**Weighted Average Cost of Capital** – WACC is the weighted average of cost of a company’s debt and the cost of its equity. WACC analysis assumes that capital markets (both debt and equity) in any given industry require returns commensurate with perceived riskiness of their investments. But does WACC help the investors decide whether to invest into a company or not?

In this article, we discuss WACC in detail.

- What is Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)?
- WACC Formula
- Interpretation of WACC
- WACC Calculation – Very Basic Numerical Example
- Calculate WACC – Starbucks Example
- Limitations of Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)
- Sensitivity Analysis of WACC
- In the final analysis

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## What is Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)?

To understand Weighted Average Cost of Capital, let’s take a simple example.

Suppose, you want to start a small business! You go to the bank and ask that you need a loan to start off. Bank looks at your business plan and tells you that it will lend you the loan, but there is one thing that you need to do. Bank says that you need to pay 10% interest over and above the principal amount that you are borrowing. You agree and the bank lends you the loan.

Now to avail the loan, you agreed to pay a fee (interest expense). This “fee” is the “cost of capital” in simple terms.

As business needs a lot of money to invest into the expansion of its products and processes, they need to source money. They source money from their shareholders in the form of Initial Public Offerings (IPO) and they also take loan from banks or institutions. For having this large sum of money, companies need to pay the cost. We call this as the cost of capital. If a firm has more than one source where they take funds from, we need to take a weighted average of the cost of capital.

**How relevant is WACC?**

It’s an internal calculation of firm’s cost of capital. And when investors evaluate investing into a business or a firm, they calculate its WACC. For example, investor A wants to invest in Company X. Now A sees that the WACC of Company X is 10% and the return on capital at the end of the period is 9%, The return on capital of 9% is lower than the WACC of 10%, A decides against investing in this company X as the value he will get after investing into the company is less than the weighted average cost of capital.

## WACC Formula

Many investor don’t calculate WACC because it’s a little complex than the other financial ratios. But if you are one of those, who would like to know how WACC works, here’s the formula for you

**WACC = (E/V * Ke) + (D/V) * Kd * (1 – Tax rate)**

- E = Market Value of Equity
- V = Total market value of equity & debt
- Ke = Cost of Equity
- D = Market Value of Debt
- Kd = Cost of Debt
- Tax Rate = Corporate Tax Rate

The equation may look complex; but as we learn each term, it will begin to make sense. Let’s begin.

#### Market Value of Equity

Let’s start with the E, the market value of equity. How should we calculate it? Here’s how –

- Let’s say Company A has outstanding shares of 10,000 and the market price of each of the share at this moment is US $10 per share. So, the market value of equity would be = (outstanding shares of the Company A * market price of each share at this moment) = (10,000 * US $10) = US $100,000.
- Market value of equity can also be termed as market capitalization. By using market value of equity or market capitalization, investors can know where to invest their money and where they shouldn’t.

#### Market Value of Debt

Now, let’s understand the meaning of market of value of debt, D. How to calculate it?

- It’s difficult to calculate the market value of debt because very few firms have their debt in the form of outstanding bonds in the market.
- If the bonds are listed, we can directly take the listed price as the Market value of Debt.
- Now, let’s go back to WACC and look at V, the total market value of equity and debt. It is self-explanatory. We just need to add the market value of equity and estimated market value of debt and that’s it.

#### Cost of Equity

- Cost of Equity (Ke) is calculated using the CAPM Model. Here’s the formula for your reference.
**Cost of Equity = Risk Free Rate of Return + Beta * (Market Rate of Return – Risk free Rate of Return)**- Here, Beta = Measure of risk calculated as a regression of company’s stock price.
- CAPM model was discussed extensively in another article – CAPM Beta. Please do have a look at it if you need more information.

#### Cost of Debt

- We can compute the cost of debt using the following formula –
**Cost of Debt = (Risk Free Rate + Credit Spread) * (1 – Tax Rate)** - As cost of debt (Kd) is affected by the rate of tax, we consider After Tax Cost of Debt.
- Here, credit spread depends on the credit rating. Better credit rating will decrease the credit spread and vice versa.
- Alternatively, you can also take a simplified approach of calculating cost of Debt. You can find take the cost of Debt as Interest Expense / Total Debt
- Tax Rate, is the Corporate Tax Rate which is dependent on the Government. Also, note that if preferred stock is given, we also need to take into account the cost of preferred stock.
- If preferred stock is included, here would be the revised formula –
**WACC =****E/V * Ke + D/V * Kd * (1 – Tax Rate) + P/V * Kp.**Here, V = E + D + P and Kp = Cost of Preferred Stocks

## Interpretation of WACC

The interpretation really depends on the return of the company at the end of the period. If the return of the company is far more than the cost of capital (WACC), then the company is doing pretty well. But if there is slight profit or no profit, then the investors need to think twice before investing into the company.

