Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

The weighted average cost of capital is the third major approach to determining a discount rate. The WACC method determines the subject company’s actual cost of capital by calculating the weighted average of the company’s cost of debt and cost of equity. The WACC capitalization rate must be applied to the subject company’s net cash flow to invested equity.

One of the problems with this method is that the valuator may elect to calculate WACC according to the subject company’s existing capital structure, the average industry capital structure, or the optimal capital structure. Such discretion detracts from the objectivity of this approach, in the minds of some critics.

Once the capitalization or discount rate is determined, it must be applied to an appropriate benefit streams: pretax cash flow, aftertax cash flow, pretax net income, after tax net income, excess earnings, projected cash flow, etc. The result of this formula is the indicated value before discounts. Before moving on to calculate discounts, however, the valuation professional must consider the indicated value under the asset and market approaches.

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