Equity (finance)

Last updated

In finance, equity is ownership of assets that may have debts or other liabilities attached to them. Equity is measured for accounting purposes by subtracting liabilities from the value of an asset. For example, if someone owns a car worth $15,000 and owes $5,000 on the loan used to buy the car, then the difference of $10,000 is equity. Equity can apply to a single asset, such as a car or house, or to an entire business entity. Selling equity in a business is an essential method for acquiring cash needed to start up and expand operations.

Contents

When liabilities attached to an asset exceed its value, the difference is called a deficit and the asset is informally said to be "underwater" or "upside-down". In government finance or other non-profit settings, equity is known as "net position" or "net assets".

Origins

The term "equity" describes this type of ownership in English because it was regulated through the system of equity law that developed in England during the Late Middle Ages to meet the growing demands of commercial activity. While the older common law courts dealt with questions of property title, equity courts dealt with contractual interests in property. The same asset could have an owner in equity, who held the contractual interest, and a separate owner at law, who held the title indefinitely or until the contract was fulfilled. Contract disputes were examined with consideration of whether the terms and administration of the contract were fair — that is, equitable. [1]

Single assets

Any asset that is purchased through a secured loan is said to have equity. As long as the loan remains unpaid, ownership of the asset is incomplete. If the buyer defaults, the lender has the right to repossess the asset and sell it. The equity balance approximately measures the amount of the asset that the buyer truly owns. It is different from the total amount paid on the loan, which includes interest expense and does not consider any change in the asset's value. When an asset has a deficit instead of equity, the terms of the loan determine whether the lender can recover it from the borrower after selling the asset. Houses are normally financed with non-recourse loans, in which the lender assumes a risk that the owner will default with a deficit, while other assets are financed with full-recourse loans that make the borrower responsible for any deficit.

The equity of an asset can be used to secure additional liabilities. Common examples include home equity loans and home equity lines of credit. These increase the total liabilities attached to the asset and decrease the owner's equity.

Business entities

A business entity has a more complicated debt structure than a single asset. While some liabilities may be secured by specific assets of the business, others may be guaranteed by the assets of the entire business. If the business becomes bankrupt, it can be required to raise money by selling assets. Yet the equity of the business, like the equity of an asset, approximately measures the amount of the assets that belongs to the owners of the business.

Accounting

Financial accounting defines the equity of a business as the net balance of its assets reduced by its liabilities. The fundamental accounting equation requires that the total of liabilities and equity is equal to the total of all assets at the close of each accounting period. To satisfy this requirement, all events that affect total assets and total liabilities unequally must eventually be reported as changes in equity. Businesses summarize their equity in a financial statement known as the balance sheet (or statement of net position) which shows the total assets, the specific equity balances, and the total liabilities and equity (or deficit).

Various types of equity can appear on a balance sheet, depending on the form and purpose of the business entity. Preferred stock, share capital (or capital stock) and capital surplus (or additional paid-in capital) reflect original contributions to the business from its investors or organizers. Treasury stock appears as a contra-equity balance (an offset to equity) that reflects the amount that the business has paid to repurchase stock from shareholders. Retained earnings (or accumulated deficit) is the running total of the business's net income and losses, excluding any dividends. In the United Kingdom and other countries that use its accounting methods, equity includes various reserve accounts that are used for particular reconciliations of the balance sheet.

Another financial statement, the statement of changes in equity, details the changes in these equity accounts from one accounting period to the next. Several events can produce changes in a firm's equity.

Investing

Equity investing is the business of purchasing stock in companies, either directly or from another investor, on the expectation that the stock will earn dividends or can be resold with a capital gain. Equity holders typically receive voting rights, meaning that they can vote on candidates for the board of directors and, if their holding is large enough, influence management decisions.

Investors in a newly established firm must contribute an initial amount of capital to it so that it can begin to transact business. This contributed amount represents the investors' equity interest in the firm. In return, they receive shares of the company's stock. Under the model of a private limited company, the firm may keep contributed capital as long as it remains in business. If it liquidates, whether through a decision of the owners or through a bankruptcy process, the owners have a residual claim on the firm's eventual equity. If the equity is negative (a deficit) then the unpaid creditors take a loss and the owners' claim is void. Under limited liability, owners are not required to pay the firm's debts themselves so long as the firm's books are in order and it has not involved the owners in fraud.