Here is another thing you need to consider as an investor. If you want to calculate WACC, there are two ways you can use. **First is the book value and the second is the market value approach.**

As you can see that if you consider the calculation using market value, it’s far more complex than any other ratio calculation; you can skip and decide to find WACC on the book value given by the company in their Income statement and in the Balance Sheet. But book value calculation is not as accurate as the market value calculation. And in most of the cases, market value is considered for computing WACC for the company.

## WACC Calculation – Very Basic Numerical Example

As there are so many complexities in computing WACC, we will take one example each for calculating all the portions of WACC and then we will take one final example to ascertain WACC in a simple manner.

Let’s get started.

#### Example # 1 – Calculating Market Value of Equity / Market Capitalization

Here are the details of Company A and Company B –

In US $ |
Company A |
Company B |

Outstanding Shares |
30000 | 50000 |

Market Price of Shares |
100 | 90 |

In this case, we have been given both the numbers of outstanding shares and the market price of shares. Let’s calculate the market capitalization of the Company A and Company B.

In US $ |
Company A |
Company B |

Outstanding Shares (A) |
30000 | 50000 |

Market Price of Shares (B) |
100 | 90 |

Market Capitalization (A*B) |
3,000,000 | 4,500,000 |

Now we have the market value of equity or market capitalization of Company A and Company B.

#### Example # 2 – Finding Market Value of Debt)

Let’s say we have a company for which we know the total debt. Total Debt (T) = US $100 million. In order to find the market value of Debt, we need to check if this debt is listed.

If yes, then we can directly pick the latest traded price. If the trading value was $84.83 for a face value of $100, then the market value of debt will be $84.83 million.

#### Example # 3 Calculate Cost of Equity

- Risk Free Rate = 4%
- Risk Premium = 6%
- Beta of the stock is 1.5

Cost of Equity = Rf + (Rm-Rf) x Beta

Cost of Equity = 4% + 6% x 1.5 = 13%

#### Example # 4 – Calculate the Cost of Debt

Let’s say we have been given the following information –

- Risk free rate = 4%.
- Credit Spread = 2%.
- Tax Rate = 35%.

Let’s calculate the cost of debt.

Cost of Debt = (Risk Free Rate + Credit Spread) * (1 – Tax Rate)

Or, Kd = (0.04 + 0.02) * (1 – 0.35) = 0.039 = 3.9%.

#### Example # 5 – Calculate WACC

So after computing everything, let’s take another example to illustrate WACC.

In US $ |
Company A |
Company B |

Market Value of Equity (E) |
300000 | 500000 |

Market Value of Debt (D) |
200000 | 100000 |

Cost of Equity (Re) |
4% | 5% |

Cost of Debt (Rd) |
6% | 7% |

Tax Rate (Tax) |
35% | 35% |

We need to compute WACC for both of these companies.

Let’s look at the formula first –

**WACC = E/V * Ke + D/V * Kd * (1 – Tax)**

Now, we will put the information for Company A,

WACC of Company A = 3/5 * 0.04 + 2/5 * 0.06 * 0.65 = 0.0396 = 3.96%.

WACC of Company B = 5/6 * 0.05 + 1/6 * 0.07 * 0.65 = 0.049 = 4.9%.

Now we can say that Company A has a lesser cost of capital (WACC) than Company B. Depending on the return both of these companies make at the end of the period, we would be able to understand whether as investors we should invest into these companies or not.

## Calculate WACC – Starbucks Example

Assuming that you are comfortable with the basic WACC examples, let us take a practical example of Starbucks. Please note that Starbucks have no preferred shares and hence, WACC formula to be used is as follows –

**WACC = ****E/V * Ke + D/V * Kd * (1 – Tax Rate) **

#### Step 1 – Find the Market Value of Equity

Market Value of Equity = Number of shares outstanding x current price.

