Debt & Equity. Which is Riskier?

Mark Bem-Goong Written by Mark Bem-Goong · 2 min read >

I have a beautiful story to tell you about what I learned this week in Corporate Financial Accounting. It’s about Debt and Equity. In simple accounting terms, Debt can be defined as a source of funding for a business and Equity can also be, amongst many other things.

In the vast ocean of business, two ships sail side by side – Debt and Equity. Each vessel carries its own set of risks and rewards, influencing the fate of companies and the investors who embark on these financial journeys.

Debt, a seasoned sailor, is the borrowed wind that propels a company forward. Picture a ship laden with loans – bonds, mortgages, or bank loans. The allure of debt lies in its ability to provide immediate capital without relinquishing ownership. It’s a monetary agreement, a promise to repay with interest. Yet, with every gust of wind that fills the sails, the risk of the debt ship capsizing looms.

Now, let’s turn our gaze to Equity, the more adventurous counterpart. Equity represents ownership – a share in the ship itself. Investors become stakeholders, sharing the highs and lows of the voyage. The allure here is the potential for significant returns, especially during favorable economic tides. However, this ownership comes at a cost – the dilution of control as more stakeholders board the ship.

For investors eyeing these vessels from the shore, the question arises – which is riskier, just like our Corporate Financial Accounting facilitator at LBS, Francis Okoye asked. The steady course of Debt or the unpredictable waves of Equity? The answer, it seems, is nuanced.

In the realm of accounting, a company’s balance sheet is the compass guiding these financial voyages. For those seeking to buy into a company, the balance sheet is a treasure map, revealing the distribution of Debt and Equity. A company with an imbalance, heavily leaning toward Debt, may find itself sailing in turbulent waters. High levels of debt mean high-interest payments, akin to a ship being weighed down by excess cargo, struggling against the currents.

Conversely, a ship with a larger proportion of Equity on its balance sheet enjoys smoother sailing. While the returns may be shared among stakeholders, the absence of looming debt payments provides a sense of financial buoyancy. Investors, drawn to this stability, might find solace in the predictability of the journey.

Consider a maize production business navigating these waters. The allure of debt, with its immediate infusion of capital, might seem tempting during planting seasons. However, if a storm of unforeseen circumstances – a crop failure, fluctuating market prices – strikes, the weight of debt payments could lead the ship perilously close to sinking. Equity, on the other hand, might offer a more resilient vessel. Stakeholders weather the storm together, sharing in the bounties of successful harvests and shouldering the burdens of challenges.

In a parallel narrative, let’s explore the rubber production business. Here, the company might opt for the debt ship to fund expansion – investing in new plantations, upgrading machinery. The immediate injection of capital allows for swift growth. However, should rubber prices plummet or demand wane, the burden of debt becomes a heavy anchor. Equity, with its shared ownership, offers a more flexible response. Stakeholders, united in their commitment, adjust their sails collectively to navigate the shifting market winds.

In conclusion, the choice between Debt and Equity is a tale of risk and reward, each with its own set of challenges and triumphs. For investors, the decision depends on their appetite for risk, their belief in the company’s ability to weather storms, and their preference for immediate returns versus long-term stability. Whether it’s the maize fields or rubber plantations, the financial journey is an unpredictable one, where wise navigators carefully balance the forces of Debt and Equity to ensure a safe and prosperous voyage.


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