What is corporate finance?

September 1, 2023

Sara Warden

What is Corporate Finance? 

Generating Value Through Corporate Finance:  

A Guide to Debt Financing, Debt Restructuring,  

Mergers and Acquisitions and Joint Ventures 

Defining Corporate Finance 

Corporate finance is a field of finance that deals with the financial decisions made by corporations and the various methods used to fund the company’s operations, investments, and growth opportunities. It involves analysing the financial performance of the company, identifying potential investment opportunities, determining the best ways to raise capital, and managing the risks associated with financial decisions.  

There are several long term or short term corporate finance strategies that can be used by companies to maximise its shareholders’ value. These include performing investment analyses, debt restructuring, capital raising, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures. By effectively managing these fronts, companies can make informed financial decisions, optimise their performance, and achieve their long-term goals. 

A shrewd grasp of corporate finance will allow companies to maximise shareholder value and minimise risk. But different companies have different corporate financing needs, different funding sources and different risk appetites.  

Size – Corporate finance practices differ for companies depending on their size, as smaller businesses often have limited access to capital and simpler financial operations, while larger companies have more resources to secure funding and manage complex financial systems. Other factors that vary based on company size include risk management strategies, investment opportunities, and regulatory compliance requirements. Overall, companies of different sizes have unique financial needs and constraints that require tailored financial strategies. 

Industry – Strategies can vary significantly depending on the industry in which a company operates. For example, companies in the agriculture industry may require significant investment in equipment, land, and labor to produce their products, and may have to contend with fluctuating commodity prices. Logistics companies, on the other hand, may need to invest in transportation and warehousing infrastructure to manage their operations. Companies in the food and beverage industry may require significant investment in product development and marketing, as well as careful management of supply chains and production costs. Each industry has specific financial challenges and opportunities that will influence the financial strategies and decisions of the companies operating within them. 

Ownership – Publicly traded companies may have access to capital markets and be subject to more stringent regulatory requirements, while privately held companies may have more control over their financial decisions but may face limitations on their ability to raise capital. Family-owned businesses may prioritize preserving the business for future generations over maximizing profits in the short term, while venture-backed startups may prioritize growth over profitability. Each ownership structure has its own unique financial considerations, such as access to capital, governance requirements, and financial reporting standards, that will influence the financial strategies and decisions of the companies operating within them. 

Development stage – Early-stage startups may have limited financial resources and may rely on funding from angel investors or venture capitalists to support their growth. As they move into later stages of development, they may focus more on generating revenue and securing financing from banks or public markets. Established companies may have more predictable cash flows and may prioritize returning value to shareholders through dividends or stock buybacks.. 

The Importance of Corporate Finance 

Corporate finance is essential for the success and growth of any company. It involves making strategic financial decisions that can help a company achieve its goals and maximize shareholder’s value. Here are some key reasons why corporate finance is important for a company: 

  1. Capital Allocation: Corporate finance helps a company allocate its capital effectively. This involves determining which investments or divestments will generate the highest returns, which projects should be funded and how they should be funded. 
  1. Risk Management: Corporate finance helps a company manage its risks by balancing the trade-off between risk and return. This involves assessing the risks associated with different investments and choosing those that offer the best risk-adjusted returns. 
  1. Maximizing Shareholder Value: Corporate finance helps a company maximize shareholder value by increasing profitability and share price. This involves making decisions that enhance the value of the company, such as investing in new projects or returning capital to shareholders through dividends or share buybacks. 
  1. Finding Growth Opportunities: Corporate finance helps a company identify and evaluate growth opportunities. This involves analysing the financial feasibility of new projects, assessing their impact on the company’s financial position, and making decisions about whether to pursue them or not. 
  1. Identifying Competitive Advantage: Corporate finance helps a company gain a competitive advantage by making strategic financial decisions that allow the company to outperform its competitors. This may involve investing in new technologies, expanding into new markets, or acquiring other companies. 

In summary, corporate finance is critical to the success and growth of any company. By making strategic financial decisions that maximize shareholder value, manage risks, and identify growth opportunities, companies can stay competitive and achieve long-term success. 

