What Is The Weighted Average Cost of Capital? WACC in a Nutshell

The Weighted Average Cost of Capital can also be defined as the cost of capital. That’s a rate – net of the weight of the equity and debt the company holds – that assesses how much it cost to that firm to get capital in the form of equity, debt or both. 


Why would you be interested in knowing the cost of debt, equity and eventually the cost of capital? 

Money has a time value, and if we want to know if it is convenient for us to undertake an investment, we must discount the invested capital for the proper discount rate

For instance, imagine for a second you want to invest in a new venture, but you also want to make 25% annually on that venture. Thus you invest $100K, and you want to make $25K by the end of the year. 

The 25% is your hurdle rate. Consequently, if your expected return on this investment isn’t at least 25%, you won’t go for it. To compute the expected return on an equity investment, we will have to determine the cost of equity. 

Imagine that you assessed the cost of equity on the new venture and it turns out to be 15%. This return is not satisfactory enough for you to invest. Therefore you will not commit your money.

On the other hand, if you want to know the proper discount rate for the overall asset of the organization we will have to resort to the WACC formula:


In short, to compute the cost of capital, we will have to adjust the cost of equity and the cost of debt according to the weight of each component of the capital structure of the firm. 

For instance, the same company will have a lower or higher cost of capital according to the financing mix it chose to finance its operations.

What is the cost of debt?

The cost of debt can be defined as the amount of interest a firm has to pay over the borrowed capital. In other words, each time a firm borrows a sum of money, within some days, months or years the firm will have to pay back what is called the principal plus interests. 

For instance, I borrow $1,000 at 10% simple annual interest due in one year; after one year I will have to pay back the $1,000 (principal) plus $100 (interests).

Now you may wonder what determines the interest payment? Solvency. How to measure solvency? Of course, you can logically understand that a company that is more reliable will also be perceived as safer. 

Thus it will able to borrow money at a lower cost, therefore pay lower interests. Yet this can be an explanation sufficient for the laymen, not the financial manager. Let’s take a look at how debt affects both balance sheet and income statement:


From the picture above you can see that under the liability section of the balance sheet we have two forms of debt: short and long-term debt and they both produce interests. 

These interests will be paid with the portion of income that is left after paying the operating expenses, which in finance lingo is called EBIT (earnings before interests and taxes). 

When the EBIT is a few times greater than the interest expenses, this is a good sign. For instance, a firm that has a monthly EBIT of $1,000 and has to pay $100 in monthly interest expenses, it means that the EBIT is 10x the interest payments (1,000/100), making such firm very reliable. 

In financial jargon, this is called the Interest Coverage Ratio (EBIT/Interest Expense), and this measure helps us in the assessment of the credit condition of the company. 

Therefore, the higher the interest coverage ratio, the better the credit conditions of the firm, the lower the interests the firm will pay on its debt. I would call this the “debt positive spiral:


A higher interest coverage ratio determines a lower cost of financing. This, in turn, brings a higher EBIT in comparison to interest expenses, therefore an interest coverage ratio improvement and so on, up to the point in which the interest rates the company pays on its debt get very close to the risk-free rate. 

This positive spiral happens when a company is using an optimal capital structure, but when the debt gets out of hand, we have the opposite scenario, the “debt negative spiral:


In this scenario a lower interest coverage ratio determines higher interest rates on debt financing, which in turn will increase the interest expenses, thus making them grow faster than the EBIT, therefore determining a lower interest coverage ratio and so on, up to the point in which the firm goes bankrupt.

Hot to Measure the Interest on Debt or the Cost of Debt

The interest that a firm pays on the borrowed capital can be defined as its cost of debt. In part this interest is determined by how reliable a company is. 

On the other hand, there is a part of this interest that cannot be determined by the organization’s balance sheet, but from other factors. Let’s see below what the interest on the debt is comprised of:


As you can see from the image above the primary building blocks of the interest on the debt are the risk-free rate and the spread. 

The risk-free rate is the rate returned by an asset that carries no risk at all, such as the U.S. Treasury bill. 

On the other hand, the spread has two primary layers: the country and the company spread. In this specific case, I am referring to corporate debt. 

Furthermore, if we want to know the cost of debt for a company that operates in Italy, we must start from the risk-free rate, and eventually add up the country spread and the company spread, this is how we get the cost of debt financing for that firm. 

Let’s say that we want to compute the cost of debt for Fiat Chrysler Automotive Group, what do we need to know? We can do that in three steps:

  • Find out the risk-free rate. Keep in mind that FIAT is an Italian company, thus instead of using the U.S. Treasury Bill as the risk-free rate, we will have to find the European equivalent of it.
  • Find out the Italian country spread, or the difference between the risk-free rate asset and the long-term Italian bond.
  • Find out FIAT’s credit rating, which will allow us to determine the company spread.

