The capital structure is the particular combination of debt and equity used by a company to finance its overall operations and growth. Debt comes in the form of bond issues or loans, while equity may come in the form of common stock, preferred stock, or retained earnings. Short-term debt such as working capital requirements is also considered to be part of the capital structure.
Many major firms throughout the world have begun to internationalize their capital structure by raising funds from foreign as well as domestic sources. As a result, these corporations are becoming multinational not only in the scope of their business activities but also in their capital structure.
By internationalizing its corporate ownership structure, a firm can generally increase its share price and lower its cost of capital. This trend reflects the ongoing liberalization and deregulation of international financial markets that make them accessible for many firms.
Cost of capital is the required return necessary to make a capital budgeting project, such as building a new factory, worthwhile. When analysts and investors discuss the cost of capital, they typically mean the weighted average of a firm's cost of debt and cost of equity blended together.
The cost of capital metric is used by companies internally to judge whether a capital project is worth the expenditure of resources, and by investors who use it to determine whether an investment is worth the risk compared to the return. The cost of capital depends on the mode of financing used. It refers to the cost of equity if the business is financed solely through equity, or to the cost of debt if it is financed solely through debt.
Many companies use a combination of debt and equity to finance their businesses and, for such companies, the overall cost of capital is derived from the weighted average cost of all capital sources, widely known as the weighted average cost of capital (WACC).