In this presentation I will introduce some basic elements of financial forecasting and howthey connect with the financial plan.1

The pro forma financial statements in the financial plan will include forecasts for a numberof items. The cash budget will have forecasts of cash flows to show that cash balanceswon’t go negative. The financial plan will indicate if there will be a need to raise money inthe future and how it would be raised. Finally, there will be forecasts of future earnings toshow whether asset purchases can be funded internally or whether any money borrowedcan be repaid.Forecasting is a complicated subject and each company’s circumstances will be unique. Inthis presentation we will focus on some basic techniques and principles used in forecastingwith a particular emphasis on financing asset purchases.2

We will start with an example of a small company (Bay Cities Granola – a manufacturer ofgourmet granola) that expects its business to grow over the next few years. We can thinkabout the forecasting process proceeding in several steps. First, we will forecast how fastsales can grow over time. This will be done in the business/marketing part of the businessplan. Next, we will need to determine how much additional assets we will need to supportthis growth. Finally, we will look at how those assets will be financed.3

The simplest approach to financial forecasting is the “percent of sales” approach. Thereare a variety of problems with this approach, which we will discuss later, but it provides asimple starting point for understanding financial forecasting. The first step is to make anassumption that sales will grow at certain rate. Ideally this is based on a detailed marketanalysis including consumer demand and competitor behavior.Everything else on the income statement and the balance sheet are assumed to grow atthe same rate as sales. Since costs will increase at the same rate as revenue the profitmargin will remain the same. It’s assumed that the firm will need more assets to supportthe increased sales and the amount of assets will increase proportionately and evenly overthe years. Finally, it is assumed that the capital structure will remain the same so thatliabilities and equity will increase at the same rate as assets.This assumption generally works best for large, established businesses but it also provides aplace to start for small businesses.4

Here’s a simple example of using the percent‐of‐sales approach to forecast financialvariables one year out (2016) based on the current year (2015). Revenue is assumed togrow by 20% and everything else grows at the same rate. Since assets, liabilities and equityall grow at the same rate this leaves the capital structure (the share of assets financed bydebt and equity) the same. At this point, the forecast does not specific where the companywill borrow the additional money or how it will increase its equity.5

In a prior presentation we saw that a business plan includes an investment plan that showshow much and what kind of assets the company needs to acquire and then a financing planwhich sets out how those assets are paid for, that is, how will the company raise the moneyto purchase the assets needed to expand its sales.The previous slide set out the numbers for both parts of the plan. The company wouldneed 30,000 more in assets and would raise 10,000 by debt and 30,000 by equity.6

There are variety of problems with the assumption that everything increases at the samerate as sales.While it might be reasonable that variable costs increase at the same rate as sales, fixedcosts won’t (that’s why we call them fixed) and so our forecast would likely overestimatefuture costs.Assets (machines, buildings, etc.) come in fixed sizes so it’s unrealistic to plan on increasingeverything by a fixed percentage each year. If you have a warehouse, how do you increaseyour warehouse size by 3% each year? More realistic is that assets are “lumpy”, in otherwords, they come in fixed sizes. You might either have to buy new warehouse in year onewhich would provide you with more capacity than you need (and a greater need to raisefunds at the start) or you may have to delay your purchase of a new warehouse whichwould slow the growth of sales.Finally, most companies don’t raise money by increasing equity and debt at the same rateeach year. They might have preferences over how they’ll get additional funds or want tofocus on raising money though one source at a time, perhaps due to fixed costs of issuingnew debt or equity. We will discuss this more later in the presentation.7

If the assumptions behind the percent‐of‐sales approach are not good approximations, theforecast will need to provide more detail. This may include making separate forecasts forfixed and variable costs (where fixed costs are unchanged and variable costs increase at thesame rate as sales) or being specific about when assets are purchased and how big eachpurchase will be rather than assuming that the amount of assets increase smoothly.Finally, the forecast can connect the financing plan with the asset forecast by indicatinghow the assets are financed.8

