. How do you calculate the terminal value of a company?
Terminal year value is calculated by taking a given year in the future at
which a company is stable (usually year 10), assuming perpetually stable
growth after that year, using a perpetuity formula to come up with the value
in that year based on future cash flows, and discounting that value back to
the present day. This method uses the following formula.
Here “g” is an assumed growth rate and rd is the discount rate. Remember
that you could also calculate the terminal value of a company by taking a
multiple of terminal year cash flows, and discounting that back to the
present to arrive at an answer. This alternative method might be used in
some instances because it is less dependent on the assumed growth rate (g).
13. Why are the P/E multiples for a company in London different than
that of the same company in the States?
The P/E multiples can be different in the two countries even if all other
factors are constant because of the difference in the way earnings are
recorded. Overall market valuations in American markets tend to be higher
than those in the U.K.
14. What are the different multiples that can be used to value a
company?
The most commonly used multiple is price-to-earnings multiple, or “P/E
ratio.” Other multiples that are used include revenue, EBITDA, EBIT, and
book value. The relevant multiple depends on the industry. For example,
Internet companies are often valued with revenue multiples; this explains
FCF10 (1 + g)
(rd- g)
TY FCF =
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why companies with low profits can have such high market caps.
Companies in the metals and mining industry are valued using EBITDA.
As discussed in the section on valuation, not only should you be aware of
the financial metric being used, you should know the time period the metric
used represents: for example, earnings in a P/E ratio can be for the previous
or projected 12 months, or for the previous or projected fiscal year.
15. How do you get the discount rate for an all-equity firm?
You use the Capital Asset Pricing Model, or CAPM.
16. Can I apply CAPM in Latin American markets?
CAPM was developed for use in the U.S. markets, however, it is presently
the best known tool for calculating discount rates. Hence, while CAPM is
not exact, it is a good framework for thinking about and analyzing discount
rates outside of the U.S. as fundamentally, markets are based on similar
principles.
17. How much would you pay for a company with $50 million in revenue
and $5 million in profit?
If this is all the information you are given you can use the comparable
transaction or multiples method to value this company (rather than the DCF
method). To use the multiples method, you can examine common stock
information of comparable companies in the same industry, to get average
industry multiples of price-to-earnings. You can then apply that multiple to
find the given company’s value.
18. What is the difference between the APV and WACC?
WACC incorporates the effect of tax shields into the discount rate used to
calculate the present value of cash flows. WACC is typically calculated
using actual data and numbers from balance sheets for companies or
industries.
APV adds the present value of the financing effects (most commonly, the
debt tax shield) to the net present value assuming an all-equity value, and
calculates the adjusted present value. The APV approach is particularly
useful in cases where subsidized costs of financing are more complex, such
as in a leveraged buyout.
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19. How would you value a company with no revenue?
First you would make reasonable assumptions about the company’s
projected revenues (and projected cash flows) for future years. Then you
would calculate the Net Present Value of these cash flows.
20. What is Beta?
Beta is the value that represents a stock’s volatility with respect to overall
market volatility.
21. How do you unlever a company’s Beta?
Unlevering a company’s Beta means calculating the Beta under the
assumption that it is an all-equity firm. The formula is as follows:
22. Name three companies that are undervalued and tell me why you
think they are undervalued.
This is a very popular question for equity research and portfolio
management jobs. Here you have to do your homework. Study the stocks
you like and value them using various methods: DCF, multiples, comparable
transactions, etc. Then choose several undervalued (and overvalued) stocks,
and be prepared to back up your assessment, using financial and strategy
information.
For example, let’s say that Coke received some bad PR recently and its stock
took a hammering in the market. However, the earnings of Coke are not
expected to decrease significantly because of the negative publicity (or at
least that’s your analysis). Thus, Coke is trading at a lower P/E relative to
Pepsi and others in the industry: it is undervalued. This is an example of a
line of reasoning you might offer when asked this question (the more
thorough and insightful the reasoning, the better). Using some of the
techniques discussed earlier as well as regular readings of the WSJ and other
publications, will help you formulate real-world examples.
ßL=ßU1 + (1 - t)(D)
(E)
[ ]
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Also, keep in mind that there are no absolute right answers for a question
like this: If everyone in the market believed that a stock was undervalued,
the price would go up and it wouldn’t be undervalued anymore! What the
interviewer is looking for is your chain of thought, your ability to
communicate that convincingly, your interest in the markets and your
preparation for the interview.
