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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Krüger, Philipp & Landier, Augustin & Thesmar, David, 2011. "The WACC Fallacy: The Real Effects of Using a Unique Discount Rate," TSE Working Papers 11-222, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:24151
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    Cited by:

    1. Randolph Sloof & Mirjam Praag, 2015. "Testing for Distortions in Performance Measures: An Application to Residual Income-Based Measures like Economic Value Added," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(1), pages 74-91, March.
    2. Baker, Malcolm & Wurgler, Jeffrey, 2013. "Behavioral Corporate Finance: An Updated Survey," Handbook of the Economics of Finance, Elsevier.
    3. Custódio, Cláudia & Metzger, Daniel, 2014. "Financial expert CEOs: CEO׳s work experience and firm׳s financial policies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 125-154.
    4. Iachan, Felipe Saraiva, 2017. "Capital budgeting and risk taking under credit constraints," FGV/EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 786, FGV/EPGE - Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    5. Marcel Boyer & Éric Gravel & Sandy Mokbel, 2013. "The Valuation of Public Projects: Risks, Cost of Financing and Cost of Capital Current," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 388, September.
    6. Marcelo Bianconi & Joe Akira Yoshino, 2015. "Empirical Estimation of the Cost of Equity: An Application to Selected Brazilian Utilities Companies," Review of Economics & Finance, Better Advances Press, Canada, vol. 5, pages 1-21, February.
    7. Jessen, Cathrine & Lando, David, 2015. "Robustness of distance-to-default," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 493-505.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Investment; Behavioral finance; Cost of capital;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance

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