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Unlevered Cost of Capital


Unlevered Cost of Capital, also known as cost of equity, is the potential return that an investor expects from a company or investment if there are no debts. It assumes that a company is entirely financed through equity and has no leverage (debt). This rate of return is used to evaluate the profitability of investments that have different degrees of financial risk.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Unlevered Cost of Capital” can be written as: ʌnˈlɛvərd kɒst ʌv kæpɪtl

Key Takeaways

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Definition: Unlevered Cost of Capital, also known as Unlevered Beta, is a financial metric that compares the risk of an unlevered company to the risk of the market. It measures the financial risk of a company without considering its debt. This provides a clearer picture of the company’s pure business risks.

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Importance: Unlevered Cost of Capital is used by investors to measure the risk involved in investing in a company. It allows them to compare the risk of different companies without the effects of debt. This helps them make informed investment decisions and minimize their risk.

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Calculation: Unlevered Cost of Capital is calculated by taking the Equity Cost of Capital and dividing it by 1 plus the tax rate times the debt to equity ratio (1 + Tax Rate * (Debt/Equity)). However, in practice, the calculation may vary depending on different assumptions made about the tax rate and the kind of debt a company holds.



The Unlevered Cost of Capital is an important term in business/finance because it is used to evaluate the inherent risk and potential return of an investment, ignoring the impacts of financing decisions. It serves as a baseline for determining the appropriate cost of capital and assists in establishing relative valuations. When making financial decisions, investors or business owners can use this measure to compare investment options without the influence of financial leverage. Moreover, it can especially be used in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) analysis to compare companies with different capital structures, providing a more apples-to-apples comparison. Therefore, the Unlevered Cost of Capital is crucial for investment valuation, risk evaluation, and strategic decision-making processes.


The unlevered cost of capital is a pivotal financial metric frequently employed for evaluating investment projects. It represents the theoretical expectancy of an investment’s return rate, assuming that the business has no debt, and the cost of equity and the cost of debt are the same. It is a tool that’s especially useful in capital budgeting, which is the process corporations use for decision making about significant investment plans like launching a new product or investing in a new plant.The unlevered cost of capital is crucial in discounting projected free cash flows while computing business value in so-called ‘discounted cash flow’ (DCF) valuations. It’s also frequently used for comparing the profitability of two different investment opportunities, to prioritize and maximize company resources. In the case that a company is leveraging (i.e., funding its operation through debts), the knowledge of unlevered cost of capital is also important for tilting the balance of funds between equity and debt to maximize profits. Hence, this concept provides an insight into how much an investment is expected to yield, giving a bird’s eye view of the company’s entire financial health.


1. Tech-Startups: Often, new tech startups operate without significant debt. With a lack of collateral, they can’t secure as much debt as established businesses. As a result, these companies have a high unlevered cost of capital, which reflects the risk associated with their equity. Investors who are looking to invest in these companies take into account this high unlevered cost of capital to calculate the potential return on investment.2. Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT): Some REITs choose a business model with minimum leverage (debt). They aim to generate revenue primarily through rents rather than borrowing to purchase additional properties. Their cost of capital is primarily the unlevered cost of capital, which contributors assess before deciding to invest.3. Berkshire Hathaway: It’s a well-known example of a company that generally avoids borrowing. Warren Buffet, its long-time CEO, famously prefers businesses that don’t require a high degree of leverage to earn satisfactory returns. Therefore, when valuing Berkshire Hathaway or investing in it, one would be primarily interested in its unlevered cost of capital.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Unlevered Cost of Capital?

The Unlevered Cost of Capital is defined as the theoretical cost of capital for a company, if it doesn’t have any debt. It is essentially a company’s potential return if it operates strictly through its equity, without borrowing any funds.

How is the Unlevered Cost of Capital calculated?

It’s calculated by taking the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) and removing the tax benefits of debts and the risks associated with them. The formula is: Unlevered cost of capital = Equity beta / (1+(1-tax rate) * debt/equity).

Why is Unlevered Cost of Capital important?

It’s important because it provides an indicator of the riskiness of the investments a company makes. If the unlevered cost is high, it implies that the investments made are risky. It also gives a purer view of a firm’s operations as it denotes the cost of capital, solely with its equity.

Does Unlevered Cost of Capital indicate less risk than levered capital?

Not necessarily. While the Unlevered Cost of Capital doesn’t take into account the risks associated with debt, it doesn’t mean a company utilizing only equity is less risky. The type and success of the investments made by the company greatly influence the associated risk.

How does tax affect Unlevered Cost of Capital?

Taxes can affect the Unlevered Cost of Capital by adjusting the debt/equity ratio in the calculation formula. When a company has no debt, the tax benefit of the debt is removed from the WACC, yielding the unlevered cost.

What is the relationship between Unlevered Cost of Capital and equity beta?

Equity beta is part of the formula to calculate the Unlevered Cost of Capital. Equity beta is a measure of the volatility, or systematic risk, of a security or portfolio in comparison to the market as a whole. In the formula, the tax-adjusted debt/equity ratio is subtracted from the equity beta to derive the unlevered cost.

Can the Unlevered Cost of Capital change over time?

Yes. The Unlevered Cost of Capital may change over time as market conditions, the performance of the company’s investments, and the company’s equity structure evolve.

In which scenarios would it be useful to know the Unlevered Cost of Capital?

It is mainly used in valuation methodologies for businesses, as it provides a direct comparison of different companies regardless of their capital structure. It is also used to evaluate potential investment opportunities to understand their inherent risk and potential return.

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