Before an individual embarks upon an investment or a company on a specific project, they seek to determine the benefit, or profit, that they will achieve from doing so.

There are many methods of discovering the return of an investment, and usually, an investor or company will seek a required rate of return before they move ahead with the investment or project.

Key Takeaways

  • The required rate of return (RRR) is the minimum amount an investor or company seeks, or will receive, when they embark on an investment or project.
  • The RRR can be used to determine an investment's return on investment (ROI).
  • The RRR for every investor differs due to the differing tolerance for risk.
  • Calculating the RRR involves discounting cash flows to arrive at the net present value (NPV) of an investment.
  • Equity investing utilizes the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) to find the RRR.
  • When evaluating stocks with dividends, the dividend discount model is a useful calculation.
  • In corporate finance, when looking at an investment decision, the overall required rate of return will be the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).

What Is the Required Rate of Return (RRR)?

The required rate of return (RRR) is the minimum amount of profit (return) an investor will seek or receive for assuming the risk of investing in a stock or another type of security.

RRR is also used to calculate how profitable a project might be relative to the cost of funding that project. RRR signals the level of risk that's involved in committing to a given investment or project. The greater the return, the greater the level of risk.

A lesser return generally means that there is less risk. RRR is commonly used in corporate finance when valuing investments. You may use RRR to calculate your potential return on聽investment (ROI).

When looking at an RRR, it is important to remember that it does not factor in inflation. Also, keep in mind that the required rate of return can vary among investors depending on their tolerance for risk.

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Required Rate Of Return

What the Required Rate of Return (RRR) Considers

To calculate the required rate of return, you must look at factors such as the return of the market as a whole, the rate you could get if you took on no risk (risk-free rate of return), and the volatility of a stock (or overall cost of funding a project).

The required rate of return is a difficult metric to pinpoint because individuals who perform the analysis will have different estimates and preferences. The risk-return preferences, inflation expectations, and a firm's capital structure all play a role in determining the required rate.

Each聽of these,聽among other聽factors, can have major effects on an asset's intrinsic value. As with many things, practice makes perfect. As you refine your preferences and dial in estimates, your investment decisions will become dramatically more predictable.

Discounting Models

One important use of the required rate of return is in discounting most types of cash flow models and some relative-value techniques. Discounting different types of cash flow will use slightly different rates with the same intention: to find the net present value (NPV).

Common uses of the required rate of return include:

  • Calculating the present value of dividend income for the purpose of evaluating stock prices
  • Calculating the present value of free cash flow to equity
  • Calculating the present value of operating free cash flow

Analysts make equity, debt,聽and corporate expansion decisions by placing a value on the periodic cash received and measuring it against the cash paid. The goal is to receive more than you paid. Corporate finance focuses on how much profit you make (the return) compared to how much you paid to fund a project. Equity investing focuses on the return compared to the amount of risk you took in making the investment.

Equity and Debt

Equity investing uses the required rate of return in various calculations. For example, the dividend discount model uses the RRR to discount the periodic payments and calculate the value of the stock. You may find the required rate of return by using the capital asset pricing model (CAPM).

The CAPM requires that you find certain inputs including:

  • The risk-free rate (RFR)
  • The stock's beta
  • The expected market return

Start with an estimate of the risk-free rate. You could use the yield to maturity (YTM) of a 10-year Treasury bill; let's say it's 4%. Next, take the expected market risk premium for the聽stock, which can have a wide range of estimates.

The risk-free rate is theoretical and assumes there is no risk in the investment so it does not actually exist.

For example, it could range between 3% and 9%, based on factors such as business risk, liquidity risk, and聽financial risk. Or, you can聽derive it from historical yearly market returns. For illustrative purposes, we'll use聽6% rather than any of the extreme values. Often, the market return will be estimated by a brokerage firm, and you can聽subtract the risk-free rate.

Or, you can use the beta of the stock. The beta for a stock can be found on most investment websites.

