FINANCIAL LEVERAGE AND CAPITAL
Answers to Concepts Review and Critical Thinking Questions
Business risk is the equity risk arising from the nature of the firm’s operating activity, and is directly
related to the systematic risk of the firm’s assets. Financial risk is the equity risk that is due entirely
to the firm’s chosen capital structure. As financial leverage, or the use of debt financing, increases,
so does financial risk and, hence, the overall risk of the equity. Thus, Firm B could have a higher
cost of equity if it uses greater leverage.
No, it doesn’t follow. While it is true that the equity and debt costs are rising, the key thing to
remember is that the cost of debt is still less than the cost of equity. Since we are using more and
more debt, the WACC does not necessarily rise.
Because many relevant factors such as bankruptcy costs, tax asymmetries, and agency costs cannot
easily be identified or quantified, it’s practically impossible to determine the precise debt/equity ratio
that maximizes the value of the firm. However, if the firm’s cost of new debt suddenly becomes
much more expensive, it’s probably true that the firm is too highly leveraged.
The more capital intensive industries, such as airlines, cable television, and electric utilities, tend to
use greater financial leverage. Also, industries with less predictable future earnings, such as
computers or drugs, tend to use less financial leverage. Such industries also have a higher
concentration of growth and startup firms. Overall, the general tendency is for firms with
identifiable, tangible assets and relatively more predictable future earnings to use more debt
financing. These are typically the firms with the greatest need for external financing and the greatest
likelihood of benefiting from the interest tax shelter.
It’s called leverage (or “gearing” in the UK) because it magnifies gains or losses.
Homemade leverage refers to the use of borrowing on the personal level as opposed to the corporate
One answer is that the right to file for bankruptcy is a valuable asset, and the financial manager acts
in shareholders’ best interest by managing this asset in ways that maximize its value. To the extent
that a bankruptcy filing prevents “a race to the courthouse steps,” it would seem to be a reasonable
use of the process.
As in the previous question, it could be argued that using bankruptcy laws as a sword may simply be
the best use of the asset. Creditors are aware at the time a loan is made of the possibility of
bankruptcy, and the interest charged incorporates it.