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How to determine Beta in a business valuation

Mar 2, 2023


The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is a crucial component in determining the valuation of a company. The WACC represents the average cost of the various sources of capital (debt, equity, and others) that a company raises to finance its operations. When valuing a private company, business valuers usually face the challenge of determining the appropriate Beta to use in the WACC calculation.

A Beta of 1 is often considered a default option in the absence of publicly traded comparable companies, as it represents an average level of risk for the market as a whole. However, in some circumstances, using an industry Beta can provide a more accurate representation of a company’s risk and, thus, a more accurate valuation.

One of the main circumstances where it is more appropriate to use an industry Beta is when a company operates in a highly regulated industry. For instance, industries like utilities, healthcare, and telecoms have more restrictions and regulations, which can limit their potential for growth and increase their risk profile compared to other industries. In such cases, a Beta of 1 may not reflect the company’s specific risk profile. Therefore, using an industry Beta that considers the unique regulatory environment may be more appropriate.

Another circumstance where an industry Beta is more appropriate is when a company operates in a niche industry with few publicly traded comparable companies. In such cases, a Beta of 1 may not accurately reflect the company’s specific risk profile. By using an industry Beta, analysts can better understand the risk associated with the industry and, therefore, determine a more accurate WACC.

Additionally, companies with a significant competitive advantage, such as proprietary technology or a well-established brand, may have a lower risk profile than their peers in the same industry. In such cases, using an industry Beta may overstate the company’s risk, leading to an inaccurate valuation. In these situations, using a custom Beta that considers the company’s competitive advantage may be more appropriate.

Finally, the choice of Beta can have a significant impact on the valuation of a company. Using an industry Beta higher than a Beta of 1 will result in a higher WACC, leading to a lower valuation. On the other hand, using an industry Beta lower than a Beta of 1 will result in a lower WACC and a higher valuation.

In conclusion, the choice of Beta to use in the WACC calculation is an important consideration when valuing a business. While a Beta of 1 is often a default option when valuing a private company, it may be more appropriate to use an industry Beta in some circumstances. Factors such as the regulatory environment, the presence of comparable companies, the company’s competitive advantage, and the impact on the valuation should be considered when making this decision.



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