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The Market Price of Risk: Quantifying a COVID-19 Equity Risk Premium Using High-Yield Bond Pricing

This month’s blog post is an article that we recently published in the industry magazine, Business Valuation Resources (BVR). You can read the introduction below and then download a free PDF of the entire article.

Valuation professionals are faced with a complex problem of providing appraisals of private companies with valuation dates in 2020 while considering the market volatility and economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As entire sections of the U.S. economy were shut down and millions of people were forced out of work, business owners in the United States have faced significant uncertainties about the future cash flows of their companies.

When providing appraisals of companies in the time period where the impact of the pandemic is known and knowable, valuation professionals are tasked with: (1) deriving a discount rate that reflects the level of risk inherent in the company’s future cash flows; and (2) assess- ing whether the cash flows to be discounted/ capitalized reflect the risk and uncertainty the pandemic caused. For example, if the valuation professional is provided with projected future financial statements from company management that reflect the expected impact of the pandemic on the cash flows, then recent guidance from the AICPA and appraisal organizations is to utilize the inputs to the cost of equity capital that would otherwise normally apply (no specific adjustment). However, if management is unable to provide projected financial statements that accurately reflect the impact of the pandemic, then recent guidance from the AICPA and appraisal organizations is that the valuation professional would need to use a discount rate that reflects the risk factors of the COVID-19 pandemic. In other words, the appraiser would need to increase the discount rate by some amount.

In this article, we will develop a methodology to help valuation professionals quantify the additional risk that could be used for appraisals of private companies where forecasted cash flows that reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are not available.

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