To calculate beta manually, use the following regression model:

Stock聽Return=+stockRmarketwhere:stock=Beta聽coefficient聽for聽the聽stockRmarket=Return聽expected聽from聽the聽market=Constant聽measuring聽excess聽return聽for聽agiven聽level聽of聽risk\begin{aligned} &\text{Stock Return} = \alpha + \beta_\text{stock} \text{R}_\text{market} \\ &\textbf{where:} \\ &\beta_\text{stock} = \text{Beta coefficient for the stock} \\ &\text{R}_\text{market} = \text{Return expected from the market} \\ &\alpha = \text{Constant measuring excess return for a}\\ &\text{given level of risk} \\ \end{aligned}Stock聽Return=+stockRmarketwhere:stock=Beta聽coefficient聽for聽the聽stockRmarket=Return聽expected聽from聽the聽market=Constant聽measuring聽excess聽return聽for聽agiven聽level聽of聽risk

stock is the beta coefficient for the stock. This means it is the covariance between the stock and the market, divided by the variance of the market. We will assume that the beta is 1.25.

Rmarket is the return expected from the market. For example, the return of the S&P 500 can be used for all stocks that trade, and even some stocks not on the index, but related to businesses that are.

Now, we put together these three numbers using the CAPM:

E(R)=RFR+stock(RmarketRFR)=0.04+1.25(.06.04)=6.5%where:E(R)=Required聽rate聽of聽return,聽or聽expected聽returnRFR=Risk-free聽ratestock=Beta聽coefficient聽for聽the聽stockRmarket=Return聽expected聽from聽the聽market(RmarketRFR)=Market聽risk聽premium,聽or聽return聽abovethe聽risk-free聽rate聽to聽accommodate聽additionalunsystematic聽risk\begin{aligned} &\text{E(R)} = \text{RFR} + \beta_\text{stock} \times ( \text{R}_\text{market} - \text{RFR} ) \\ &\quad \quad = 0.04 + 1.25 \times ( .06 - .04 ) \\ &\quad \quad = 6.5\% \\ &\textbf{where:} \\ &\text{E(R)} = \text{Required rate of return, or expected return} \\ &\text{RFR} = \text{Risk-free rate} \\ &\beta_\text{stock} = \text{Beta coefficient for the stock} \\ &\text{R}_\text{market} = \text{Return expected from the market} \\ &( \text{R}_\text{market} - \text{RFR} ) = \text{Market risk premium, or return above} \\ &\text{the risk-free rate to accommodate additional} \\ &\text{unsystematic risk} \\ \end{aligned}E(R)=RFR+stock(RmarketRFR)=0.04+1.25(.06.04)=6.5%where:E(R)=Required聽rate聽of聽return,聽or聽expected聽returnRFR=Risk-free聽ratestock=Beta聽coefficient聽for聽the聽stockRmarket=Return聽expected聽from聽the聽market(RmarketRFR)=Market聽risk聽premium,聽or聽return聽abovethe聽risk-free聽rate聽to聽accommodate聽additionalunsystematic聽risk

Dividend Discount Approach

Another approach is the dividend-discount model, also known as the Gordon growth model (GGM). This model determines a stock's intrinsic value based on dividend growth at a constant rate. By finding the current stock price, the dividend payment, and an estimate of the growth rate for dividends, you can rearrange the formula into:

Stock聽Value=D1kgwhere:D1=Expected聽annual聽dividend聽per聽sharek=Investor鈥檚聽discount聽rate,聽or聽required聽rate聽of聽returng=Growth聽rate聽of聽dividend\begin{aligned} &\text{Stock Value} = \frac { D_1 }{ k - g } \\ &\textbf{where:} \\ &D_1 = \text{Expected annual dividend per share} \\ &k = \text{Investor's discount rate, or required rate of return} \\ &g = \text{Growth rate of dividend} \\ \end{aligned}Stock聽Value=kgD1where:D1=Expected聽annual聽dividend聽per聽sharek=Investor鈥檚聽discount聽rate,聽or聽required聽rate聽of聽returng=Growth聽rate聽of聽dividend

Importantly, there needs to be some assumptions, in particular the continued growth of the dividend at a constant rate. So, this calculation only works with companies that have stable dividend-per-share growth rates.

