A case study of the capital structure decisions in practice in the real estates sector of the J.S.E.
An ongoing debate in the corporate finance world concerns the question of a firm's optimal capital structure. More specifically, is there a way of dividing a firm's capital into debt and equity so as to maximize the value of the firm? From a practical standpoint, this question is of utmost importance for corporate financial officers. Yet, the academic literature has not been very helpful to provide clear guidance on practical issues. Except for a few theoretical models, there is a lack of literature concernmg how companies should decide their leverage ratios in practice. These models are unfortunately not applicable in real practice because of their inability to provide managers with a precise optimal leverage level. The purpose of this study concerns the practical matter of deciding the appropriate capital structure and the possibility of improvement for the companies. Specifically: How do the case companies decide their capital structure? Are their current capital stmctures optimal or is there room for improvement? To be able to examine these questions it was necessary to investigate companies that are as comparable as possible within the same industry. Different industries were identified based on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange industry classification and were analyzed for comparability issues. The real estate industry was found to experiences very similar business and has an opportunity to take more debt due to the nature of its asset structure. Three companies were selected from the property segment of the real estate industry based on their leverage ratios and companies with highest, medium, and lowest leverages in the industry were selected. Gold-edge was found to be the highest levered company in the industry, while Samrand and Putprop were found to be average and least levered in the industry respectively. The findings indicate that none of the companies uses capital structure models when deciding their capital structure. The case companies' capital structure indicates that Gold-edge's current capital structure is considered as close to optimal as possible while Putprop and Samrand current capital structure are not optimal and there is room for improvement.