Debt-Rating Approach

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The cost of debt is a term that companies use as a part of internal calculations, particularly for WACC (weighted average cost of capital). It represents the expense companies incur for the debt accumulated as a part of their capital structure. In other words, the cost of debt is the return a company provides to its debtors, usually adjusted for tax effects.

Companies can calculate the cost of debt using the YTM (yield to maturity) approach. However, doing so may not be possible in every situation. Therefore, companies may use alternative methods to measure the cost of debt. One of these includes the debt-rating approach. However, it only estimates the before-tax cost of debt.

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What is Debt Rating?

A debt rating measures a company’s creditworthiness based on its debt. Usually, companies use it to rate their bonds, known as bond rating. This rating comes from private independent rating agencies. These agencies evaluate a company’s financial credibility and give it a rating based on several calculations. Debt ratings usually come as a letter grade.

Debt rating usually indicates the credit quality of the associated instruments or company. Similarly, it determines the interest rates, bond pricing, and bond yields. Bond yields, in turn, help in measuring the cost of debt for a company. Usually, high-rated debt provides a lower return. On the other hand, low-rated debt comes with a higher return due to the risks involved.

What is the Debt-Rating Approach?

The debt-rating approach takes an alternative method to calculate the cost of debt before any tax adjustments. Usually, companies use current market price data to value their debt. This information allows companies to use the traditional method to estimate the cost of debt. However, this data may not be available in every situation. It is where the debt-rating approach provides an alternative way.

The debt-rating approach requires companies to estimate the before-tax cost of debt by using other bonds. Essentially, companies must consider the yields on bonds with a comparable rating that aligns with the maturities of bonds a company currently holds. Companies can obtain this information from credit rating agencies. The debt-rating approach applies to all companies that don’t have current market data to estimate their cost of debt.

How does the Debt-Rating Approach of Cost of Debt work?

Companies can use many approaches to estimating the cost of debt. One of the most common methods includes the yield-to-maturity ratio for debt. However, the information required to do so may not be available sometimes. Therefore, companies may use an alternative method known as the debt-rating approach. With this approach, a company considers its credit rating issued by credit rating agencies.

Once the company finds its credit rating, it can determine its yield spread over US treasuries. Then, it can add this spread to the risk-free rate of return to estimate its cost of debt. As stated above, this process is most relevant when companies don’t have current market data to measure that cost. Usually, private companies use the debt-rating approach since they do not have the necessary information to estimate the cost of debt.

Conclusion

The cost of debt is an essential part of a company’s cost of capital and relevant calculations. The most common method to estimate it involves the YTM approach. However, it may not always be an option since it requires specific information. Companies can also use the debt-rating approach. This approach provides the before-tax cost of capital using the credit rating to determine bond yield.

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