Monday, June 20, 2011

What is capital structure? Discuss the determinants of capital structure.


What is capital structure? Discuss the determinants of capital structure.

Ans:        Capital structure: It represents the total long-term investment in a business firm. It includes funds raised through ordinary and preference shares, bonds, debentures, term loans from financial institutions, etc. Any earned revenue and capital surpluses are included.

Capital Structure Planning: Decision regarding what type of capital structure a company should have is of critical importance because of its potential impact on profitability and solvency. The small companies often do not plan their capital structure. The capital structure is allowed to develop without any formal planning. These companies may do well in the short-run, however, sooner or later they face considerable difficulties. The unplanned capital structure does not permit an economical use of funds for the company. A company should therefore plan its capital structure in such a way that it derives maximum advantage out of it and is able to adjust more easily to the changing conditions. Instead of following any scientific procedure to find an appropriate proportion of different types of capital which will minimise the cost of capital and maximise the market value, a company may just either follow what other comparable companies do regarding capital structure or may consult some institutional lender and follow its advice.

Theoretically, a company should plan an optimum capital structure in such a way that the market value of its shares is maximum. The value will be maximised when the marginal real cost of each source of funds is the same. In general, the discussion on the issue of optimum capital structure is highly theoretical. The determination of an optimum capital structure in practice is a formidable task, and we have to go beyond the theory. That is why, perhaps, significant variations among industries and among' different companies within the same industry regarding capital structure are found. A number of factors influence the capital structure decision of a company. The judgement of the person or group of persons making the capital structure decision plays a crucial role. Two similar companies can have different capital structures if the decision makers differ in their judgement about the significance of various factors. These factors are highly psychological, complex and qualitative and do not always follow the accepted theory. Capital markets are not perfect and the decision has to be taken with imperfect knowledge and consequent risk. You might have become interested in identifying some of the important factors which influence the planning of the capital structure in practice. However, before we discuss these factors let us examine the features of an appropriate capital structure in the next section.

Determinants of capital structure: capital structure should be designed very carefully. The management of the company should set a target capital structure and the subsequent financing decisions should be made with a view to achieve the target capital structure. Once a company has been formed and it has been in existence for some years, the financial manager then has to deal with the existing capital structure. The company may need funds to finance its activities continuously. Every time the funds have to be procured, the financial manager weighs the pros and cons of various sources of finance and selects most advantageous sources keeping in view the target capital structure: Thus the capital structure decision is a continuous one and has to be taken whenever a firm needs additional finance.

The factors to be considered whenever a capital structure decision is taken are: (i) Financial Leverage or Trading on equity, (ii) Cost of capital, (iii) Cash flow, (iv) Control, (v) Flexibility, (vi) Size of the company, (vii) Marketability, and (viii) Floatation costs. Let it’s briefly explain these factors.

(i)Financial Leverage or Trading on Equity: The use of sources of finance with a fixed cost, such as debt and preference share capital, to finance the assets of the company is known as financial leverage or trading on equity. If the assets financed by debt yield a return greater than the cost of the debt, the earnings per share will increase without an increase in the owners' investment. Similarly, the earnings per share will also increase if preference share capital is used to acquire assets. But the leverage impact is felt more in case of debt because (i) the cost of debt is usually lower than the cost of preference share capital, and (ii) the interest paid on debt is a deductible charge from profits for calculating the taxable income while dividend on preference shares is not. Because of its effect on the earnings per share, financial leverage is one of the important considerations in planning the capital structure of a company. The companies with high level of the Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) can make profitable use of the high degree of leverage to increase return on the shareholders' equity. One common method of examining the impact of leverage is to analyse the relationship between Earnings Per Share (BPS) at various possible levels of EBIT under alternative methods of financing. The EBIT-EPS analysis is one important tool in the hands of the financial manager to get an insight into the firm's capital structure management. He can consider the possible fluctuations in EBIT and examine their impact on EPS under different financing plans.

(ii) Cost of Capital: Measuring the costs of various sources of funds is a complex subject and needs a separate treatment. Needless to say that it is desirable to minimise the cost of capital. Hence, cheaper sources should be preferred, other things remaining the same. The cost of a source of finance is the minimum return expected by its suppliers. The expected return depends on the degree of risk assumed by investors. A high degree of risk is assumed by shareholders than debt-holders. In the case of debt-holders, the rate of interest is fixed and the company is legally bound to pay interest, whether it makes profits or not. For shareholders the rate of dividend is not fixed and the Board of Directors has no legal obligation to pay dividends even if the profits have been made by the company. The loan of debt-holders is returned within a prescribed period, while shareholders can get back their capital only when the company is wound up. This leads one to conclude that debt is a cheaper source of funds than equity. The tax deductibility of interest charges further reduces the cost of debt. The preference share capital is cheaper than equity capital, but is not as cheap as debt is. Thus, in order to minimise the overall cost of capital, a company should employ a large amount of debt.

