Financial Leverage and Capital Structure Policy

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CHAPTER 16
FINANCIAL LEVERAGE AND CAPITAL STRUCTURE POLICY

Answers to Concepts Review and Critical Thinking Questions

1.Business risk is the equity risk arising from the nature of the firm’s operating activity, and is directly related to the systematic risk of the firm’s assets. Financial risk is the equity risk that is due entirely to the firm’s chosen capital structure. As financial leverage, or the use of debt financing, increases, so does financial risk and, hence, the overall risk of the equity. Thus, Firm B could have a higher cost of equity if it uses greater leverage.

2.No, it doesn’t follow. While it is true that the equity and debt costs are rising, the key thing to remember is that the cost of debt is still less than the cost of equity. Since we are using more and more debt, the WACC does not necessarily rise.

3.Because many relevant factors such as bankruptcy costs, tax asymmetries, and agency costs cannot easily be identified or quantified, it’s practically impossible to determine the precise debt-equity ratio that maximizes the value of the firm. However, if the firm’s cost of new debt suddenly becomes much more expensive, it’s probably true that the firm is too highly leveraged.

4.The more capital intensive industries, such as airlines, cable television, and electric utilities, tend to use greater financial leverage. Also, industries with less predictable future earnings, such as computers or drugs, tend to use less financial leverage. Such industries also have a higher concentration of growth and startup firms. Overall, the general tendency is for firms with identifiable, tangible assets and relatively more predictable future earnings to use more debt financing. These are typically the firms with the greatest need for external financing and the greatest likelihood of benefiting from the interest tax shelter.

5.It’s called leverage (or “gearing” in the UK) because it magnifies gains or losses.

6.Homemade leverage refers to the use of borrowing on the personal level as opposed to the corporate level.

7.One answer is that the right to file for bankruptcy is a valuable asset, and the financial manager acts in shareholders’ best interest by managing this asset in ways that maximize its value. To the extent that a bankruptcy filing prevents “a race to the courthouse steps,” it would seem to be a reasonable use of the process.

8.As in the previous question, it could be argued that using bankruptcy laws as a sword may simply be the best use of the asset. Creditors are aware at the time a loan is made of the possibility of bankruptcy, and the interest charged incorporates it.

9.One side is that Continental was going to go bankrupt because its costs made it uncompetitive. The bankruptcy filing enabled Continental to restructure and keep flying. The other side is that Continental abused the bankruptcy code. Rather than renegotiate labor agreements, Continental simply abrogated them to the detriment of its employees. In this, and the last several, questions, an important thing to keep in mind is that the bankruptcy code is a creation of law, not economics. A strong argument can always be made that making the best use of the bankruptcy code is no different from, for example, minimizing taxes by making best use of the tax code. Indeed, a strong case can be made that it is the financial manager’s duty to do so. As the case of Continental illustrates, the code can be changed if socially undesirable outcomes are a problem.

10.The basic goal is to minimize the value of non-marketed claims.

Solutions to Questions and Problems

NOTE: All end of chapter problems were solved using a spreadsheet. Many problems require multiple steps. Due to space and readability constraints, when these intermediate steps are included in this solutions manual, rounding may appear to have occurred. However, the final answer for each problem is found without rounding during any...
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