As mentioned on the previous slide, the financial forecast can specify how the company will chooseto raise money. There are basically three options: the firm can use debt (borrow money), the firmcan issue new equity, or the firm can reinvest earnings (retained earnings) which is another type ofequity financing.We’ll discuss the theory behind choosing the best capital structure in a later lecture, but onecommon approach is that firms prefer to raise funds in this order:1) Internal funds (retained earnings)2) External fundsA) New DebtB) New EquityWe can use this information when forecasting by determining the amount of money being raisedand then assuming it is first satisfied by the amount of internal funds available. If there are notenough internal funds, then the remainder would be raised by external funds, first with new debtand then with new equity, subject to any constraints on the targeted capital structure.In practice, there is a “back and forth” between the investment plan and the financing plan. If theinitial forecast shows that the firm would have to obtain external funds, management may insteadscale back expansion plans to avoid having to issue new debt or equity. Then the forecast wouldhave to be redone with the new sales assumptions.9

The financing decision connects three separate parts of the business plan.The investment plan sets out the amount of additional assets that must be purchased.The income statement and the dividend payment plan sets out the amount of earnings thatare available to be reinvested in the company. (If we are committed to returning 60% ofearnings back to equity investors as dividends then 40% of earnings are available to bereinvested in the company)Our target capital structure (the mix of equity and debt and how it is raised) from thefinancing plan limits the amount of money that can be raised externally.For example, if the financing plan says that the company will not raise an external fundsthen the increase in assets is limited by the amount of earnings retained. If the addition toretained earnings is not sufficient to pay for the planned purchase of assets, then either thecompany will either have to reduce its assets purchases or alternatively reduce theirdividend payments in order to reinvest more in the company.10

If there is a restriction on how funds are raised then there will be a limit on how fast assetscan grow which will limit how fast sales can grow.If a company only uses retained earnings to finance new assets then the rate of growth forthe company (in terms of assets) will equal the addition to retained earnings divided byassets. This is called the internal growth rate. The addition to retained earnings equals theamount of equity multiplied by the return on equity multiplied by the plowback ratio (thefraction of earnings that is reinvested in the company). From this equation we can see thatthe more profitable the company is or the more it reinvests in itself, the faster it will grow.Sustainable growth rate assumes that the firm will issue no new equity and will keep itsdebt/equity ratio constant. Imagine that the plow back ratio is 1 (all earnings arereinvested in the company) and earnings are 30% of equity. If we add that back to equity,then equity will grow at 30%. Debt will also have to grow at 30% to keep the debt/equityratio constant. Since both equity and debt are growing at 30% then assets will grow at 30%as well. If we reduce the plowback ratio, then less money will be added to equity andequity, debt and assets will all grow more slowly.11

More sophisticated models will combine the various ideas presented in this presentation.They will make separate forecasts for sales and for items that are not expected to growproportionately to sales. These forecasts will generate an investment plan for assets. Afinancing plan will lay out how the money is raised and the effect on the capital structure.The results of the financing plan may constrain the investment plan which will affect thesales forecast and so management will often have to revise the various assumptions untilall plans agree.We can see how the various parts of the business plan interact by looking at theconnections between balance sheet items and income statement items. For example, ifdebt increases (balance sheet), that will increase interest costs (income statement), whichwill reduce the addition to retained earnings (income statement), which will reduce theincrease in equity (balance sheet), which will reduce the increase in assets (balance sheet),which will reduce the increase in earnings (income statement).12

A few final comments on forecasting. Generally, college classes (including this one) presentforecasting as a very mechanistic activity; put a bunch of numbers in a spreadsheet and usesome simple formulas to forecast the future. In practice, there’s much more judgementinvolved. When forecasting, you need to ask yourself if the numbers being produced seemreasonable, particularly with respect to sales since it is often the primary driver of theforecast. One way to do this is to have a story for how consumers and competitor firmsmust behave for the forecasts to come true and then question whether that behaviorseems reasonable.Since forecasts include a number of different assumptions, it’s important to performsensitivity analysis, which involves changing the assumptions to see how the forecastchanges. For example, assume that sales grow more slowly than expected and see if thatputs stress on the company’s cash position. We’ll discuss sensitivity analysis in more detailin the section of the course on capital budgeting.13