23. Walk me through the major items of an Income Statement.
Know all the items that go into the three major components: revenues,
expenses and net income.
24. Which industries are you interested in? What are the multiples that
you use for those industries?
As discussed, different industries use different multiples. Answering the
first part of the question, pick an industry and know any major events that
are happening. Next, if you claim interest in a certain industry, you better
know how companies in the industry are commonly valued. (Don’t answer
the first question without knowing the answer to the second!)
25. Is 10 a high P/E ratio?
The answer to this or any question like this is, “it depends.” P/E ratios are
relative measurements, and in order to know whether a P/E ratio is high or
low, we need to know the general P/E ratios of comparable companies.
Generally, higher growth firms will have higher P/E ratios because their
earnings will be low relative to their price, with the idea that the earnings
will eventually grow more rapidly that the stock's price.
26. Describe a typical company's capital structure.
A company's capital structure is just what it sounds like: the structure of the
capital that makes up the firm, or its debts and equity. Capital structure
includes permanent, long-term financing of a company, including long-term
debt, preferred stock and common stock, and retained earnings. The
statement of a company's capital structure as expressed above reflects the
order in which contributors to the capital structure are paid back, and the
order in which they have claims on company's assets should it liquidate.
Debt has first priority, then preferred stock holders, then common stock
holders. Anything left over is put into the retained earnings account.
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27. Value the following company given the following information (a
written finance interview question):
Tax Rate (t) 40%
Book Value Debt (D) 1,200
Book Value Equity (Ebook)1,500
Market Value Equity (Emarket)1,800
Beta (historical) L)1.10
Long-term T-Bond rate (rf)8.0%
Long-term debt rate (rD)
Long-term growth rate (g)
Long-term risk premium (rm- rf)
10.0%
4.0%
6.0%
EBIT
Depreciation
Capital Expenditures
Increase in
Working Capital
Year One
480.0
145.0
Year Two
530.0
130.0
160.0
25.0
140.0
20.0
Year Three
580.0
110.0
130.0
15.0
Year Four
605.0
100.0
110.0
12.0
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Step 1: Figuring out free cash flows
Step 2: Figuring out a discount rate
Remember that there are two ways to determine a discount rate. Let’s begin
with a discount rate for APV analysis:
APV
The expected return on equity for an all-equity firm would be 12.7 percent.
We will use this as the discount rate for the APV analysis.
First, get ßUfrom the ßLof 1.50
ßL
[1 + (1 - t)(D)]
E(market value)
1.10
1 + (1 - 0.40)(1,200)
(1,800)
rf+ ßU(rm- rf)
0.08 + (0.79)(0.06) = 12.7%
ßU=
ßU=
reU=
reU=
[ ]
Free cash flow to an all-equity firm = EBIT (1 - t) + Depreciation
- Capital Expenditures - Increase in Working Capital
Plugging in our data, our free cash flows look like this:
Year One
248.00 288.00
Year Two
FCF
Year Three
313.00
Year Four
341.00
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WACC
Let’s now look at the WACC method. For WACC, we need to know what
the target (long-term) debt-to-capital ratio for this company is. Let’s assume
that it is 30 percent. That is, in the long run, this company expects to finance
its projects with 30 percent debt and 70 percent equity.
Since our long-term debt rate is 10 percent, and our long-term debt is 30
percent, we can now calculate WACC.
Step 3: Figuring out a terminal value
In figuring out a terminal value, first we assume that the company operates
forever. Since we only have four years of cash flow, we need to put a value
on all the cash flows after Year Four. Given that the Year Four cash flow is
341 and we expect it to grow at 5 percent a year, the value of all cash flows
after Year Four (as of the end of Year Four) can be calculated with the
Terminal Value formula of our choice (either APV or WACC).
(E) (reL) + (D) (1 - t)(rD)
(D + E) (D + E)
0.7 x0.139 + 0.3 x(1 - 0.4) x0.1
0.1153 or 11.53%
WACC =
WACC =
WACC =
First, we need to calculate ßL
ßL= ßU 1 + (1 - t) (D)
(E)
ßL= 0.79 1 + (1 - 0.40)(0.3)
(0.7)
=0.993
reL= rf+ L)(0.06)
reL= (0.08) + (0.993)(0.06) = 13.95 or 14.0%
[ ]
[ ]
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Step 4: Figuring out the NPV of all the cash flows
Now we have to add up our cash flows
Add terminal value = 4,650
Using these cash flows, and our discount rate (reu) of 12.7 percent, we can
calculate the Net Present Value using the NPV formula.
