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The WACC Fallacy: The Real Effects of Using a Unique Discount Rate

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  • Krüger, Philipp
  • Landier, Augustin
  • Thesmar, David

Abstract

We document investment distortions induced by the use of a single discount rate within firms. According to textbook capital budgeting, firms should value any project using a discount rate determined by the risk characteristics of the project. If they use a unique company-wide discount rate, they overinvest (resp. underinvest) in divisions with a market beta higher (resp. lower) than the firm's core industry beta. We directly test this consequence of the WACC fallacy and establish a robust and significant positive relationship between division-level investment and the spread between the division's market beta and the firm's core industry beta. Consistently with bounded rationality theories, this bias is stronger when the measured cost of taking the wrong discount rate is low, for instance, when the division is small. Finally,we measure the value loss due to the WACC fallacy in the context of acquisitions. Bidder abnormal returns are higher in diversifying mergers and acquisitions in which the bidder's beta exceeds that of the target. On average, the present value loss is about 0.7% of the bidder's market equity.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) in its series TSE Working Papers with number 11-222.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Publication status: Published in The Journal of Finance.
Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:24151

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Keywords: Investment; Behavioral finance; Cost of capital;

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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Antoinette Schoar, 2003. "Managing With Style: The Effect Of Managers On Firm Policies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1169-1208, November.
  2. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 1997. "Industry costs of equity," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 153-193, February.
  3. Paul A. Gompers & Joy L. Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Corporate Governance and Equity Prices," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-32, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. Raghuram Rajan & Henri Servaes & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Cost of Diversity: The Diversification Discount and Inefficient Investment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(1), pages 35-80, 02.
  5. Oguzhan Ozbas & David S. Scharfstein, 2010. "Evidence on the Dark Side of Internal Capital Markets," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(2), pages 581-599, February.
  6. Lamont, Owen, 1997. " Cash Flow and Investment: Evidence from Internal Capital Markets," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 83-109, March.
  7. Randall Morck & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1989. "Do Managerial Objectives Drive Bad Acquisitions?," NBER Working Papers 3000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "A Sparsity-Based Model of Bounded Rationality," NBER Working Papers 16911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Augustin Landier & David Thesmar, 2009. "Financial Contracting with Optimistic Entrepreneurs," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 117-150, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Gollier, Christian, 2012. "Asset pricing with uncertain betas: A long-term perspective," IDEI Working Papers 752, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  2. Gollier, Christian, 2013. "A theory of rational short-termism with uncertain betas," IDEI Working Papers 771, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  3. Malcolm Baker & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2011. "Behavioral Corporate Finance: An Updated Survey," NBER Working Papers 17333, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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