Market value of equtiy is also the market capitalization. Let us look at the total number of shares of Starbucks –

source: Starbucks SEC Filings

- As we can see from above, the total number of outstanding shares are 1455.4 million
- Current Price of Starbucks (as of close of December 13, 2016) = 59.31
- Market Value of Equity = 1455.4 x 59.31 = $86,319.8 million

#### Step 2 – Find the Market Value of Debt

Let us look at the balance sheet of Starbucks below. As of FY2016, book value of Debt is current

As of FY2016, book value of Debt is the current portion of long-term debt ($400) + Long Term Debt ($3202.2) = **$3602.2 million.**

source: Starbucks SEC Filings

However, when we further read about Starbucks debt, we are additionally provided with the following information –

source: Starbucks SEC Filings

As we note from above, Starbucks provide the fair value of the Debt ($3814 million) as well as book value of debt. In this case it is prudent to take fair value of debt as a proxy to the market value of debt.

#### Step 3 – Find the Cost of Equity

As we saw earlier, we use the CAPM model to find the cost of equity.

Ke = Rf + (Rm – Rf) x Beta

##### Risk-Free Rate

Here, I have considered 10 year Treasury Rate as the Risk-free rate. Please note that some analyst also take a 5 year treasury rate as the risk-free rate. Please check with your research analyst before taking a call on this.

source – bankrate.com

##### Equity Risk Premium (Rm – Rf)

Each country has a different Equity Risk Premium. Equity Risk Premium primarily denotes the premium expected by the Equity Investor.

For the United States, Equity Risk Premium is ** 6.25%.**

source – stern.nyu.edu

##### Beta

Let us now look at Starbucks Beta Trends over the past few years. Beta of Starbucks has decreased over the past five years. This means that Starbucks stocks are less volatile as compared to the stock market.

We note that Beta of Starbucks is at **0.805x**

With this, we have all the necessary information to calculate the cost of equity.

Cost of Equity = Ke = Rf + (Rm – Rf) x Beta

Ke = 2.47% + 6.25% x 0.805

Cost of Equity = 7.50%

#### Step 4 – Find the Cost of Debt

Let us revisit the table that we used for the fair value of Debt. We are additionally provided with its stated interest rate.

Using the interest rate and fair value, we can find the weighted average interest rate of the total fair value of Debt ($3,814 million)

**Effective Interest Rate = $103.631/$3,814 = 2.72%**

#### Step 5 – Find the Tax Rate

We can easily find the effective tax rate from the Income Statement of Starbucks.

Please see below the snapshot of its income statement.

For FY2016, **Effective tax rate = $1,379.7 / $4,198.6 = 32.9%**

#### Step 6 – Calculate WACC of Starbucks

We have collected all the information that is needed to calculate WACC.

- Market Value of Equity = $86,319.8 million
- Market Value of Debt (Fair Value of Debt) = $3814 million
- Cost of Equity = 7.50%
- Cost of Debt = 2.72%
- Tax rate = 32.9%

**WACC = ****E/V * Ke + D/V * Kd * (1 – Tax Rate)**

**WACC = (86,319.8/90133.8) x 7.50% + (3814/90133.8) x 2.72% x (1-0.329)**

**WACC = 7.26%*** *

## Limitations of Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

- It assumes that there would be no change in the capital structure which isn’t possible for all over the years and if there is any need to source more funds.
- It also assumes that there would be no change in the risk profile. As a result of faulty assumption, there is a chance of accepting bad projects and rejecting good projects.

## Sensitivity Analysis of WACC

WACC is widely used in Discounted Cash Flows. As an analyst, we do try to perform sensitivity analysis in Excel to understand the fair value impact along with changes in WACC and growth rate.

Below is the Sensitivity Analysis of Alibaba IPO Valuation with two variables WACC and growth rate.

Some of the observations that can be made about WACC –

- Fair valuation of Stock is inversely proportional to the Weighted average cost of capital
- As WACC increases, the fair valuation dramatically decreases.
- At the growth rate of 1% and WACC of 7%, Alibaba Fair valuation was at $214 billion. However, when we change the WACC to 11%, Alibaba fair valuation drops by almost 45% to $123 billion
- This implies that fair valuation is extremely sensitive to WACC and one should take extra precautions to correctly calculate WACC.

## In the final analysis

WACC is very useful if we can deal with the above limitations. It is exhaustively used to find the DCF valuation of the company. However, WACC is a bit complex and need a financial understanding to compute WACC accurately. Only depending on WACC to decide whether to invest into a company or not is a faulty idea. The investors should also check out other valuation ratios to take the final decision.