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Measuring the cost of capital in cooperative businesses

Royer, Jeffrey S.
Agribusiness 2019 v.35 no.2 pp. 249-264
capital, cooperatives, opportunity costs, United States
Cooperatives usually cannot employ market‐based methods for valuating equity capital and must rely instead on accounting‐based methods. This paper assesses several approaches for valuating cooperative equity and suggests that the rate of return on equity is an appropriate measure of the opportunity cost of equity because it determines the levels of cash patronage refunds, equity retirement, and growth a cooperative can maintain. Simulations are used to explore the relationship between various measures and the rate of growth and demonstrate that the rate of return on equity is the only measure invariant with respect to changes in the growth rate. Calculations for US cooperatives show that the rate of return on equity results in a higher cost of equity than estimates based on the opportunity cost of funds and confirm that equity is more expensive than borrowed capital. A numerical example illustrates the early redemption of member equities at a discount.