Year One
248.00 288.00
Year Two
FCF
Year Three
313.00
Year Four
341.00
248.00 288.00FCFadjusted 313.00 4,991
APV
FCF1FCF2FCF3FCF4
(1 + reu)1(1 + reu)2(1 + reu)3(1 + reu)4
248 288 313 4,991
(1 + 0.127) (1 + 0.127)2(1 + 0.127)3(1 + 0.127)4
220 + 226.7 + 218.66 + 3,093.8 = 3,759
+ + +
NPV =
NPV =
+ + +
NPV =
FCF10 (1 + g)
(rd- g)
341(1 + 0.05)
(0.127 - 0.05)
TY FCF =
TY FCF = = 4,650
APV
FCF10 (1 + g)
(rd- g)
341(1 + 0.05)
(0.1153 - 0.05)
TY FCF =
TY FCF = = 5,483
WACC
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Let’s add up the cash flows for the WACC method:
Add terminal value = 5,483
RE= REL(WACC) = RWACC
Step 5: Putting it all together and figuring out the
companys value
For WACC, we are done with our calculation – the value of the company is
$4,443.62.
For APV, however since we’ve used unlevered numbers (numbers without
debt involved), we need to add the present value of the interest tax shields
we get from debt interest payments. We use the following formula to figure
out the tax shield:
FCF1FCF2FCF3FCF4
(1 + RE)1(1 + RE)2(1 + RE)3(1 + RE)4
248 288 313 5,824.15
(1 + 0.1153) (1 + 0.1153)2(1 + 0.1153)3(1 + 0.1153)4
222.36 + 231.53 + 225.6 + 3,764.1 = 4,443.62
+++
NPV =
NPV =
+ + +
NPV =
APV w/debt tax benefits = APV without debt tax benefits + DTS
DTS = APV without DTS X (Tax rate (t) X Long-term debt ratio)
If the company’s long-term debt ratio is 30%:
DTS = 3759 X (.4 X .3)
DTS = $451
Year One
248.00 288.00
Year Two
FCF
Year Three
313.00
Year Four
341.00
248.00 288.00FCFadjusted 313.00 5,824.15
WACC
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To summarize the results:
Value of tax
shield
Total
APV
$3,759
$451
$4,210
$4,443
$4,443
WACC
Discounted
value of FCF
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EQUITY
ANALYSIS AND
PORTFOLIO
MANAGEMENT
Investment Management
and Portfolio Theory
Asset managers and portfolio managers (as well the job candidates
interviewing for these positions) are expected to understand basic portfolio
theory. This section covers the basics of portfolio theory. For more
advanced concepts, read the Vault Guide to Advanced Finance &
Quantitative Interviews.
Regardless of the type of portfolio he or she manages, the aim of every
portfolio manager is the same: to achieve the highest rate of return possible
given the asset class he or she is investing in while minimizing risk. As a
portfolio manager, the type of risk you are allowed to assume depends on the
type of assets or fund you are managing, but your job is still to keep the risk
as low as you can while still achieving the expected returns.
Risk
In a nutshell, the riskiness of a portfolio is defined as the standard deviation
of the portfolio’s expected returns. Standard deviation is a measure of
volatility. So, the more predictable a portfolio’s returns are perceived to be,
the less risky it is. Conversely, the less predictable a portfolio’s returns are,
the more risky the portfolio is. For example, a portfolio of stocks with
relatively low revenue and high growth prospects, where the prices can
move wildly from day to day, is a relatively “risky” portfolio.
A fact you need to face as a portfolio manager is that in order to receive an
increased return from your investment portfolio, you need to accept an
increased amount of risk. Keeping the assets in your portfolio in cash
reduces the portfolio’s risk, but it also reduces the potential return.
Portfolio risk vs. a single securitys risk
Rather than look at risk at the individual security level, portfolio managers
must constantly measure the risk of an entire portfolio. When an interviewer
for a portfolio managers job asks you whether you recommend adding a
particular security to a portfolio, don’t simply base your decision on the risk
of the given security. Instead, consider how that security contributes to the
overall risk of the portfolio. Using “correlation” is an effective technique for
determining such portfolio-level risk.
