Business and Financial Risk

M&M Proposition II shows that the firm's cost of equity can be broken down into two components. The first component, RA, is the required return on the firm's assets overall, and it depends on the nature of the firm's operating activities. The risk inherent in a firm's operations is called the business risk of the firm's equity. Referring back to Chapter 13, note that this business risk depends on the systematic risk of the firm's assets. The greater a firm's business risk, the greater RA will be, and, all other things being the same, the greater will be the firm's cost of equity.

The second component in the cost of equity, (RA - RD) X (D/E), is determined by the firm's financial structure. For an all-equity firm, this component is zero. As the firm begins to rely on debt financing, the required return on equity rises. This occurs because the debt financing increases the risks borne by the stockholders. This extra risk that arises from the use of debt financing is called the financial risk of the firm's equity.

The total systematic risk of the firm's equity thus has two parts: business risk and financial risk. The first part (the business risk) depends on the firm's assets and operations and is not affected by capital structure. Given the firm's business risk (and its cost of debt), the second part (the financial risk) is completely determined by financial policy. As we have illustrated, the firm's cost of equity rises when the firm increases its use of financial leverage because the financial risk of the equity increases while the business risk remains the same.

Ross et al.: Fundamentals of Corporate Finance, Sixth Edition, Alternate Edition

VI. Cost of Capital and Long-Term Financial Policy

17. Financial Leverage and Capital Structure Policy

© The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2002

CHAPTER 17 Financial Leverage and Capital Structure Policy

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