(iii) Cash Flow: One of the features of a sound capital structure is conservation. Conservation does not mean employing no debt or a small amount of debt. Conservatism is related to the assessment of the liability for fixed charges, created by the use of debt or preference capital in the capital structure in the context of the firm's ability to generate cash to meet these fixed charges. The fixed charges of a company include payment of interest, preference dividend and principal. The amount of fixed charges will be high if the company employs a large amount of debt or preference capital. Whenever a company thinks of raising additional debt, it should analyse its expected future cash flows to meet the fixed charges. It is obligatory to pay interest and return the principal amount of debt. If a company is not able to generate enough cash to meet its fixed obligations, it may have to face financial insolvency. The companies which expect large and stable cash inflows can employ a large amount of debt in their capital structure. It is somewhat risky to employ sources of capital with fixed charges for companies whose cash inflows are unstable or unpredictable.

(iv) Control: In designing the capital structure, sometimes the existing management is governed by its desire to continue control over the company. The existing management team may not only what to be elected to the Board of Directors but may also desire to manage the company without any outside interference. The ordinary shareholders have the legal right to elect the directors of the company. If the company issues new shares, there is a risk of loss of control. This is not a very important consideration in case of a widely held company. The shares of such a company are widely scattered. Most of the shareholders are not interested in taking active part in the company's management. They do not have the time and urge to attend the meetings. They are simply interested in dividends and appreciation in the price of shares. The risk of loss of control can almost be avoided by distributing shares widely and in small lots. Maintaining control however could be a significant question in the case of a closely held company. A shareholder or a group of shareholders could purchase all or most of the new shares and thus control the company. Fear of having to share control and thus being interfered by others often delays the decision of the closely held companies to go public. To avoid the risk of loss of control the companies may issue preference shares or raise debt capital.

(v) Flexibility: Flexibility means the firm's ability to adapt its capital structure to the needs of the changing conditions. The capital structure of a firm is flexible if it has no difficulty in changing its capitalisation or sources of funds. Whenever needed the company should be able to raise funds without undue delay and cost to finance the profitable investments. The company should also be in a position to redeem its preference capital or debt whenever warranted by future conditions. The financial plan of the company should be flexible enough to change the composition of the capital structure. It should keep itself in a position to substitute one form of financing for another to economise on the use of funds.

(vi) Size of the Company: The size of a company greatly influences the availability of funds from different sources. A small company may often find it difficult to raise long-term loans. If somehow it manages to obtain a long-term loan, it is available at a high rate of interest and on inconvenient terms. The highly restrictive covenants in loans agreements of small companies make their capital structure quite inflexible. The management thus cannot run business freely. Small companies, therefore, have to depend on owned capital and retained earnings for their long-term funds. A large company has a greater degree of flexibility in designing its capital structure. It can obtain loans at easy terms and can also issue ordinary shares, preference shares and debentures to the public. A company should make the best use of its size in planning the capital structure.

(vii) Marketability: Marketability here means the ability of the company to sell or market particular type of security in a particular period of time which in turn depends upon -the readiness of the investors to buy that security. Marketability may not influence the initial capital structure very much but it is an important consideration in deciding the appropriate timing of security issues. At one time, the market favours debenture issues and at another time, it may readily accept ordinary share issues. Due to the changing market sentiments, the company has to decide whether to raise funds through common shares or debt. If the share market is depressed, the company should not issue ordinary shares but issue debt and wait to issue ordinary shares till the share market revives. During boom period in the share market, it may not be possible for the company to issue debentures successfully. Therefore, it should keep its debt capacity unutilised and issue ordinary4shares to raise finances.

(viii) Floatation Costs: Floatation costs are incurred when the funds are raised. Generally, the cost of floating a debt is less than the cost of floating an equity issue. This may encourage a company to use debt rather than issue ordinary shares. If the owner's capital is increased by retaining the earnings, no floatation costs are incurred. Floatation cost generally is not a very important factor influencing the capital structure of a company except in the case of small companies.

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updated till june 2011