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Correlation
The tendency for two investments in a portfolio to move together in price
under the same circumstances is called correlation.” If two investments
have a strong positive correlation, they tend to move together. For example,
the stocks of Microsoft and Intel have a strong positive correlation. Both are
impacted by the demand for technology. Therefore, you can expect the
stocks of these two companies to generally move in the same direction.
If two stocks have a strong negative correlation, they will tend to move in
opposite directions. For example, high fuel prices might be good for oil
companies, but bad for airlines who need to buy the fuel. As a result, you
might expect that the stocks of companies in these two industries to move in
opposite directions. These two industries have a negative correlation. You’ll
get better diversification in your portfolio if you own one airline and one oil
company, rather than two oil companies. However, your returns may be
lower.
Note that the correlation between two things can be measured by a number
called a correlation coefficient. The correlation coefficient between two
securities can range from -1 (i.e., a perfect negative correlation) to +1 (i.e.,
a perfect positive correlation). A correlation coefficient of zero implies that
the two assets have no correlation with one another. You can calculate the
correlation coefficient between two securities using a formula or a financial
software program, though if you work at an investment bank you can usually
just look up this number.
Diversification
When the term “diversification” is used, it usually means building a
portfolio that includes securities from different asset classes, like stocks and
bonds. However, realize that this is the case precisely because bonds often
tend to do well when stocks don’t (i.e., they have a low correlation).
Another way to diversify a portfolio is to buy securities in the same asset
class that are not affected by the same variables and that therefore also have
a low correlation (think oil and airlines). Conversely, a portfolio of
securities with a strong positive correlation will be relatively undiversified
and therefore more risky, but may garner higher returns.
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Risk level of a portfolio with two securities:
Stock Analysis and Stock Picking
Technical analysis vs. fundamental analysis
Technical analysis involves looking at charts and patterns associated with a
stock’s historical price movements to try to profit from predictable patterns,
regardless of fundamentals such as revenue growth or expense trends.
While many on Wall Street look down upon technical analysis (and it is
rarely taught at business schools), some Wall Street traders still rely on it or
use it in conjunction with fundamental analysis to decide whether and when
to buy and sell.
In contrast, fundamental analysis of a stock (or other security) involves
using financial analysis to analyze the company’s underlying business, such
as sales growth, its balance sheet, etc., (its “fundamentals”) to decide
whether and when to buy and sell.
For the most part, your interviewers will be looking for your skills in
fundamental analysis, though if you’re interviewing for a trading position
your interviewer might expect you to have some familiarity with technical
analysis.
Stock valuation techniques
The most common forms of fundamental analysis involve the traditional
valuation techniques (DCF, multiples analysis) as well as the various
accounting and financial statement analyses that are covered in the Valuation
Techniques chapter. For investment management interviews, you should
have a strong command for these techniques for valuing individual stocks.
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Type of Correlation Correlation Coefficient Risk Level Example
Securities have a strong
positive correlation
Close to 1 High Microsoft and Intel
Securities have a weak or
zero correlation
Close to zero Medium Microsoft and
H&R Block
Securities have a strong
negative correlation
Close to -1 Low Exxon and
Federal Express
Financial ratios
Another important form of stock analysis is Ratio Analysis, which involves
looking at a company’s various financial ratios and how they have changed
over time to spot trends or trouble spots in the company’s operations. A
financial ratio by itself doesn’t necessary tell you very much. More
important is comparing how a company’s financial ratios are changing from
one quarter to the next, and how they compare a company’s financial ratios
with other companies in its industry.
Below are the most common ratios used in finance to analyze companies.
Particularly if you are interviewing for investment management, equity
research or similar finance positions, you may be asked questions about how
to calculate common financial ratios and what they signify.
