Corporate Finance

Corporate finance is the area of finance dealing with the sources of funding and the capital structure of corporations, the actions that managers take to increase the value of the firm to the shareholders, and the tools and analysis used to allocate financial resources. The primary goal of corporate finance is to maximize or increase shareholder value. Although it is in principle different from managerial finance which studies the financial management of all firms, rather than corporations alone, the main concepts in the study of corporate finance are applicable to the financial problems of all kinds of firms. Investment analysis is concerned with the setting of criteria about which value-adding projects should receive investment funding, and whether to finance that investment with equity or debt capital. Working capital management is the management of the company’s monetary funds that deal with the short-term operating balance of current assets and current liabilities; the focus here is on managing cash, inventories, and short-term borrowing and lending.

The terms corporate finance and corporate financier are also associated with investment banking. The typical role of aninvestment bank is to evaluate the company’s financial needs and raise the appropriate type of capital that best fits those needs. Thus, the terms “corporate finance” and “corporate financier” may be associated with transactions in which capital is raised in order to create, develop, grow or acquire businesses. Recent legal and regulatory developments in the U.S. will likely alter the makeup of the group of arrangers and financiers willing to arrange and provide financing for certain highly leveraged transactions. Financial management overlaps with the financial function of the Accounting profession. However, financial accounting is the reporting of historical financial information, while financial management is concerned with the allocation of capital resources to increase a firm’s value to the shareholders.

The primary goal of financial management is to maximize or to continually increase shareholder value. Maximizing shareholder value requires managers to be able to balance capital funding between investments in projects that increase the firm’s long term profitability and sustainability, along with paying excess cash in the form of dividends to shareholders. Managers of growth companies (i.e. firms that earn high rates of return on invested capital) will use most of the firm’s capital resources and surplus cash on investments and projects so the company can continue to expand its business operations into the future. When companies reach maturity levels within their industry, managers of these companies will use surplus cash to payout dividends to shareholders. Managers must do an analysis to determine the appropriate allocation of the firm’s capital resources and cash surplus between projects and payouts of dividends to shareholders, as well as paying back creditor related debt.

Choosing between investment projects will be based upon several inter-related criteria.

(1) Corporate management seeks to maximize the value of the firm by investing in projects which yield a positive net present value when valued using an appropriate discount rate in consideration of risk.

(2) These projects must also be financed appropriately.

(3) If no growth is possible by the company and excess cash surplus is not needed to the firm, then financial theory suggests that management should return some or all of the excess cash to shareholders.

Capital budgeting is also concerned with the setting of criteria about which projects should receive investment funding to increase the value of the firm, and whether to finance that investment with equity or debt capital. Investments should be made on the basis of value-added to the future of the corporation. Projects that increase a firm’s value may include a wide variety of different types of investments, including but not limited to, expansion policies, or mergers and acquisitions. When no growth or expansion is possible by a corporation and excess cash surplus exists and is not needed, then management is expected to pay out some or all of those surplus earnings in the form of cash dividends or to repurchase the company’s stock through a share buyback program.