Corporations finance through a variety of mechanisms. One method is to reinvest profits in the corporation. Another method is to use private equity. Private equity involves financing from private investors, whether individuals (angel investors) or a private equity firm. Venture capital is often used as a fundraising mechanism by businesses that are just starting operations.
A third method is to finance through debt, such as a loan or a bond. A corporation sells a bond and agrees to make interest payments over the life of the bond and to pay the face value of the bond at the bond’s maturity.
The final important method of raising capital is by the sale of stock. The articles of incorporation govern the total number of shares of stock that the corporation may issue, although it need not issue the maximum. Stock in the hands of shareholders is said to be authorized, issued, and outstanding. Stock may have a par value, which is usually the floor price of the stock. No-par shares may be sold for any price set by the directors.
Preferred stock (1) may have a dividend preference, (2) takes preference upon liquidation, and (3) may be convertible. Common stock normally has the right to (1) ratable participation in earnings, (2) ratable participation in the distribution of net assets on liquidation, and (3) ratable vote.
Ordinarily, the good-faith judgment of the directors concerning the fair value of the consideration received for stock is determinative. A minority of states adhere to a true value rule that holds to an objective standard.
A corporation that sells shares for the first time engages in an initial public offering (IPO). The Securities Act of 1933 governs most IPOs and initial stock sales. A corporation that has previously issued stock may do so many times afterward, depending on the corporation’s needs. The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 governs most secondary market stock sales. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 adds another layer of regulation to the financial transactions discussed in this chapter.
A dividend is a share of a corporation’s profits. Dividends may be distributed as cash, property, or stock. The law imposes certain limitations on the amount that the corporation may disburse; most states restrict the cash or property available for distribution to earned surplus. However, a few states, including Delaware, permit dividends to be paid out of the net of current earnings and those of the immediately preceding year, both years taken as a single period; these are known as nimble dividends. The directors have discretion, within broad limits, to set the level of dividends; however, they will be jointly and severally liable if they approve dividends higher than allowed by law or under the articles of incorporation.
With several options available, corporations face many factors to consider in deciding how to raise funds. Each option is not available to every corporation. Additionally, each option has advantages and disadvantages. A corporation must carefully weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision to proceed on a particular financing path.
- Ralph and Alice have decided to incorporate their sewer cleaning business under the name R & A, Inc. Their plans call for the authorization and issuance of 5,000 shares of par value stock. Ralph argues that par value must be set at the estimated market value of the stock, while Alice feels that par value is the equivalent of book value—that is, assets divided by the number of shares. Who is correct? Why?
- In Exercise 1, Ralph feels that R & A should have an IPO of 1 million shares of common stock, to be sold on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). What are the pros and cons of conducting an IPO?
- Assume that Ralph and Alice decide to issue preferred stock. What does this entail from R & A’s standpoint? From the standpoint of a preferred stock purchaser?
- Alice changes her mind and wants to sell bonds in R & A. What are the pros and cons of selling bonds?
- Assume that Ralph and Alice go on to consider options other than financing through an IPO or through the sale of bonds. They want to raise $5 million to get their business up and running, to purchase a building, and to acquire machines to clean sewers. What are some other options Ralph and Alice should consider? What would you suggest they do? Would your suggestion be different if Ralph and Alice wanted to raise $500 million? $50,000?
SELF CHECK QUESTIONS
- Corporate funds that come from earnings are called
- equity securities
- debt securities
- When a value is specified on a stock certificate, it is said to be
- par value
- an authorized share
- none of the above
- Common stockholders normally
- have the right to vote ratably
- do not have the right to vote ratably
- never have preemptive rights
- hold all of the company’s treasury shares
- Preferred stock may be
- entitled to cumulative dividends
- all of the above
- When a corporation issues stock to the public for the first time, the corporation engages in
- a distribution
- an initial public offering
- a stock split