Equity Multiplier

What is Equity Multiplier (EM)?

Equity Multiplier is a key financial metric which measures the level of debt financing in a business. In other words, equity multiplier is defined as a ratio of ‘Total Assets’ to ‘Shareholder’s Equity’. If the ratio is 5, equity multiplier means investment in total assets is 5 times the investment by equity shareholders. Conversely, it means 1 part is equity and 4 parts are debt in overall asset financing.

Equity Multiplier Formula

Formula of equity multiplier is as follows:

Equity Multiplier = Total Assets / Common Shareholder’s Equity

Here,

Total Assets: Total assets would mean all the assets of the company or one can take the total of asset side of a company’s balance sheet. This was the understanding from the asset side. From the liability side, total of all the liabilities and equity capital is covered for arriving at the figure of total assets.

Common Shareholder’s Equity: It means only the common shareholder’s funds. You should note that preference shares would not form part of this. The reason behind not including the preference share is, its nature of fixed obligation.

Equity Multiplier Calculation (Example)

Let us understand the calculation using following example:

Suppose,

Total Assets of a Company = $100 Millions

Common Shareholder’s Equity = $ 20 Millions

Preferred Share = $ 10 Millions

Using the equity multiplier equation as follows

Equity Multiplier = Total Assets / Common Shareholder’s Equity = 100 / 20 = 5.

We get the multiplier of 5. This simply means that total assets are 5 times the total shareholder’s equity.

Equity Multiplier Interpretation and Analysis

Running a business needs investment in assets. You do it in two ways i.e. debt or equity. A ratio of 5 times states that total assets are 5 times that of its equity. In other words, 1 out of 5 parts of assets are financed by equity and remaining i.e. 4 parts are financed by debt. In percentage terms, 20% (1/5) is equity financed and 80% (4/5) is debt financed.

Our mind is always inquisitive of categorizing everything between good and bad. So, before jumping on to whether the multiple of 5 is good or bad, let us understand that the comparison is possible with 2 things – ‘Industry Standards’ and ‘Own Past Multiple’.

Industry Standard

If the multiple is higher than its peers of the industry, you can safely say that the company has higher leverage.

Equity Multiplier

Own Past Multiples

Comparing our multiple with own past multiples can help us gain only the trend of it. If the trend is rising, it can be an alarming situation for finance managers because with rise in debt proportion, further debt borrowing becomes difficult. If the rise is not accompanied with sufficient profitability and efficient use of assets, it can lead the company towards financial distress.

Relation with DuPont & Impact on ROE:

The DuPont Analysis attempts to break down ROE into 3 components viz. Operating Profit Margin Ratio, Asset Turnover Ration and Equity Multiplier. The product all 3 components will arrive at the ROE. DuPont formula clearly states a direct relation of ROE with Equity Multiplier. Higher the EM, higher is the ROE and vice-versa.

Why there is a directly proportional relation between ROE and EM? Since the higher debt in the overall capital reduces the cost of capital with the basic assumption that ‘debt is a cheaper source of capital’. The assumption is safely defended by taxes i.e. the interest on debt is a tax deductible expense. If the rate of interest is 10% and taxes is 40%. The effective cost of debt is calculated as 10% (1- 40%) [Interest * (1-Tax Rate)].

Advantages and Disadvantages of Equity Multiplier

Both higher and lower EM can have its share of benefits and disadvantages.

Higher EM

High debt proportion in capital structure may have following issues

  1. Higher debt means higher risk of insolvency. If the profits decline under any circumstances, the chances not meeting the financial and other obligations increase.
  2. Ability to borrow more debt becomes tough since already leveraged high.

Lower EM

On the other hand, lower EM can signify inefficiency in creating value for shareholders by way of tax benefits due to leverage.

Ideal EM

There can’t be one ideal equity multiplier. It should be part of overall strategy of the business. This may depend a lot on industry and other factors such as availability of debt, size of the project etc.

Problems with Equity Multiplier Metric

There are certain issues which can dilute the use of equity multiplier for analysis. Cautionary measures are advisable.

Accelerated Depreciation

Total assets show a smaller figure due to this and hence the metric is skewed.

Negative Working Capital

Since, the definition of debt here includes all liabilities including payables. So, in the scenario of negative working capital, there are assets which are financed by a capital having no cost. Here, the general interpretations fail.

Profit Finance

Highly profitable businesses may not share heavy dividends with shareholders and use the profit as a source of finance for most assets. The metric has hardly any meaning.

Seasonal Business

Seasonal business tends to have most business in one quarter of a year say Q1. Equity multipliers for Q1 and other 3 quarters will show different results for the metric.

References:

Last updated on : December 5th, 2017
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