Per the theory of cost of capital, a company’s capital structure reflects a mix of debt and equity that are used to finance its capital projects. Now a comparative analysis of the same theory reveals that most companies prefer debt financing over equity since debt is cheaper, especially in periods of low interest rates.
This is because when a company resorts to debt financing, it takes on fixed expenses in the form of interest payments for a specific time period. However, in case of equity financing, a shareholder not only becomes a partial owner of the company but develops a direct claim on the company’s future profits as well. No doubt, debt financing is a popular financing option among the majority of corporations.
But debt financing has its share of drawbacks. The problem arises when leverage, referred to as the amount of debt a company bears, becomes exorbitant. A high degree of financial leverage means high interest payments, which affect the company’s bottom-line growth.
Therefore, to safeguard one’s portfolio from notable losses, the real challenge for an investor is determining whether the organization’s debt level is sustainable as a debt-free corporation is rare to find. Historically several leverage ratios have been developed to measure the amount of debt a company bears and the debt-to-equity ratio is one of the most common ratios.
Debt-to-Equity Ratio = Total Liabilities/Shareholders’ Equity
This metric is a liquidity ratio that indicates the amount of financial risk a company bears. A company with a lower debt-to-equity ratio implies that it has a more or less financially stable business, thereby making it a more worthy investment opportunity.
Therefore, before blindly pursuing high growth-yielding stocks, investors must consider their debt level. Since large debt loads can make a so-called growth stock volatile in times of economic crisis, it is better to go for stocks bearing low debt-to-equity ratio.
The Winning Strategy
In theory, the optimal capital structure for a company is one that offers the ideal debt-to-equity ratio that maximizes its value and minimizes its cost of capital. Since, in practice, screening stocks based on these criteria is a bit difficult, herein, we choose low leverage stocks as these are considered safe bets.
However, an investment strategy based solely on the debt-to-equity ratio might not fetch the desired outcome. To choose stocks that have the potential to give you steady returns, we have expanded our screening criteria to include some other criteria, as discussed below.
Here are the other parameters:
Debt/Equity less than X-Industry Median: Stocks that are less leveraged than their industry peers.
Current Price greater than or equal to 10: The stocks must be trading at a minimum of $10 or above.
Average 20-day Volume greater than or equal to 50000: A substantial trading volume ensures that the stock is easily tradable.
Percentage Change in EPS F(0)/F(-1) greater than X-Industry Median: Earnings growth adds to optimism, leading to a stock’s price appreciation.
Estimated One-Year EPS Growth F(1)/F(0) greater than 5: This shows earnings growth expectation.
Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or #2 (Buy): No matter whether market conditions are good or bad, stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 have a proven history of success.
VGM Score of A or B: Our research shows that stocks with a VGM Score of ‘A’ or ‘B’ when combined with a Zacks Rank #1 or 2 offer the best upside potential.