When the owners of a firm are shareholders, their interest is called shareholders' equity. If all shareholders are in one class, they share equally in ownership equity from all perspectives. It is not uncommon for companies to issue more than one class of stock, with each class having its own liquidation priority or voting rights. This complicates analysis for both stock valuation and accounting.

Valuation

A company's shareholder equity balance does not determine the price at which investors can sell its stock. Other relevant factors include the prospects and risks of its business, its access to necessary credit, and the difficulty of locating a buyer. According to the theory of intrinsic value, it is profitable to buy stock in a company when it is priced below the present value of the portion of its equity and future earnings that are payable to stockholders. Advocates of this method have included Benjamin Graham, Philip Fisher and Warren Buffett. An equity investment will never have a negative market value (i.e. become a liability) even if the firm has a shareholder deficit, because the deficit is not the owners' responsibility.

According to the "Merton model", [2] the value of stock equity is modeled as a call option on the value of the whole company (including the liabilities), struck at the nominal value of the liabilities. This is the first example of a "structural model", where bankruptcy is modeled using a microeconomic model of the firm's capital structure. It treats bankruptcy as a continuous probability of default, where, on the random occurrence of default, the stock price of the defaulting company is assumed to go to zero. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

Finance Academic discipline studying businesses and investments

Finance is the study of money and how it is used. Specifically, it deals with the questions of how an individual, company or government acquires the money needed - called capital in the company context - and how they then spend or invest that money. Finance is, correspondingly, often split into three areas: personal finance, corporate finance and public finance.

Balance sheet summary of the financial balances of a sole proprietorship, a business partnership, a corporation or other business organization

In financial accounting, a balance sheet or statement of financial position or statement of financial condition is a summary of the financial balances of an individual or organization, whether it be a sole proprietorship, a business partnership, a corporation, private limited company or other organization such as Government or not-for-profit entity. Assets, liabilities and ownership equity are listed as of a specific date, such as the end of its financial year. A balance sheet is often described as a "snapshot of a company's financial condition". Of the four basic financial statements, the balance sheet is the only statement which applies to a single point in time of a business' calendar year.

In accounting, book value is the value of an asset according to its balance sheet account balance. For assets, the value is based on the original cost of the asset less any depreciation, amortization or impairment costs made against the asset. Traditionally, a company's book value is its total assets minus intangible assets and liabilities. However, in practice, depending on the source of the calculation, book value may variably include goodwill, intangible assets, or both. The value inherent in its workforce, part of the intellectual capital of a company, is always ignored. When intangible assets and goodwill are explicitly excluded, the metric is often specified to be "tangible book value".

Debits and credits

In double entry bookkeeping, debits and credits are entries made in account ledgers to record changes in value resulting from business transactions. A debit entry in an account represents a transfer of value to that account, and a credit entry represents a transfer from the account. For example, a tenant who pays rent to a landlord will make a debit entry in a rent expense account associated with the landlord, and the landlord will make a credit entry in a receivable account associated with the tenant. Every transaction produces both debit entries and credit entries for each party involved, where each party's total debits and total credits for the same transaction are equal. Continuing the example, the tenant will also credit the bank account from which they pay rent, and the landlord will debit the bank account where they deposit it.

Valuation (finance) process of estimating what something is worth, used in the finance industry

In finance, valuation is the process of determining the present value (PV) of an asset. Valuations can be done on assets or on liabilities. Valuations are needed for many reasons such as investment analysis, capital budgeting, merger and acquisition transactions, financial reporting, taxable events to determine the proper tax liability.

Financial accounting define financial accounting

Financial accounting is the field of accounting concerned with the summary, analysis and reporting of financial transactions related to a business. This involves the preparation of financial statements available for public use. Stockholders, suppliers, banks, employees, government agencies, business owners, and other stakeholders are examples of people interested in receiving such information for decision making purposes.

In economics and accounting, the cost of capital is the cost of a company's funds, or, from an investor's point of view "the required rate of return on a portfolio company's existing securities". It is used to evaluate new projects of a company. It is the minimum return that investors expect for providing capital to the company, thus setting a benchmark that a new project has to meet.

The retained earnings of a corporation is the accumulated net income of the corporation that is retained by the corporation at a particular point of time, such as at the end of the reporting period. At the end of that period, the net income at that point is transferred from the Profit and Loss Account to the retained earnings account. If the balance of the retained earnings account is negative it may be called accumulated losses, retained losses or accumulated deficit, or similar terminology.