Key Areas of Corporate Finance 

Corporate finance involves a broad range of financial activities that help companies make strategic decisions and optimize their financial performance. Here are some key areas of corporate finance: 

  • Investment Analysis: Involves evaluating potential investment opportunities and deciding which projects to pursue based on their expected returns and risks. Capital budgeting techniques include net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR), and payback period analysis. 
  • Capital Structure: Refers to the mix of debt and equity used to finance a company’s operations and investments. The goal of capital structure management is to balance the benefits of debt (lower financial cost, tax shields) against the costs of financial distress and agency costs. 
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Refers to evaluating potential acquisition targets, conducting due diligence, negotiating deal terms, and integrating the acquired company into the existing business. 

By effectively managing these fronts, companies can make informed financial decisions, optimise their performance, and achieve their long-term goals. 

Risk, timing, and market conditions are critical factors that can impact corporate finance decisions for companies in general. Every company faces risks, whether they are related to market volatility, regulatory changes, or unexpected events such as natural disasters or pandemics. Companies need to assess these risks and develop strategies to manage them effectively, such as through risk hedging, diversification, or insurance. 

Timing is also important in corporate finance decisions, as companies need to balance short-term needs with long-term goals. For example, companies may need to invest in research and development, marketing, or infrastructure to support future growth, but they also need to manage their cash flow and ensure that they have enough resources to meet their immediate needs. 

Market conditions are another key factor that can impact corporate finance decisions. Changes in consumer behaviour, technological advances, or competitive pressures can all impact sales, revenue, and profitability, and companies need to be able to respond quickly to these changes. This may involve making strategic investments, divesting non-core assets, or entering into strategic partnerships or mergers and acquisitions. 

Take a soyabean producer for example,  it faces risk of weather conditions such as droughts, floods or extreme temperatures can impact soybean yields, leading to reduced revenues for the company. In terms of timing, the planting and harvesting seasons can impact cash flow and require careful management of working capital. Market conditions such as global supply and demand, trade policies, and consumer preferences for alternative products can also impact soybean prices and profitability.  

How a Corporate Finance Advisor Can Help a Company 

A corporate finance advisor can provide valuable guidance and expertise to help a company make its capital allocation decisions and maximize its value. Some examples of these advisory services include: 

  • Strategic Financial Planning: A corporate finance advisor can help a company develop a comprehensive financial plan that aligns with its strategic goals. This may involve evaluating investment opportunities, assessing the company’s financial performance, and identifying potential risks and opportunities. 
  • Capital Raising: A corporate finance advisor can help a company raise capital through debt or equity financing. This usually involve preparing financial projections, identifying potential investors or lenders, and negotiating favourable terms. 
  • M&A: A corporate finance advisor can provide guidance and support during the merger and acquisition process. This may involve coordinating due diligence, evaluating potential targets, and negotiating deal terms. 
  • Financial Restructuring: A corporate finance advisor can help a company restructure its financial operations to improve its performance and reduce financial risks. This may involve refinancing debt and divesting underperforming assets. 

Usually, the advisory services offered by a corporate financial advisor are concentrated in three main fronts: Capital Raising, Debt Restructuring and Mergers & Acquisitions. 

Capital Raising 

Capital raising is the process by which a company raises funds to finance its operations or growth initiatives. The most common methods of capital raising are through equity or debt financing. Equity financing involves issuing shares of ownership in the company to investors in exchange for capital. This can be done through M&A, initial public offerings (IPOs), secondary offerings, or private placements. In contrast, debt financing involves borrowing money from lenders such as banks, bondholders, or other financial institutions. Debt financing involves the repayment of principal and interest over a set period of time, and typically does not involve a transfer of ownership in the company. Companies need to carefully consider their financing options and the impact on their stakeholders before deciding on whether to raise capital through equity, debt, or a combination of both.  

