The study of Corporate Finance seems to be a very generic part of business education. Still, it either falls in the trap of intimidating formulas or is superficially journalistic. Both extremes preclude the understanding of the core finance ideas, concepts, and models.
This Course is an attempt to avoid the above extremes. We discuss the core basis and mechanisms of modern corporate finance in a learner-friendly way. We will analyze the market’s most fundamental problems, realize the intrinsic interests and preferences of investors, reveal the true meaning of specific financial terms, and uncover important issues that are so often ignored in choosing and valuing investment projects.
The learners will gain insight into the essence of corporate finance. They will be able to use the obtained knowledge and skills to successfully advance in their career at a financial institution, as well as in the area of financial management at non-financial businesses.
Why Finance Matters? Net Present Value. How to Calculate NPV
In Week 1 we propose the game plan for our study of value. Then we analyze the key assumptions for the general valuation model. We focus on the understanding of the sources of value and the fundamental ideas of investor’s choice, the opportunity cost of capital, risk and return. We discuss the importance of time and expectations in determining value.
Then we discuss the present value approach to studying the projects’ value and choice. We present the general PV formula and introduce the key concept of net present value (NPV) as a criterion of the choice of good investment projects. Then we study some most widely used shortcuts and apply the formulas to find the NPV’s of certain projects that play a special role in valuation. We end up with the general NPV formula and discuss the challenges in using it.
Applications of NPV. Valuing Bonds and Stocks
Week 2 of the Course is devoted to the applications of NPV. In the first part of the week we use NPV to study riskless debt. Of special attention will be the challenges in valuing even riskless bonds. We discuss bond parameters and the special role of yield to maturity. Then we demonstrate how the NPV approach helps determine spot and forward interest rates.
The second part of Week 2 deals with the core concepts in valuing equity. We introduce the idea of the common stock value as a function of its cash disbursements. Then we present some formulas that are used to value common stock on the basis of NPV. We focus on growth as a major contributor to the stock value. We analyze growth drivers and the mechanism of growth. On an example we reveal the influence of investments on the stock value. Finally, we pose some questions with respect to NPV approach.
Making the Choice of Good Investment Projects. NPV and Other Criteria. Why Is NPV Better?
We start Week 3 of the Course by the discussion of criteria of choosing investment projects. Beside NPV, the internal rate of return (IRR) and other approaches are introduced. We show why the NPV criterion is the best and why the application of others may lead to wrong investment decisions.
Then we focus on the main ideas to be taken into account while setting up cash flow patterns and making the choice of project on the basis of NPV. We mention some special issues – relevant costs, depreciation, inflation. We present the concept of equivalent annual cost (EAC) as a method of comparing projects of different length. Then we study the application of EAC in greater detail in a case.
Risk and Return – From Basics to Reality
In Week 4 we study risk and return. We present a stochastic mathematical model of risk and apply it to find the returns and standard deviations of portfolios of assets. We discuss diversification and the role of special portfolios – the riskless portfolio and the market portfolio – in approaching asset risk. We demonstrate how any asset contributes to the market risk and introduce the β coefficient.
Then we derive the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) and study how it is used on examples. We discuss the application of the company cost of capital (CCC) rule to choosing investment projects. Then we use CAPM to determine the cost of capital – first, for an equity-financed company and then in the general case with debt and equity. We present the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) formula and discuss it. Finally, on an example we study the steps in applying CAPM.
Options – Idea, Role, and Valuation
Week 5 of the Course is devoted to options – one of the most interesting and advanced areas in finance. We start with definition, charts, payoffs – the basics of options. Then we move on to option valuation. We discuss replication and risk-neutral approaches and show on clear examples how they allow finding the option’s value under simplifying assumptions. We go further and discuss the generalizations of the simple approaches that lead to the Black–Scholes and binomial option valuation methods.
Then we discuss the application of the option theory to valuing real investment projects that contain some options – the timing of investment, the abandonment, the follow up options. We show how decision trees and the option identification contribute to the better choice of investment projects.
Finally, we briefly describe one of the most advanced topics in finance – the valuation of fixed-income instruments with embedded options and fixed-income derivatives including mortgage-backed securities and CMO’s.
What We Learned About Finance. Some Conclusions. Corporate Finance and Career Tracks
In the first part of Week 6 we revisit the NPV criterion and compare it to two other very popular project assessment methods – economic value added (EVA) and market value added (MVA). Then we draw conclusions to the Course focusing on the project valuation road map and the role of options in valuation of projects and securities. We also address some major unanswered questions in corporate finance. The second part of Week 6 is devoted to the practical application of corporate finance. We discuss how the learners may profit from learning corporate finance. Then we describe popular career tracks in which the knowledge and skills obtained in the Course may prove instrumental for success. Those include sales and trading, analysis and research at a finance company, as well as financial management at a non-financial corporation.