Assessment of Cost of Capital
Recall that Blades has tentatively decided to establish a subsidiary in Thailand to manufacture roller blades. The new plant will be utilized to produce “Speedos,” Blades’ primary product. Once the subsidiary has been established in Thailand, it will be operated
for 10 years, at which time it is expected to be sold.
Ben Holt, Blades’ chief ﬁnancial ofﬁcer (CFO), believes the growth potential in Thailand will be extremely high over the next few years. However, his optimism is not shared by most economic forecasters, who predict
a slow recovery of the Thai economy, which has been very negatively affected by recent events in that country. Furthermore, forecasts for the future value of the baht indicate that the currency may continue to de- preciate over the next few years.
Despite the pessimistic forecasts, Ben Holt believes Thailand is a good international target for Blades’ products because of the high growth potential and lack of competitors in Thailand. At a recent meeting of the board of directors, Holt presented his capital budget- ing analysis and pointed out that the establishment of a subsidiary in Thailand had a net present value (NPV ) of over $8 million even when a 25 percent required rate of return is used to discount the cash ﬂows resulting from the project. Blades’ board of directors, while favorable to the idea of international expansion, remained skepti- cal. Speciﬁcally, the directors wondered where Holt ob- tained the 25 percent discount rate to conduct his capi- tal budgeting analysis and whether this discount rate was high enough. Consequently, the decision to estab- lish a subsidiary in Thailand has been delayed until the directors’ meeting next month.
The directors also asked Holt to determine how operating a subsidiary in Thailand would affect Blades’ required rate of return and its cost of capital. The di- rectors would like to know how Blades’ characteristics would affect its cost of capital relative to roller blade manufacturers operating solely in the United States.
Furthermore, the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) was mentioned by two directors, who would like to know how Blades’ systematic risk would be affected by expanding into Thailand. Another issue that was raised is how the cost of debt and equity in Thailand differ from the corresponding costs in the United States, and whether these differences would affect Blades’ cost of capital. The last issue that was raised during the meet- ing was whether Blades’ capital structure would be af- fected by expanding into Thailand. The directors have asked Holt to conduct a thorough analysis of these is- sues and report back to them at their next meeting.
Ben Holt’s knowledge of cost of capital and capi- tal structure decisions is somewhat limited, and he re- quires your help. You are a ﬁnancial analyst for Blades, Inc. Holt has gathered some information regarding Blades’ characteristics that distinguish it from roller blade manufacturers operating solely in the United States, its systematic risk, and the costs of debt and equity in Thailand, and he wants to know whether and how this information will affect Blades’ cost of capital and its capital structure decision.
Regarding Blades’ characteristics, Holt has gath- ered information regarding Blades’ size, its access to the Thai capital markets, its diversiﬁcation beneﬁts from a Thai expansion, its exposure to exchange rate risk, and its exposure to country risk. Although Blades’ expansion into Thailand classiﬁes the company as an MNC, Blades is still relatively small compared to U.S.
roller blade manufacturers. Also, Blades’ expansion into Thailand will give it access to the capital and money markets there. However, negotiations with various commercial banks in Thailand indicate that Blades will be able to borrow at interest rates of approximately
15 percent, versus 8 percent in the United States.
Expanding into Thailand will diversify Blades’ op- erations. As a result of this expansion, Blades would be subject to economic conditions in Thailand as well as the United States. Ben Holt sees this as a major advan- tage since Blades’ cash ﬂows would no longer be solely dependent on the U.S. economy. Consequently, he be- lieves that Blades’ probability of bankruptcy would be reduced. Nevertheless, if Blades establishes a subsid- iary in Thailand, all of the subsidiary’s earnings will be remitted back to the U.S. parent, which would create
a high level of exchange rate risk. This is of particular concern because current economic forecasts for Thai- land indicate that the baht will depreciate further over the next few years. Furthermore, Holt has already con- ducted a country risk analysis for Thailand, which re- sulted in an unfavorable country risk rating.
Regarding Blades’ level of systematic risk, Holt has determined how Blades’ beta, which measures system- atic risk, would be affected by the establishment of a subsidiary in Thailand. Holt believes that Blades’ beta would drop from its current level of 2.0 to 1.8 because the ﬁrm’s exposure to U.S. market conditions would be reduced by the expansion into Thailand. More- over, Holt estimates that the risk-free interest rate is
5 percent and the required return on the market is 12 percent.
Holt has also determined that the costs of both debt and equity are higher in Thailand than in the United States. Lenders such as commercial banks in Thailand require interest rates higher than U.S. rates. This is partially attributed to a higher risk premium, which reﬂects the larger degree of economic uncer- tainty in Thailand. The cost of equity is also higher in Thailand than in the United States. Thailand is not as developed as the United States in many ways, and vari- ous investment opportunities are available to Thai in- vestors, which increases the opportunity cost. How- ever, Holt is not sure that this higher cost of equity in Thailand would affect Blades, as all of Blades’ share- holders are located in the United States.
Ben Holt has asked you to analyze this informa- tion and to determine how it may affect Blades’ cost of capital and its capital structure. To help you in your
analysis, Holt would like you to provide answers to the following questions:
1. If Blades expands into Thailand, do you think its cost of capital will be higher or lower than the cost of capital of roller blade manufacturers
operating solely in the United States? Substantiate
your answer by outlining how Blades’ character- istics distinguish it from domestic roller blade manufacturers.
2. According to the CAPM, how would Blades’ re- quired rate of return be affected by an expansion into Thailand? How do you reconcile this result with your answer to question 1? Do you think Blades should use the required rate of return result- ing from the CAPM to discount the cash ﬂows of the Thai subsidiary to determine its NPV ?
3. If Blades borrows funds in Thailand to support its Thai subsidiary, how would this affect its cost of capital? Why?
4. Given the high level of interest rates in Thailand, the high level of exchange rate risk, and the high (perceived) level of country risk, do you think Blades will be more or less likely to use debt in its capital structure as a result of its expansion into Thailand? Why?