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Solvency Ratios
Quick Ratio Cash + Accounts
Receivable
Total Current Liabilities
Shows the amount of liquid
assets (i.e., cash or assets
that can be quickly
converted to cash) on hand
to cover current debts
Current Ratio Total Current Assets
Total Current Liabilities
Similar to the Quick Ratio,
but broader, since it
includes less liquid assets
that may be used to cover
current debts
Cash Ratio (also called
Liquidity Ratio)
Cash
Total Current Liabilities
Shows the cash on hand to
cover current liabilities
Debt to Equity Debt
Equity
Shows the amount of
shareholders equity
available to cover debts
Current Liabilities to
Inventory
Total Current Liabilities
Inventory
Shows how much a
company can rely on unsold
inventory to cover debts
Total Liabilities to Net
Worth
Total Liabilities
Net Worth
Similar to the debt to equity
ratio, but broader since it
includes all the companys
liabilities, not just debt
You can use these ratios to ascertain the health of a company. For example,
a higher current ratio is better; a company’s position is improving when the
collection period declines. Here’s a quick chart that explains whether a
higher or lower ratio is better.
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Efficiency Ratios
Collection Period
(also called Day Sales
Outstanding)
Accounts Receivable
Sales X 365
Shows the average amount
of time it takes a company
to collect from customers
Inventory Turnover
(also called Inventory
Utilization Ratio)
Sales
Inventory
Shows how quickly a
company is selling its
inventory
Sales to Assets Sales
Total Assets
Measures how efficiently a
company is using its assets
to generate sales
Sales to Net Working
Capital
Sales
Net Working Capital
Shows a companys ability
to use short-term assets
and liabilities to generate
revenue
Gross Profit Margin
(also called Return
on Sales)
Gross Profit
Sales
A measure of efficiency
shows profits earned per
dollar of sales
Return on Assets Net Profit After Taxes
Total Assets
Shows profits relative
to a companys assets
Return on Equity
(also called Return
on Net Worth)
Net Profit After Taxes
Net Worth
Shows profits relative
to equity
Ratio
Quick Ratio
Good Trend
Rising
Bad Trend
Falling
Current Ratio Rising Falling
Cash Ratio Rising Falling
Debt to Equity Falling Rising
Current Liabilities to Inventory Falling Rising
Total Liabilities to Net Worth Falling Rising
Collection Period Falling Rising
Inventory Turnover Rising Falling
Questions
1. If you add a risky stock into a portfolio that is already risky, how is
the overall portfolio risk affected?
A. It becomes riskier
B. It becomes less risky
C. Overall risk is unaffected
D. It depends on the stock’s risk relative to that of the portfolio
Answer: D. In modern portfolio theory, if you add a risky stock into a
portfolio that is already risky, the resulting portfolio may be more or less
risky than before.
A portfolio’s overall risk is determined not just by the riskiness of its
individual positions, but also by how those positions are correlated with
each other. For example, a portfolio with two high-tech stocks might at first
glance be considered risky, but if those two stocks tends to move in opposite
directions, then the riskiness of the portfolio overall could be significantly
lower. So the risk effect of adding a new stock to an existing portfolio
depends on how that stock correlates with the other stocks in the portfolio.
2. Put the following portfolios consisting of 2 stocks in order from the
least risky to the most risky and explain why
A. A portfolio of a cable television company stock and an oil company
stock
B. A portfolio of an airline company stock and a cruise ship company
stock
C. A portfolio of an airline company stock and an oil company stock.
Answer: Least risky: C. Then A. B is the most risky.
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Ratio Good Trend Bad Trend
Sales to Assets Rising Falling
Sales to Net Working Capital Rising Falling
Gross Profit Margin Rising Falling
Return on Assets Rising Falling
Return on Equity Rising Falling
The least risky portfolio is the one where the two securities have a strong
negative correlation. Stocks with a strong negative correlation tend to move
in the opposite direction under the same circumstances. Therefore, the value
of the portfolio will remain relatively stable over time, making the portfolio
less risky. In this question, since high fuel prices might be good for oil
companies, but bad for airlines who need to buy the fuel, you would expect
that the stocks of companies in these two industries to move in opposite
directions. These two industries have a strong negative correlation and
portfolio C is the least risky.
Portfolio B is the most risky because the stocks of airline companies and
cruise ship companies have a strong positive correlation: they tend to move
in the same direction under the same circumstances. For example, after the
September 11 terrorist attacks all travel related businesses suffered from
sharply lower demand. A portfolio of two securities with a strong positive
correlation will be the most risky.
Portfolio A is in the middle because we would expect cable TV stocks and
oil stocks to have a weak correlation. A weak correlation (correlation
coefficient of around 0) means that the two securities generally do not move
in the same direction under the same circumstances.
