Corporate Finance vs Project Finance

Difference Between Corporate Finance and Project Finance

Corporate financing refers to the financial management of an overall company like deciding the financial model of a company then raising the finance and optimal utilization of funds and enhancing the working of the company whereas project financing refers to taking financial decision for a project like sources of funds, contract with vendors and negotiation.

Corporate finance and project finance are subjects you should read for at least 100 hours or more if you want to understand the intricacies. But, in this article, we will discuss the overview with a few examples so that before you start studying and go into detail, you have some idea about what you’re trying to go through.

That doesn’t mean we will cover just the chicken-feed. Nope. We will give enough material for you to ponder so that you get more interested in these subjects. Sounds good? Let’s get started.


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Why Study Corporate Finance & Project Finance?

The basic reason for which you should study these two subjects is that you need to understand how these two are different from each other. Corporate finance is way different than project finance. Many students of finance who will join the organization after their graduation or post-graduation may face the difficulty to analyze these two in greater detail. For example, if you complete your MBA in Finance and join an organization as Sr. Financial Executive and the organization is mainly a matrix organization that goes their way up through large projects, how would you handle it? You need to know project financeProject FinanceProject Finance is long-term debt finance offered for large infrastructure projects depending upon their projected cash flows. Moreover, an investor has to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to acquire the same. read more in depth.

On the other hand, if you work for an organization that maintains a flat structure and thrives on maintaining the proper debt-equity ratio, you need to know how you would be able to finance your operation and make your presence count. Corporate finance will help you with that.

Moreover, both of these subjects will teach you to understand the process of sourcing the money from the financial institutionsFinancial InstitutionsFinancial institutions refer to those organizations which provide business services and products related to financial or monetary transactions to their clients. Some of these are banks, NBFCs, investment companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies and trust corporations. read more or banks, the details of the documents, the parties involved in the process and more. We will discuss it further in the next sections. Hang tight. The muddle will get settled as you read on. And these terms will make perfect sense.

What is Corporate Finance?

In an organization where corporate finance is practiced, the objective of practicing it is to maximize the wealth of the shareholdersMaximize The Wealth Of The ShareholdersWealth maximization means the maximization of the shareholder’s wealth as a result of an increase in share price thereby increasing the market capitalization of the company. The share price increase is a direct function of how competitive the company is, its positioning, growth strategy, and how it generates more. Corporate finance mainly deals with the sources of funds and how the optimum capital structure will be achieved.

Let’s take an example to understand that.

ABC Ltd. loans 50% of funds from creditors with an assurance to give back 15% within 5 years. And the rest of the amount they source from their equity shareholders. Let’s say they pay a dividend and the dividend cost is 10% on the profit. At the end of the day, these 15% and 10% are their cost of capital which they want to reduce by any means. So they need to find out a proper debt-equity ratio (now it is 50:50) which will reduce their cost of capital.

At the same time, if they can reduce their total cost of capital (debt and equity included), they will be able to keep better profits or they can think of re-investing the profit into the business. Corporate finance will help ABC Ltd. to figure out these things and helps them find an optimum solution.

Now, you can understand why corporate finance is so very important. The above description is just an example and there are many avenues of corporate finance which we will talk about in later sections.

What is Project Finance?

It is useful in cases where the finance is required in case of a large industrial or renewable energy project. Project finance is used to finance the project in a sequential process. The whole amount is not invested upfront.

In project finance, financial institutions can’t see your balance sheet upfront in case of a project. They finance the project on the basis of the projected cash flow. If the cash flow seems satisfactory and beneficial to the financial institutions they invest in the project.

For example, if the X project is needed to be started, they contact a bank or a financial institution and ask for 10% of the money required for the project by showing the projected cash flow for the future. Now, it’s the complete discretion of the bank or financial institution to decide whether to invest in that project or not.

Usually, there is a number of equity investors who invest in the project as sponsors and typically these loans are non-recourse loansNon-recourse LoansA non-recourse loan is one in which the borrower must attach some form of collateral security to the loan contract, such as property, equipment, or bank fixed deposits, in order for the loan to be approved. In the event of default, the lender has the right to seize the collateral in order to clear the more (secured loan) that are given against project property. The loans are paid completely from the project cash flow and if the parties default to pay back the loan, then the project properties are being seized. To do the whole process properly, a special purpose entityA Special Purpose EntityA special-purpose entity is created to fulfill particular objectives, including devising measures to appropriate financial and legal risk profiles. It has a predefined purpose and a limited scope in terms of activity and is sometimes used as a short term solution to a current or potential more is created for the entire project. This is how project finance works.