Debt Financing   

Debt raising is the process of securing funding for a company or organization through the issuance of debt securities, such as loans, prepayments, notes, or capital markets instruments. Debt raising can provide a reliable source of capital for companies to finance growth, acquisitions, working capital or other strategic initiatives. 

When a company raises debt, it agrees to pay interest on the borrowed amount and to repay the principal amount at a specified date in the future. The terms of the debt, including the interest rate, repayment period, and collateral requirements, are negotiated between the borrower and the lender or investors. 

Debt raising can be a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. It typically involves preparing financial projections, assessing creditworthiness, identifying potential lenders or investors, and negotiating favourable terms. Companies may choose to raise debt through public offerings in the capital markets, private placements, or bank loans, depending on their financial needs and objectives. 

Find below a summarised debt raising step-by-step process: 

Debt Restructuring 

If a company has too much leverage – or if its debt obligations outpace its ability to generate cash – it may be necessary to refinance or reschedule debt. This can happen for a variety of reasons but is normally due to a sudden change in the company’s financial circumstances.  

Debt restructuring is the process of renegotiating the terms of a company’s outstanding debt obligations. This can involve modifying the interest rate, repayment period, or other terms of the debt to make it more manageable for the borrower. 

There are several possibilities in a debt restructuring process, including: 

  • Debt Rescheduling: This normally involves extending the repayment period of the debt, which can reduce the company’s debt service obligations in the short term. 
  • Reduction of Interest Rates: This involves negotiating lower interest rates on the debt, which can reduce the cost of borrowing and improve the company’s cash flow.  
  • Optimizing collateral structure: This involves negotiating a better collateral allocation to allow the company to perform its current obligations and finance future cash flow requirements. 
  • Debt-for-Equity Swap: This involves converting a portion of the debt into equity, which can improve the company’s balance sheet and reduce its debt service obligations. 

Debt restructuring can be a complex process that requires careful negotiation and planning. It normally involves working with multiple creditors and lenders to find a solution that works for all parties involved. 

Overall, debt restructuring can provide companies with a way to manage their debt obligations and improve their financial position. However, it is important for companies to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits of debt restructuring and to seek the advice of financial experts before making any decisions. 

Mergers & Acquisitions 

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are two different strategies that companies use to expand their business operations or gain a competitive advantage in the market. 

A merger is when two companies combine to form a single entity, usually with a new name and a new management structure. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as through a shares swap, cash transaction, or a combination of both. The goal of a merger is to create a more efficient and profitable company by combining the strengths of both organizations. 

On the other hand, an acquisition occurs when one company buys another company to gain control over its assets, resources, and operations. The acquired company may continue to operate independently, or it may be integrated into the acquiring company’s existing operations. 

Mergers and acquisitions are often motivated by a desire to achieve economies of scale, reduce competition, diversify the business, or gain access to new markets, technologies, or talent. 

Also, the sell-side approach for M&A transactions are applicable to companies that are looking for:  

  • Raising Capital: A company may sell its shares to raise capital to finance its growth, operations, expansion plans or reduce financial leverage. By selling its shares, the company can raise funds from investors without taking on debt. 
  • Diversification: A company may sell its shares to diversify its investments and reduce risk. By investing in other companies, the company can spread its investments across different industries and sectors, reducing its exposure to any market or asset. 
  • Exit Strategy: A company’s owners or investors may sell their shares as part of an exit strategy, such as retirement, succession planning, or the sale of the business. By selling their shares, the owners can realize their investment and transfer ownership to new owners or investors. 
  • Strategic Partnerships: A company may sell its shares to strategic partners or investors to establish a partnership or joint venture. By selling its shares to a strategic partner, the company can gain access to new markets, technologies, or expertise that can help it achieve its strategic objectives. 
  • Liquidity: A company may sell its shares to provide liquidity to its shareholders, allowing them to sell their shares and realize their investment. This can be particularly useful for shareholders who need to raise cash for personal or business purposes. 

It is important to mention that M&A transactions can also be risky and complex, and it requires careful planning, due diligence, and negotiation to ensure that both parties benefit from the transaction. 