3. How do you calculate a companys Days Sales Outstanding?
Average Accounts Receivable/ Sales x 365 days
Note: The average accounts receivable for any period can be approximated by:
(Ending accounts receivable + beginning accounts receivable) ÷ 2
4. How do you calculate a companys Current Ratio?
Current assets (cash, accounts receivable, etc) / Current liabilities (accounts
payable and other short-term liabilities)
A high current ratio indicates that a company has enough cash (and assets
they can quickly turn into cash, like accounts receivable) to cover its
immediate payment requirements on liabilities.
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5. Gotham Energy just released second quarter financial results.
Looking at its balance sheet you calculate that its Current Ratio went
from 1.5 to 1.2. Does this make you more or less likely to buy the stock?
Less likely. This means that the company is less able to cover its immediate
liabilities with cash on hand and other current assets than it was last quarter.
6. Xeron Software Corporations days sales outstanding have gone from
58 days to 42 days. Does this make you more or less likely to issue a Buy
rating on the stock?
More likely. When the company’s days sales outstanding (DSOs) decreases,
it means the company is able to collect money from its customers faster. In
other words, Xeron’s customers went from taking an average of 58 days to
pay their bills to 42 days. All things being equal, having faster paying
customers is almost always a good thing. Of course, one caveat is that you
want to make sure Xeron didn’t achieve this by imposing much tighter credit
terms on its customers and therefore. But if the company’s sales grew at the
same time its DSOs decreased, then as a research analyst or trader you’ll be
more likely to want to buy the stock.
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STOCKS
A Remedial Lesson
What does the Inc.” after the names of many companies mean? In short,
Inc. stands for “incorporated,” a legal term that makes an entity a legal
company. There are many forms of incorporation from which a company
can choose. With the help of a lawyer, a company files papers/applications
in court to define itself as one of these forms. A company can be
incorporated as a C Corp, an S Corp, an LLC (Limited Liability
Corporation), or a partnership. There are different rules of ownership for
each of these forms, which determine in part how a company pays out
profits, is taxed, and so on.
The incorporation of a company can be regarded as its birth. And when a
company is born, it has equity. This equity is also referred to as stock, and
refers to ownership in a company. Most people unfamiliar with the finance
world equate stock with the running tickers in the pits of Wall Street trading
floors, and other symbols of publicly traded stock. You should realize that
companies do not have to be publicly traded in order to have stock they
just have to be incorporated and owned.
Equity vs. Debt (Stocks vs. Bonds)
Companies are traditionally financed through a combination of debt and
equity. Equity, or ownership stake, is more volatile as its value fluctuates
with the value of the firm. The equity of a company is represented by
securities called stocks. Here, when we refer to stock, we are referring to
common stock, or stock without a guaranteed return (as opposed to prefered
stock).
Equity has a book value  this is a strictly defined value that can be
calculated from the company’s Balance Sheet. It also has a market value.
The market value of equity or stock for a publicly traded firm can be found
in The Wall Street Journal or any of the stock quote services available today.
(Market value of a company’s equity can be understood with the simple
formula: stock price x number of shares outstanding [or common stock
outstanding] = market value of equity.) The market value of a private
company can be estimated using the valuation techniques discussed in the
valuation section of this guide. However, any method used to measure either
the book value or market value of a company depends on highly volatile
factors such as performance of the company, the industry and the market as
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a whole and is thus highly volatile itself. Investors can make lots of money
based on their equity investment decisions and the subsequent changing
value of those stocks after they are bought.
The other component of the financing of a company is debt, which is
represented by securities called bonds. (In its simplest form, debt is issued
when investors loan money to a company at a given interest rate.) Typically,
banks and large financial institutions originate debt. The returns for debt
investors are assured in the form of interest on the debt. Sometimes, the
market value of the debt changes (see chapter on bonds), but bond prices
usually do not change as drastically as stock prices. On the downside, bonds
also have lower expected returns than stocks. U.S. Treasury bonds, for
example, can provide returns of 5 to 7 percent a year or so, while volatile
stocks may rise 10 percent in a single day. On the other hand, bonds usually
have less downside risk than stock. Though they won’t post big gains, U.S.
Treasury bonds won’t lose 10 percent of their value in a single day, either.
