Estimating the cost of common equity is challenging due to the uncertain nature of the amount and timing of future cash flows.
The CAPM Approach
where RF is the risk-free rate, E(RM) is the expected rate of return on the market, and βi is the stock's beta coefficient. [E(RM) - RF] is called the equity risk premium (ERP). Both E(RM) and βineed to be estimated.
For example, firm A has a βi of 0.6 for its stock. The risk-free rate, RF, is 5%. The expected rate of return on the market, E(RM), is 10%. The firm's cost of common equity is therefore calculated as 5% + (10% - 5%) x 0.6 = 8%.
There are several ways to estimate the equity risk premium.
where re is the required rate of return on the market, D1 is the dividends expected next period on the index, P0 is the current market value of the equity market index, and g is the expected growth rate of the dividends.
Dividend Discount Model Approach
where D1 is the dividend expected to be paid at the end of year 1, P0 is the current price of the stock, and g is the constant growth rate of dividends.
P0 is directly known, and D1 can be predicted if the company has a stable dividend policy. However, it is difficult to establish the proper growth rate (g). One method is to forecast the firm's average future dividend payout ratio and its complement, the retention rate: g = (1.0 - Payout rate) (ROE), where ROE is the expected future rate of return on equity. Another method is to use the firm's historical growth rate, if the past growth rates are stable.
Bond Yield Plus Risk Premium Approach
Because the cost of capital of riskier cash flows is higher than that of less risky cash flows:
This is a subjective, ad hoc procedure: bond yield is the interest rate on the firm's long-term debt, and the risk premium is a judgmental estimate (usually 3-5%). For example, suppose that ABC, Inc.'s interest rate on long-term debt is 10%. Assume the risk premium is 5%. ABC's cost of retained earnings is 10% + 5% = 15%.
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