Enterprise value (EV), total enterprise value (TEV), or firm value (FV) is an economic measure reflecting the market value of a business. It is a sum of claims by all claimants: creditors and shareholders. Enterprise value is one of the fundamental metrics used in business valuation, financial modeling, accounting, portfolio analysis, and risk analysis.

In finance, leverage is any technique involving the use of debt rather than fresh equity in the purchase of an asset, with the expectation that the after-tax profit to equity holders from the transaction will exceed the borrowing cost, frequently by several multiples⁠ ⁠— hence the provenance of the word from the effect of a lever in physics, a simple machine which amplifies the application of a comparatively small input force into a correspondingly greater output force. Normally, the lender will set a limit on how much risk it is prepared to take and will set a limit on how much leverage it will permit, and would require the acquired asset to be provided as collateral security for the loan. For example, for a residential property the finance provider may lend up to, say, 80% of the property's market value, for a commercial property it may be 70%, while on shares it may lend up to, say, 60% or none at all on certain volatile shares.

The debt-to-equity ratio (D/E) is a financial ratio indicating the relative proportion of shareholders' equity and debt used to finance a company's assets. Closely related to leveraging, the ratio is also known as risk, gearing or leverage. The two components are often taken from the firm's balance sheet or statement of financial position, but the ratio may also be calculated using market values for both, if the company's debt and equity are publicly traded, or using a combination of book value for debt and market value for equity financially.

In corporate finance, the return on equity (ROE) is a measure of the profitability of a business in relation to the equity, also known as net assets or assets minus liabilities. ROE is a measure of how well a company uses investments to generate earnings growth.

Business valuation is a process and a set of procedures used to estimate the economic value of an owner's interest in a business. Valuation is used by financial market participants to determine the price they are willing to pay or receive to effect a sale of a business. In addition to estimating the selling price of a business, the same valuation tools are often used by business appraisers to resolve disputes related to estate and gift taxation, divorce litigation, allocate business purchase price among business assets, establish a formula for estimating the value of partners' ownership interest for buy-sell agreements, and many other business and legal purposes such as in shareholders deadlock, divorce litigation and estate contest. In some cases, the court would appoint a forensic accountant as the joint expert doing the business valuation.

The fundamental accounting equation, also called the balance sheet equation, represents the relationship between the assets, liabilities, and owner's equity of a person or business. It is the foundation for the double-entry bookkeeping system. For each transaction, the total debits equal the total credits. It can be expressed as furthermore:

Reserve (accounting) accounting

In financial accounting, "reserve" always has a credit balance and can refer to a part of shareholders' equity, a liability for estimated claims, or contra-asset for uncollectible accounts.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:

Altman Z-score

The Z-score formula for predicting bankruptcy was published in 1968 by Edward I. Altman, who was, at the time, an Assistant Professor of Finance at New York University. The formula may be used to predict the probability that a firm will go into bankruptcy within two years. Z-scores are used to predict corporate defaults and an easy-to-calculate control measure for the financial distress status of companies in academic studies. The Z-score uses multiple corporate income and balance sheet values to measure the financial health of a company.

Financial ratio characteristic number

A financial ratio or accounting ratio is a relative magnitude of two selected numerical values taken from an enterprise's financial statements. Often used in accounting, there are many standard ratios used to try to evaluate the overall financial condition of a corporation or other organization. Financial ratios may be used by managers within a firm, by current and potential shareholders (owners) of a firm, and by a firm's creditors. Financial analysts use financial ratios to compare the strengths and weaknesses in various companies. If shares in a company are traded in a financial market, the market price of the shares is used in certain financial ratios.

Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling their related cash flows to third party investors as securities, which may be described as bonds, pass-through securities, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Investors are repaid from the principal and interest cash flows collected from the underlying debt and redistributed through the capital structure of the new financing. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).

Corporate finance area of finance dealing with the sources of funding and the capital structure of corporations

Corporate finance is an area of finance that deals with sources of funding, 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.

References

  1. Maitland, F. W. (1909). Equity, Also, the Forms of Action at Common Law.
  2. Merton, Robert C. (1974). "On the Pricing of Corporate Debt: The Risk Structure of Interest Rates" (PDF). Journal of Finance. 29 (2): 449–470. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6261.1974.tb03058.x.
  3. Robert Merton, “Option Pricing When Underlying Stock Returns are Discontinuous” Journal of Financial Economics, 3, January–March, 1976, pp. 125–44.