What Does Capital Structure Mean?
The combination of a company's long-term debt, specific short-term debt, common equity, and preferred equity; the capital structure is the firm's various sources of funds used to finance its overall operations and growth. Debt comes in the form of bond issues or long-term notes payable, whereas equity is classified as common stock, preferred stock, or retained earnings. Short-term debt such as working capital requirements also is considered part of the capital structure.
In finance, capital structure refers to the way a corporation finances its assets through some combination of equity, debt, or hybrid securities. A firm's capital structure is then the composition or 'structure' of its liabilities. For example, a firm that sells $20 billion in equity and $80 billion in debt is said to be 20% equity-financed and 80% debt-financed. The firm's ratio of debt to total financing, 80% in this example, is referred to as the firm's leverage. In reality, capital structure may be highly complex and include dozens of sources. Gearing Ratio is the proportion of the capital employed of the firm which come from outside of the business finance, e.g. by taking a short term loan etc.
The Modigliani-Miller theorem, proposed by Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller, forms the basis for modern thinking on capital structure, though it is generally viewed as a purely theoretical result since it assumes away many important factors in the capital structure decision. The theorem states that, in a perfect market, how a firm is financed is irrelevant to its value. This result provides the base with which to examine real world reasons why capital structure is relevant, that is, a company's value is affected by the capital structure it employs. Some other reasons include bankruptcy costs, agency costs, taxes, and information asymmetry. This analysis can then be extended to look at whether there is in fact an optimal capital...