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Future Value

When the optimal financing mix is different from the existing one, we map out the best ways of getting from where we are (the current mix) to where we would like to be  (the optimal), keeping in mind the investment opportunities that the firm has and the need for timely responses, either because the firm is a takeover target or under threat of bankruptcy. Having outlined the optimal financing mix, we turn our attention to the type of financing a business should use, such as whether it should be long-term or short-term, whether the payments on the financing should be fixed or variable, and if variable, what it should be a function of. Using a basic proposition that a firm will minimize its risk from financing and maximize its capacity to use borrowed funds if it can match up the cash flows on the debt to the cash flows on the assets being financed, we design the perfect financing instrument for a firm. We then add additional considerations relating to taxes and external monitors (equity research analysts and ratings agencies) and arrive at strong conclusions about the design of the financing.

The Dividend Principle

            Most businesses would undoubtedly like to have unlimited investment opportunities that yield returns exceeding their hurdle rates, but all businesses grow and mature. As a consequence, every business that thrives reaches a stage in its life when the cash flows generated by existing investments is greater than the funds needed to take on good investments. At that point, this business has to figure out ways to return the excess cash to owners. In private businesses, this may just involve the owner withdrawing a portion of his or her funds from the business. In a publicly traded corporation, this will involve either paying dividends or buying back stock. the discussion of dividend policy, we introduce the basic trade-off that determines whether cash should be left in a business or taken out of it. For stockholders in publicly traded firms, we note that this decision is fundamentally one of whether they trust the managers of the firms with their cash, and much of this trust is based on how well these managers have invested funds in the past. Finally, we consider the options available to a firm to return assets to its owners—dividends, stock buybacks and spin-offs—and investigate how to pick between these options