See the three steps below:


As you can see from the image above, in the first step we determined the risk-free rate. Since Fiat Chrysler Group is headquartered and principal operations in Italy we cannot we had to find the European equivalent of the U.S.  

Treasury Bond. In fact, I took the 10-year rate for the German Bond (called Bund), which rate is 0.29%.

Furthermore, in the second step, I took the 10-year spread between the German bund and the Italian BTP (BTP is the equivalent of the American bond), which is  1.26%.

In the third step, I looked up at the rating for FIAT Group, and according to that, I looked at the table to determine the company’s spread based on its credit rating, which turned out to be 3.61%. 

Eventually, I determined a cost of debt for FCA Group of 5.16%. This means that FCA Group has to pay at least 5.16% to its creditors to issue a 10-year corporate bond.

Cost of Equity and CAPM

When the investor or equity holder places his money in a venture, he will expect a certain return that we computed through the CAPM, and that is how we determined the cost of equity.

In finance, the capital asset pricing model (or CAPM) is a model or framework that helps theoretically assess the rate of return required for an asset to build a diversified portfolio able to give satisfactory returns.

The same principle applies to the financing decision; we will use the CAPM as the primary framework to assess that cost of equity.

Is WACC reliable?

The main issue with WACC is its underlying assumptions. Since WACC uses the CAPM to assess the cost of capital. Within the CAPM there is a variable called Beta. 

Beta, in theory, measures the volatility of a stock, compared to a portfolio by using a standard measure called variance. There are two major drawbacks here. 

First, to compute the Beta, we take the historic data of stocks and project it forward, as if, the past can predict the future. 

In addition, measures like Beta, start from a distribution, which is called Gaussian, which assumes that we live in a linear world. Thus, generating a huge bias within this metric, and making it worthless, in some instances. 

Third, the Beta is considered fixed for a certain period of time, however, the way assets “behave” on the market, and how they are correlated to each other, might change, quickly, and from time to time, according to the context of the market. 

In other words, those who use WACC, need to be aware of the major drawbacks this method brings with it. 

The problem is, though, that many financial experts, still use the WACC to create financial models, that evaluate companies. Those financial models, eventually, have no real value, because the underlying method is very very biased. 

Thus, it might be much more solid, and rigorous to use simpler metrics, like ratios, to evaluate companies, and the cost of capital, rather than relying on WACC, CAPM, and Beta. 

What to read next?

Connected Financial Concepts

Circle of Competence

The circle of competence describes a person’s natural competence in an area that matches their skills and abilities. Beyond this imaginary circle are skills and abilities that a person is naturally less competent at. The concept was popularised by Warren Buffett, who argued that investors should only invest in companies they know and understand. However, the circle of competence applies to any topic and indeed any individual.

What is a Moat

Economic or market moats represent the long-term business defensibility. Or how long a business can retain its competitive advantage in the marketplace over the years. Warren Buffet who popularized the term “moat” referred to it as a share of mind, opposite to market share, as such it is the characteristic that all valuable brands have.

Buffet Indicator

The Buffet Indicator is a measure of the total value of all publicly-traded stocks in a country divided by that country’s GDP. It’s a measure and ratio to evaluate whether a market is undervalued or overvalued. It’s one of Warren Buffet’s favorite measures as a warning that financial markets might be overvalued and riskier.

Venture Capital

Venture capital is a form of investing skewed toward high-risk bets, that are likely to fail. Therefore venture capitalists look for higher returns. Indeed, venture capital is based on the power law, or the law for which a small number of bets will pay off big time for the larger numbers of low-return or investments that will go to zero. That is the whole premise of venture capital.

Foreign Direct Investment

Foreign direct investment occurs when an individual or business purchases an interest of 10% or more in a company that operates in a different country. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this percentage implies that the investor can influence or participate in the management of an enterprise. When the interest is less than 10%, on the other hand, the IMF simply defines it as a security that is part of a stock portfolio. Foreign direct investment (FDI), therefore, involves the purchase of an interest in a company by an entity that is located in another country. 


Micro-investing is the process of investing small amounts of money regularly. The process of micro-investing involves small and sometimes irregular investments where the individual can set up recurring payments or invest a lump sum as cash becomes available.

Meme Investing

Meme stocks are securities that go viral online and attract the attention of the younger generation of retail investors. Meme investing, therefore, is a bottom-up, community-driven approach to investing that positions itself as the antonym to Wall Street investing. Also, meme investing often looks at attractive opportunities with lower liquidity that might be easier to overtake, thus enabling wide speculation, as “meme investors” often look for disproportionate short-term returns.

Retail Investing

Retail investing is the act of non-professional investors buying and selling securities for their own purposes. Retail investing has become popular with the rise of zero commissions digital platforms enabling anyone with small portfolio to trade.