A simple analogy of how debt and equity make up financing for a company
is to consider how most people buy homes. Homebuyers generally start
with a down payment, which is a payment on the equity of the house. Then,
the homebuyer makes mortgage payments that are a combination of debt
(the interest on the mortgage) and equity (the principal payments). Initially,
a homebuyer generally pays primarily interest (debt), before gradually
buying larger and large portions of the principal (equity). Common stock
and debt are the two extremes in the continuum of the forms of investment
in a company.
In the middle of the continuum is preferred stock. One type of preferred
stock is referred to as convertible preferred. If the preferred stock is
convertible, it can be converted into common stock as prescribed in the
initial issuance of the preferred stock. Like bondholders, holders of preferred
stock are assured an interest-like return also referred to as the preferred
stock’s dividend. (A dividend is a payment made to stockholders, usually
quarterly, that is intended to distribute some of the company’s profits to
shareholders.)
The other key difference between preferred and common stock comes into
play when a company goes bankrupt. In what is referred to as the seniority
of creditors, the debt holders have first claim on the assets of the firm if the
company becomes insolvent. Preferred shareholders are next in line, while
the common stock shareholders bring up the rear. This isn’t just a matter of
having to wait in line longer if you are a common stock shareholder. If the
bondholders and owners of preferred stock have claims that exceed the value
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of the assets of a bankrupt company, the common stock shareholders won’t
see a dime.
There is a tax advantage for corporations who invest in preferred stock
rather than in bonds for other companies. Corporate investors are taxed for
only 30 percent of the dividends they receive on preferred stock. On the
other hand, 100 percent of the interest payments on bonds paid to corporate
investors are taxed. This tax rule comes in handy when structuring mergers.
Seniority of creditors:
1. Bondholders
2. Preferred stockholders
3. Common stockholders
Stock Terminology
Of course, a company's commitment to its stock doesn't end after the
issuance of shares. Companies communicate with shareholders regarding
the firm's past revenues, expenses and profits and the future of the business.
There are also ways a company can manage their shares once the stock is on
the open market to maximize shareholder value, the company's reputation
and the company's future ability to raise funds. Here are several concepts
and terms you'll need to be familiar with when you study stocks and how
public companies manage their shares.
Dividends
Dividends are paid to many shareholders of common stock (and preferred
stock). However, the directors cannot pay any dividends to the common
stock shareholders until they have paid all outstanding dividends to the
preferred stockholders. The incentive for company directors to issue
dividends is that companies in industries that are particularly dividend
sensitive have better market valuations if they regularly issue dividends.
Issuing regular dividends is a signal to the market that the company is doing
well.
Unlike bonds, however, the company directors decide when to pay the
dividend on preferred stock. In contrast, if a company fails to meet bond
payments as scheduled, the bondholders can force the company into Chapter
11 bankruptcy. (Bankruptcy filing in court comes in two categories: Chapter
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7 and Chapter 11. If a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is approved, the court
puts a stay order on all interest payments  management is given a period of
protection during which it can clean up its financial mess and try to get the
house marching toward profitability. If the management fails to do so within
the given time, there can be a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, when the assets
of the company are liquidated.) This action, in theory, wipes out the value
of the company’s equity.
Stock splits
As a company grows in value, it sometimes splits its stock so that the price
does not become absurdly high. This enables the company to maintain the
liquidity of the stock. If The Coca-Cola Company had never split its stock,
the price of one share bought when the company’s stock was first offered
would be worth millions of dollars. If that were the case, buying and selling
one share would be a very crucial decision. This would adversely affect a
stock’s liquidity (that is, its ability to be freely traded on the market). In
theory, splitting the stock neither creates nor destroys value. However,
splitting the stock is generally received as a positive signal to the market;
therefore, the share price typically rises when a stock split is announced.
Stock buybacks
Often you will hear that a company has announced that it will buy back its
own stock. Such an announcement is usually followed by an increase in the
stock price. Why does a company buy back its stock? And why does its
price increase after?
The reason behind the price increase is fairly complex, and involves three
major reasons. The first has to do with the influence of earnings per share
on market valuation. Many investors believe that if a company buys back
shares, and the number of outstanding shares decreases, the company’s
earnings per share goes up. If the P/E (price to earnings-per-share ratio)
stays stable, investors reason, the price should go up. Thus investors drive
the stock price up in anticipation of increased ear