Corporate Finance vs Project Finance Infographics


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Key Concepts

#1 – Corporate Finance

There are many concepts in corporate finance that will help you understand the whole process. We will look at the most common and mostly used terms so that you can have an idea about them.

#2 – Project Finance

There are many things to consider in project finance. In this section, we will learn about a few important concepts and the parties involved in the process.

Project Development: Project development is an important concept in project finance. As financing is done on the sequential progress of the project, understanding project development is important. There are three stages in project development –

  • Pre-bid stage
  • Contract negotiation stage
  • Money-raising stage

Parties Involved: There are many parties involved in project finance. Let’s look at all these parties in brief –

Financial Model: The sponsor who will invest in the project needs to know how the project will do. Thus they take the help of an expert to do the financial modelingFinancial ModelingFinancial modeling refers to the use of excel-based models to reflect a company's projected financial performance. Such models represent the financial situation by taking into account risks and future assumptions, which are critical for making significant decisions in the future, such as raising capital or valuing a business, and interpreting their more to understand how the project may go in the future. He will also get an idea of how much projected cash-flow he can expect. On the basis of that, he will decide to invest. Actually, the financial model is a spreadsheet that is being used for calculating the financial model.

Document required: There are a few documents that are of utter importance. Let’s have a look at them –

  • Shareholder/sponsor documents
  • Finance documents
  • Project documents
  • Other project documents

There are many more things that are important in project finance. The above are the most important things to consider.

Comparative Table

Points of differenceCorporate FinanceProject Finance
StageIn the early stage of the company, corporate finance is being introduced. When an organization is just starting up, corporate finance is what suits the company to finance through.In the case of companies that run projects usually seek the help of project financier when they are 3 years or little less in the operation. At this moment they need expansion.
Proof of conceptIn the case of corporate finance, in the first stage of the company, financier looks for “commercial proof of concept” and that is revenue.In the case of project finance, they look for the projected cash flow as usual.
RiskAs the company is starting out, the risk of the investor is much higher than normal.Usually, the risk is much lower.
ReturnsAs the risk is higher, the returns (ROI) are usually higher. But some investors accept lower returns thinking about the impact on society and environments (if any).As the risk is lower and the payment is given from the cash flow (principal plus interest), the returns are usually lesser.
CollateralThe financier usually gives the loan on the assets of the company.The financier looks at the project assets as collateral.
Decisional basisThe investors look at the balance sheet of the companyBalance Sheet Of The CompanyA balance sheet is one of the financial statements of a company that presents the shareholders' equity, liabilities, and assets of the company at a specific point in time. It is based on the accounting equation that states that the sum of the total liabilities and the owner's capital equals the total assets of the more before they invest.The financiers look at the projected cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more by following the route of financial modeling.
How equity is definedEquity is the ownership of the company with several benefits. First of all, there would be voting rights and then management may classify equity ownership (common vs. preferred).Equity comprises various direct investments including mezzanine debt, grant, cash or other forms of funds.

Career Opportunities 

Corporate Finance

There are many opportunities in corporate finance. The key opportunities will lie in two main areas – accounting and finance and that would be your key functions as well. You will be able to work as an investment banker, financial analyst among other finance roles.

Project Finance

In project finance as well, there are many opportunities. But you need to understand the process well before you go on chasing your dream. You can be on either side. Either you can work as a financier for a bank or you can arrange the finance for the project.


From the above discussion, it’s clear that corporate finance and project finance are completely different concepts and they are being utilized by the companies at different points of time in their growth chart.

The thing that will give you a huge boost is to understand both of them well. If you want to be a top-rated financial professional, it would be prudent for you to get some experience in each of them. Then if you want you can start your own finance consulting firms where you would be helping both parties (lenders and borrowers) to get the desired results. Both of these are exciting in terms of career opportunities. All you need to do is to have the practical experience to get a hang of them.

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