A merger and acquisition process normally takes months to be concluded and involves complex negotiation phases. The common steps of an M&A process are shown below: 

Preparation Phase 

  • Understand the client’s motivations and the M&A thesis for the company 
  • Mapping the list of potential investors including strategic and/or financial investors 
  • Deep dive into the company’s operation and financial history. 
  • Preparation of the company’s financial projections, valuation and marketing material, (teaser, information Memorandum and process letter). 

Approach to the Market 

  • Approach to the potential investors in a roadshow process 
  • Signing of NDAs and delivery of the marketing materials to the potential investors interested I the transaction. 
  • Q&A sessions with the potential investors and management presentation 
  • Submission by the investors of a NBO (Non-Binding Offer) to the company, signalling not only the price, but the main terms and conditions of an eventual transaction 

Diligence and Final Offers 

  • The due diligence process allows the investor to conduct and investigate exercise to measure potential contingencies in several parts of the company’s business.  
  • Also, the due diligence process allows the investor to learn in detail the day-to-day operations of the company.  
  • After the due diligence phase, the investor issues a binding proposal to the company detailing: price adjustment, payment terms, non-competition clauses, way of handling contingencies, guarantees, among others.  

Final Negotiations and Signing 

  • After the binding proposal issuance, the parties negotiate the definitive terms of the transaction 
  • The final terms of the transaction are formalised in definitive agreements signed by the parties that normally include: a share purchase agreement- SPA, a shareholders agreement and others. 
  • After the completion of the conditions precedent, the transaction is closed.  

Joint Ventures 

Unlike mergers, a joint venture is a business arrangement in which two or more companies come together to undertake a specific project or business activity. In a joint venture, each company contributes resources, expertise, and capital to the venture and shares the risks and rewards of the venture. 

The joint venture can take different forms, such as a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation, depending on the legal and regulatory requirements of the countries in which the companies operate. 

Joint ventures can offer several benefits to companies, such as: 

  • Access to new markets: Joint ventures allow companies to enter new markets or industries in which they have limited experience or expertise. 
  • Shared resources: By pooling resources, companies can achieve economies of scale and reduce costs. 
  • Risk sharing: Joint ventures allow companies to share the risks of the venture, reducing the financial burden of the project. 
  • Access to new technologies: Joint ventures can provide access to new technologies and expertise that may be difficult or expensive to develop in-house. 

However, joint ventures can also be complex and challenging to manage, as they require effective communication, coordination, and alignment of objectives among the participating companies. Therefore, companies need to carefully consider the risks and benefits of a joint venture before entering into such an agreement. 

Equity Joint Venture: In an equity joint venture, two or more companies create a new entity in which each participant contributes capital and resources in exchange for an ownership stake. The participants share the profits and losses of the joint venture based on their ownership percentage. This can be beneficial for small companies as it allows them to access larger scale projects without actually going through a merger. 

Contractual Joint Venture: is a collaboration between two or more companies that is based on a contract or agreement rather than the creation of a new legal entity. The participants agree to work together on a specific project or business activity and share the risks and rewards according to the terms of the agreement.  

Project-based Joint Venture: is a temporary partnership between two or more companies that collaborates n a specific project or initiative. The joint venture is dissolved once the project is complete, or a specific milestone is achieved. 

Strategic Alliance: is where two or more companies agree to collaborate in a log term basis to achieve common strategic objectives. The alliance may involve sharing resources, expertise or technology and may result in the creation of a new product or service.  

Consortium: A consortium is a joint venture in which several companies combine resources to bid on a large project or contract. The consortium members share the risks and rewards of the project and may work together in the future. 


Corporate finance is a crucial component of any business plan. Without corporate finance tools, it is difficult to achieve growth or penetrate the market quickly or effectively. There is “no one size fits all” approach to corporate finance and companies should instead evaluate their needs and resources to make sure they are taking advantage of the correct strategies.  

If you’d like to know more about how Czarnikow can help with your corporate finance needs, please contact our Corporate Finance Team at corporatefinance@czarnikow.com

About Corporate Finance 

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