The reason why we are interested in finding a capital structure, which will permit maximization of the EPS over the expected range of EBIT, is because it partially helps us to achieve the ultimate objective of the enterprise. The ultimate objective of the enterprise is to maximize shareholders’ wealth by maximizing its stock price. Two key variables that affect stock price are return (earnings attributed to owners of the enterprise) and risk (which can be measured by required return (rs)). This approach explicitly considers maximization of returns (EPS). However, it is important to note that this approach ignores risk (does not explicitly consider risk).
Major shortcoming of the EBIT-EPS approach
The fact that this approach fails to explicitly consider risk is the major shortcoming of this method. As firm obtains more debt (its financial leverage increases), the risk also increases and shareholders will require higher returns to compensate for the increased financial risk. Therefore, this approach is not completely appropriate because it does not consider one of the key variables (risk), which is necessary for maximization of shareholders’ wealth.
Considering financial risk
As per above, the approach does not explicitly consider financial risk. However, when utilizing the approach, financial risk can be considered in two ways:
1) The approach measures financial risk by the financial breakeven point. The higher the breakeven point the greater the financial risk.
2) The approach also measures the financial risk by the slope of the capital structure line. The steeper the capital structure line the greater the financial risk.
It is a graphical approach. EPS is plotted on the vertical axis (x-axis) and EBIT on the horizontal axis (y-axis). By connecting the coordinates for different capital structures (different variations of equity versus debt), capital structure lines for each capital structure are graphed.
We will need to represent EBIT-EPS coordinates (capital structure lines) for different capital structures to ascertain at which levels of EBIT which capital structure is preferred. This will allow us to find a capital structure with the highest EPS over the expected range of EBIT.
For the purposes of this article it is sufficient to mention that to find EBIT-EPS coordinates we can assume particular EBIT values (and associated earnings available for common stockholders values) and calculate EPS in line with such values for different capital structures.
The formula to calculate EPS is as follows:
EPS = Earnings Available for Common Stockholders/ Number of Shares of Common Stock Outstanding Another easy way to find one of the EBIT-EPS coordinates is to use the financial breakeven point calculation. Financial break-even point occurs at the level of EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) at which EPS (earnings per share) equals zero. At this level of EBIT all fixed financial costs are covered. The formula for calculation of the financial break-even point is as follows:
Financial break-even point = I + PSD/1-T
I – interest charges
PSD – preferred stock dividends
T – tax rate
This capital structure approach does NOT allow us to determine the point where weighted average cost of capital is at a minimum and where stock price is at a maximum (where wealth of the owners of the firm is maximized). The approach focuses on maximizing earnings rather than on maximizing wealth. Therefore, although it is helpful to use when analyzing alternative capital structures, the major shortcoming of this approach should be taken into account.