External Finance Ratio - helping to find shareholder yield or value

Philip Vanstraceele 19 May 2013

Dear investors,

The following article appeared in the 1 march 2013 issue of the Systematic Value Investor newsletter.

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New – External Finance Ratio

In this article I want to tell you about a ratio we have also added to the screener called the External Finance Ratio (EFR).

We got the idea from the excellent book by Richard Tortoriello called Quantitative Strategies for Achieving Alpha: The Standard and Poor's Approach to Testing Your Investment Choices (click the name to go to the Amazon page).

The ratio calculates if a company was able to finance its asset investments from cash the business generated or if it needed external financing (bank debt or to sell shares) to meet its investment requirements.

How it is calculated ?

The ratios calculated it follows: (Gross change in total assets for the year - net cash generated from operations) / Total assets at the end of the year.

Thus if the ratio is positive (>0) it means that the company was not able to finance its assets growth internally whereas if the ratio was negative (<0) it means that the company was able to finance its assets growth through the cash the business generated.

Back tested results

As you know we don't just add a new ratio to the screener without first testing it to see if it can help you achieve higher investment return.

First test

We tested the EFR ratio in two ways.

Firstly we divided the EFR ratio into five quintiles (five equal groups) with companies with the highest need for external financing (largest positive EFR) in quintile five and those with the lowest need for external financing (largest negative EFR) in quintile one.

Over the 12 year period we tested the ratio these were the results:

1: Quintiles, 2: Compound annual growth rate

What it means

As you can see, apart from Quintile 1 (Q1), the compound annual growth rates of the quintiles are linear. This means that EFR has the ability to increase your investment returns if you look for companies with no need for external financing (have a negative EFR).

The fact that quintiles one to three have similar returns means that if you avoid to 40% of companies with the highest EFR ratios you would capture the most of the value this ratio can add to your returns.

Second test

Secondly we did an easier test dividing all the companies only into two groups, one group that needed external financing (positive EFR's) and another group that did not (negative EFR's).

Again here is a table with the yearly returns:

1: Companies that did not need external financing, 2: Companies that needed external financing, 3: Compound annual growth rate

As you can see the companies did not need external financing (+8.1%) substantially outperformed those that needed either bank financing or had to issue new equity (+3.1%).

Where is it on the screener?

We have added the EFR ratio to the screener as a secondary factor you can easily sort by.

If you call up any one of your favourite screens you will find it in a column to the right of the values you normally see when you start the screener.

If you move the top scrollbar to the right you will see the Ext. finance ratio to the right of Net Debt / MV, as shown in this screen shot.

You can sort by the EFR by clicking on the column heading.

The same as all the columns in the screener you can also easily filter the values in the column.

To do this click on the small funnel to the right of the heading. And to filter out only the companies that did not need external financing select Is less than from the drop down list and type in the value 0.

Any questions?

Hope you found this explanation easy to understand.

But if anything is unclear please feel free to send us an e-mail. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Philip and Tim