Accredited Investor

Accredited investors are individuals or entities deemed sophisticated enough to purchase securities that are not bound by the laws that protect normal investors. These may encompass venture capital, angel investments, private equity funds, hedge funds, real estate investment funds, and specialty investment funds such as those related to cryptocurrency. Accredited investors, therefore, are individuals or entities permitted to invest in securities that are complex, opaque, loosely regulated, or otherwise unregistered with a financial authority.

Startup Valuation

Startup valuation describes a suite of methods used to value companies with little or no revenue. Therefore, startup valuation is the process of determining what a startup is worth. This value clarifies the company’s capacity to meet customer and investor expectations, achieve stated milestones, and use the new capital to grow.

Profit vs. Cash Flow

Profit is the total income that a company generates from its operations. This includes money from sales, investments, and other income sources. In contrast, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of a company. This distinction is critical to understand as a profitable company might be short of cash and have liquidity crises.


Double-entry accounting is the foundation of modern financial accounting. It’s based on the accounting equation, where assets equal liabilities plus equity. That is the fundamental unit to build financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement). The basic concept of double-entry is that a single transaction, to be recorded, will hit two accounts.

Balance Sheet

The purpose of the balance sheet is to report how the resources to run the operations of the business were acquired. The Balance Sheet helps to assess the financial risk of a business and the simplest way to describe it is given by the accounting equation (assets = liability + equity).

Income Statement

The income statement, together with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement is among the key financial statements to understand how companies perform at fundamental level. The income statement shows the revenues and costs for a period and whether the company runs at profit or loss (also called P&L statement).

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement is the third main financial statement, together with income statement and the balance sheet. It helps to assess the liquidity of an organization by showing the cash balances coming from operations, investing and financing. The cash flow statement can be prepared with two separate methods: direct or indirect.

Capital Structure

The capital structure shows how an organization financed its operations. Following the balance sheet structure, usually, assets of an organization can be built either by using equity or liability. Equity usually comprises endowment from shareholders and profit reserves. Where instead, liabilities can comprise either current (short-term debt) or non-current (long-term obligations).

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure or capital expense represents the money spent toward things that can be classified as fixed asset, with a longer term value. As such they will be recorded under non-current assets, on the balance sheet, and they will be amortized over the years. The reduced value on the balance sheet is expensed through the profit and loss.

Financial Statements

Financial statements help companies assess several aspects of the business, from profitability (income statement) to how assets are sourced (balance sheet), and cash inflows and outflows (cash flow statement). Financial statements are also mandatory to companies for tax purposes. They are also used by managers to assess the performance of the business.

Financial Modeling

Financial modeling involves the analysis of accounting, finance, and business data to predict future financial performance. Financial modeling is often used in valuation, which consists of estimating the value in dollar terms of a company based on several parameters. Some of the most common financial models comprise discounted cash flows, the M&A model, and the CCA model.

Business Valuation

Business valuations involve a formal analysis of the key operational aspects of a business. A business valuation is an analysis used to determine the economic value of a business or company unit. It’s important to note that valuations are one part science and one part art. Analysts use professional judgment to consider the financial performance of a business with respect to local, national, or global economic conditions. They will also consider the total value of assets and liabilities, in addition to patented or proprietary technology.

Financial Ratio



The Weighted Average Cost of Capital can also be defined as the cost of capital. That’s a rate – net of the weight of the equity and debt the company holds – that assesses how much it cost to that firm to get capital in the form of equity, debt or both. 

Financial Option

A financial option is a contract, defined as a derivative drawing its value on a set of underlying variables (perhaps the volatility of the stock underlying the option). It comprises two parties (option writer and option buyer). This contract offers the right of the option holder to purchase the underlying asset at an agreed price.

Profitability Framework

A profitability framework helps you assess the profitability of any company within a few minutes. It starts by looking at two simple variables (revenues and costs) and it drills down from there. This helps us identify in which part of the organization there is a profitability issue and strategize from there.

Triple Bottom Line

The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is a theory that seeks to gauge the level of corporate social responsibility in business. Instead of a single bottom line associated with profit, the TBL theory argues that there should be two more: people, and the planet. By balancing people, planet, and profit, it’s possible to build a more sustainable business model and a circular firm.

Behavioral Finance

Behavioral finance or economics focuses on understanding how individuals make decisions and how those decisions are affected by psychological factors, such as biases, and how those can affect the collective. Behavioral finance is an expansion of classic finance and economics that assumed that people always rational choices based on optimizing their outcome, void of context.

Connected Video Lectures


About The Author

Leave a Reply

Weighted average cost of capital

The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is the rate that a company is expected to pay on average to all its security holders to finance its assets. The WACC is the minimum return that a company must earn on an existing asset base to satisfy its creditors, owners, and other providers of capital, or they will invest elsewhere.

About The Author

Scroll to Top