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Enterprise Value

Determining the Takeover Value of a Company

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Enterprise Value

The enterprise value of a company that uses a lot of debt is going to be much higher than its market capitalization. This is important for new investors to understand.

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If you frequently read financial magazines, newspapers, and annual reports, you have no doubt come across something called enterprise value. You may have wondered what it is, how it’s calculated, and why it’s so important.

What is Enterprise Value?

Enterprise value is a figure that, in theory, represents the entire cost of a company if someone were to acquire it. Enterprise value is a more accurate estimate of takeover cost than market capitalization because it takes includes a number of important factors such as preferred stock, debt, and cash reserves that are excluded from the latter metric.

How is Enterprise Value Calculated?

Enterprise value is calculated by adding a corporation’s market capitalization, preferred stock, and outstanding debt together and then subtracting out the cash and cash equivalents found on the balance sheet. (In other words, enterprise value is what it would cost you to buy every single share of a company’s common stock, preferred stock, and outstanding debt. The reason the cash is subtracted is simple: once you have acquired complete ownership of the company, the cash becomes yours). Let’s examine each of these components individually, as well as the reasons they are included in the calculation of enterprise value:

Market Capitalization: Frequently called “market cap”, market capitalization is calculated by taking the number of outstanding shares of common stock multiplied by the current price-per-share. If, for example, Billy Bob’s Tire Company had 1 million shares of stock outstanding and the current stock price was $50 per share, the company’s market capitalization would be $50 million (1 million shares x $50 per share = $50 million market cap).

Preferred Stock: Although it is technically equity, preferred stock can actually act as either equity or debt, depending upon the nature of the individual issue. A preferred issue that must be redeemed at a certain date at a certain price is, for all intents and purposes, debt. In other cases, preferred stock may have the right to receive a fixed dividend plus share in a portion of the profits (this type is known as “participating”). Regardless, the existence represents a claim on the business that must be factored into enterprise value.

Debt: Once you’ve acquired a business, you’ve also acquired its debt. If you purchased all of the outstanding shares of a chain of ice cream stores for $10 million (the market capitalization), yet the business had $5 million in debt, you would actually have expended $15 million; $10 million may have come out of your pocket today, but you are now responsible for repaying the $5 million debt out of the cash flow of the business – cash flow that otherwise could have gone to other things.

Cash and Cash Equivalents: Once you’ve purchased a business, you own the cash that is sitting in the bank. After acquiring complete ownership, you can simply take this cash and put it in your pocket, replacing some of the money you expended to buy the business. In effect, it serves to reduce your acquisition price; for that reason, it is subtracted from the other components when calculating enterprise value.

Why Is Enterprise Value Important?

Some investors, particularly those that follow a value philosophy, will look for companies that are generating a lot of cash flow in relation to enterprise value. Businesses that tend to fall into this category are more likely to require little additional reinvestment; instead, the owners can take the profit out of the business and spend it or put it into other investments.

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