The translation between the required return on unlevered and levered equity for explicit cash flows and fixed debt financing
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Purpose The primary purpose of this paper is to develop the translation formula between the required return on unlevered and levered equity for the specific case where cash flows have a finite lifetime and the flow to debt is prespecified. The secondary purpose of this paper is to underpin the importance of the type of stochasticity of cash flows for translation formulas. A general derivation of such formulas and the discount rate in the free cash flow approach is shown. Design/methodology/approach The paper starts with the same assumptions that have been applied by Modigliani and Miller (1963), Miles and Ezzell (1980) and other researchers. Then the paper develops the mathematical foundations to apply a deterministic backward-iterative scheme for valuing cash flows. After stating the valuation formulas for levered and unlevered equity, debt and tax shields, the authors mathematically derive the relationship between the unlevered return and levered return on equity. Findings Conventional translation formulas apply to very special cases. They can generally not be used for projects with nonconstant leverage and a finite lifetime. In general, translation formulas depend on continuing values, cash flows, leverage, taxation, risk-free rate, etc. In this paper, the translation depends on the structure of the debt in addition to the well-known parameters in conventional formulas. This paper formula contains the Modigliani-Miller translation formula as a special case. Originality/value The authors develop a novel formula for the translation of the required return on unlevered to levered equity. With this formula, the authors offer a solution for the consistent valuation of cash flows with a limited lifetime and given debt financing.