Political Imaginaries of the Weighted Average Cost of Capital: A Conceptual Analysis
Keywords:weighted average cost of capital, discounted cash flows, value, power, market efficiency, investor
This article analyzes the formulation of the “weighted average cost of capital” in the manuals of two of the most influential associations of financial analysts. It focuses on the use of the formula as the discount rate to determine the “fundamental value” of listed companies using the “discounted cash flows” method, a cornerstone of the definition of “shareholder value” used in the finance industry worldwide. It shows that the choice of variables and their mathematical relations in the formula mobilize multiple, partly independent and contradictory epistemologies and ontologies. This multiplicity is assembled along political imaginaries concerning the relation between particular notions of the maximizing investor, the efficient markets and the sovereign state. The figure of the investor is considered the only legitimate agent to claim the “free” cash flows of the company, the efficient markets are considered the source of truthful representation of value, and the state is supposed to guarantee both the fair play between investors and a minimum revenue for money owners, to be extracted from the rest of society through the tax system. The formula thus legitimizes and renders self-evident power relations that sustain the global inequalities produced by the finance industry.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Horacio Ortiz
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