Required Rate of Return (RRR) in Corporate Finance

Investment decisions are not limited to stocks. In corporate finance, whenever a company invests in an expansion or marketing campaign, an analyst can look at the minimum return these expenditures demand relative to the degree of risk the firm expended.

Opportunity cost, or the loss of value from not choosing one option, is often examined when considering the required rate of return (RRR).

If a聽current project provides聽a lower return than other potential projects, the聽project will not go forward.聽Many factors鈥攊ncluding risk, time frame, and available resources鈥攇o into deciding whether to forge ahead with聽a project. Typically though, the required rate of return is the pivotal factor when deciding between multiple investments.

In corporate finance, when looking at an investment decision, the overall required rate of return will be the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).

Capital Structure

Weighted Average Cost of Capital

The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is the cost of financing new projects based on how a company is structured. If a company is 100% debt financed, then聽you would use聽the interest on the issued debt and adjust for taxes, as interest is tax deductible, to determine the cost. In reality, a corporation is much more complex.

True Cost of Capital

Finding the true cost of capital requires a calculation based on a number of sources. Some would even argue that, under certain assumptions, the capital structure is irrelevant, as outlined in the Modigliani-Miller theorem.

According to this theory, a firm's market value is calculated using its earning power and the risk of its underlying assets. It also assumes that the firm is separate from the way it finances investments or distributes dividends.

To calculate WACC,聽take the weight of the financing source and multiply it by the corresponding cost. However, there is one exception: Multiply the debt portion by one minus the tax rate, then聽add the totals. The equation is:

WACC=Wd[kd(1t)]+Wps(kps)+Wce(kce)where:WACC=Weighted聽average聽cost聽of聽capital(firm-wide聽required聽rate聽of聽return)Wd=Weight聽of聽debtkd=Cost聽of聽debt聽financingt=Tax聽rateWps=Weight聽of聽preferred聽shareskps=Cost聽of聽preferred聽sharesWce=Weight聽of聽common聽equitykce=Cost聽of聽common聽equity\begin{aligned} &\text{WACC} = W_d [ k_d ( 1 - t ) ] + W_{ps} (k_{ps}) + W_{ce} ( k_{ce} ) \\ &\textbf{where:} \\ &\text{WACC} = \text{Weighted average cost of capital} \\ &\text{(firm-wide required rate of return)} \\ &W_d = \text{Weight of debt} \\ &k_d = \text{Cost of debt financing} \\ &t = \text{Tax rate} \\ &W_{ps} = \text{Weight of preferred shares} \\ &k_{ps} = \text{Cost of preferred shares} \\ &W_{ce} = \text{Weight of common equity} \\ &k_{ce} = \text{Cost of common equity} \\ \end{aligned}WACC=Wd[kd(1t)]+Wps(kps)+Wce(kce)where:WACC=Weighted聽average聽cost聽of聽capital(firm-wide聽required聽rate聽of聽return)Wd=Weight聽of聽debtkd=Cost聽of聽debt聽financingt=Tax聽rateWps=Weight聽of聽preferred聽shareskps=Cost聽of聽preferred聽sharesWce=Weight聽of聽common聽equitykce=Cost聽of聽common聽equity

The Bottom Line

When dealing with corporate decisions to expand or take on new projects, the required rate of return (RRR) is used as a benchmark of minimum acceptable return, given the cost and returns of other available investment opportunities.

Depending on the factors being evaluated, different models can help arrive at the required rate of return (RRR) for an investment or project.