Monday, July 6, 2015

Corporate Funding Process

The basic goals of corporate finance are (A) fund the firm’s strategic plan and (B) provide enough liquidity to satisfy the firm’s obligations as they come due. This involves a process incorporating strategy, operations, capital structure, and capital markets timing. This is the stuff of the practice v theory of finance-cash flow budgeting not models usually not covered in detail in textbooks.

The following diagram highlights the process:

The steps in the process are as follows:

1)     Investment Opportunities/Requirements: matching product market opportunities with the strategic plan gives rises to the investment budget. I find it useful to use Porter’s Five Forces model to gauge investment opportunities. Your strategy determines how fast you plan to grow and investment needs-CAPEX, working capital investment (WCI) and operating expenses like headcount and R&D.

2)     Financing Need: based on cash flow available for debt service (CFADS) = Net Income ( after interest and taxes) +DA-(CAPEX+WCI) +/- (AS-AA + CND) with DA being depreciation and amortization; AS-AA representing asset sales or acquisitions; CND being changes in net debt. Mature firms with excess CFADS focus on shareholder distributions (sometimes prefunded debt financed share repurchases i.e. recapitalizations) while growth firms with negative CFADS need to raise cash.

3)     Funding Sources: selection of instruments depends upon market conditions and financing preferences.
a)     Capital market conditions: influenced by macro factors such as rates and economic growth. Just like ordering lobster -prices and availability are subject to market conditions. We saw an extreme example of this during the market crisis years of 2009-2012 when markets shut.  Some key factors include market depth, cost, terms, access, and disclosure. You can only take what the market gives.
b)     Financial strategy: the objective is to match sometimes conflicting financial preferences with market conditions in a cost effective manner to assure certainty of funding. Key factors include
Control-closely held firm will be reluctant to fund with equity if it upsets control positions
Dilution-equity financing impacts dilution and can be an impediment
Flexibility-growing firms need flexibility hence avoid debt with covenants and prepayment restrictions
Ratings-rating targets influence the debt versus equity choice and debt capacity
Cost-both absolute and relative cost among instruments
Public or Private-firms seeking confidentiality balance depth of public markets with disclosure requirements
Dividend Policy-high dividend policy constrains debt capacity
Investor Base-banks, private equity, hedge funds, etc.
Liquidity Needs-financial slack is valuable especially for growth firms as s#$% happens
Speed-how soon you need the funds determines which sources you seek
Currency Preferences-USD or others
Nature of Funding Need-one-off or on-going; if on-going focus on relationship type investors
Hedging Policy-for financial exposures like rates and currencies
Accounting Policy (on/off balance sheet)
Maturity Structure

4)     Instruments: the funding instruments choice usually becomes apparent once you go thru the above process. The key is to customize the instruments to capitalize on investor segments to achieve the best terms. Most firms utilize a Pecking Order approach to minimize information asymmetry costs reflecting the following order:
Hybrids-convertibles and warrants
Equity-preferred and common

5)     Repeat Step 2 once the cash flow implications of the choices are determined. Reflect plan in cash flow budgets and use scenario analysis to ensure it works with a sufficient margin for error.
The funding decision is like playing with a Rubik's Cube trying to match up sometimes conflicting goals under time constraints in an uncertain dynamic capital market environment. Compromises are needed to ensure adequate funding under all states of nature-not just the current state. As a general rule- raise funds when you can and not when you must as many capital challenged firms learned the hard way during the great recession.


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