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  • Robert Hulet, CBA, CVA

Capitalization of Earnings: Average Earnings vs. Weighted Average Earnings



In the realm of business valuation, the Capitalization of Earnings approach holds significant weight. It is a method used to estimate the value of a company by capitalizing its earnings into perpetuity. However, within this approach, there are two distinct methods for calculating earnings: Average Earnings and Weighted Average Earnings. In this article, I will delve into the differences between these two methods, their significance, and when each should be applied in the valuation process.


Understanding Capitalization of Earnings:


Before delving into the intricacies of Average Earnings and Weighted Average Earnings, it is crucial to understand the concept of Capitalization of Earnings. This valuation approach involves converting a company's expected future earnings into a present value. By applying a capitalization rate (or multiplier) to the earnings, investors can estimate the value of the company.


In general terms under this approach:  Business Value = Earnings / Capitalization Rate


Average Earnings:


Average Earnings method involves taking the average of a company's historical earnings over a certain period, typically three to five years. The rationale behind using Average Earnings is to smooth out fluctuations in earnings and provide a more stable basis for valuation. This method is relatively straightforward and can be suitable for companies with consistent earnings year over year.


For example, if a company's earnings over the past three years were $1 million, $1.2 million, and $1.1 million respectively, the Average Earnings would be ($1 million + $1.2 million + $1.1 million) / 3 = $1.1 million.


Weighted Average Earnings:


Weighted Average Earnings, on the other hand, assigns weights to each year's earnings based on their perceived relevance or importance. This method acknowledges that not all earnings are equal and gives more weight to recent earnings, reflecting the company's current performance trajectory.


The calculation of Weighted Average Earnings involves multiplying each year's earnings by a respective weight, summing up the results and dividing by the total of weights. The weights can be determined based on factors such as growth rates, industry trends, or management projections.  They can also simply increment by year giving later or more current years more weight.


For instance, if we assign weights of 1, 2, and 3 to the earnings of the past three years respectively, the Weighted Average Earnings would be:


((1 $1 million) + (2 $1.2 million) + (3 * $1.1 million)) / 6 ) = $1.12 million.


Significance and Application:


Both Average Earnings and Weighted Average Earnings have their significance in the valuation process:


  1. Stability vs. Accuracy: Average Earnings provide a stable basis for valuation by smoothing out fluctuations in earnings, making it suitable for companies with consistent performance. Weighted Average Earnings, on the other hand, offer a more accurate reflection of the company's current performance trajectory, considering recent trends and developments.

  2. Timing and Market Conditions: The choice between Average Earnings and Weighted Average Earnings may also depend on market conditions and the timing of the valuation. In rapidly changing industries or volatile markets, Weighted Average Earnings may provide a more accurate assessment of the company's value.

  3. Investor Preferences: Investors and analysts may have varying preferences regarding the use of Average Earnings or Weighted Average Earnings based on their risk tolerance, investment horizon, and perception of the company's prospects.


Summary:


Both Average Earnings and Weighted Average Earnings are valuable methods for calculating earnings when applying the Capitalization of Earnings approach in business valuation. While Average Earnings offer stability and simplicity, Weighted Average Earnings provide a more nuanced and accurate reflection of the company's current performance. Understanding the differences between these methods and their implications is crucial for making informed valuation decisions and assessing the true value of a company.

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