The excess earnings approach is a method developed by the U.S. Treasury
Department as a tool to value goodwill. Goodwill is the value created by
intangible assets such as brand name or reputat ion. These intangible assets
cause cash flows and earnings to be higher than they otherwise would be and
therefore increase firm value. Since internally developed goodwill, such as
with the Coca Cola or Nike brands, is not reflected in financial statements
prepared according to the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP),
a method was needed to attach a value to the undeniable benefit of these
intangible assets.
Although originally developed as a tool for the valuation of good will, the
method has been extended to the valuation of the whole company. Total
firm value can be calculated by adding the value of goodwill to the value of
the company’s tangible assets.
In this method, adjustments are made to both the company’s balance
sheet and its income statement. The company’s assets on the balance sheet
are restated to their fair market values. The income statement is ‘‘normal-
ized’’ to reflect normal, ongoing levels of revenue and expense, while remov-
ing non-recurring items and adjusting above or below market expenses
(wages, for example) to fair market values.
An interest rate reflective of current returns on tangible assets (plant,
equipment, land) is used to determine a fair return on the business’s assets.
This rate is a relatively low rate reflective of the relatively low risk of
investing in tangible assets. The risk is based on the projected change in
the value of the assets, which is usually easier to predict than the expected
level of earnings. The dollar return on tangible assets is calculated by
multiplying the fair market value of the assets by this risk-adjusted rate.
The imputed return is then subtracted from the forecasted normalized
earnings for the next year to calculate ‘‘excess earnings.’’ The idea here is
that the tangib le assets are forecast to return the risk-adjusted rate for
tangible assets. If the business actually produces more than this return,
given its investment in assets, the excess return is due to some intangible
factor left off of the balance sheet. The excess earnings are then capitalized at
a higher rate than the rate on tangible assets to determine the present value
of the company’s goodwill. The sum of the present value of goodwill and the
firm’s tangible assets equals the total firm value.
It should be noted that the IRS does not condone the use of this method for firm valuation,
even though it is widely done.
164 Valuation—Survey of Methods
The problem in implementation of this method should be apparent. The
excess earnings, cap rate, and DCF methods all require the use of a risk-
adjusted discount rate. The calculation of this rate is difficult and fraught
with the potential for error. The excess earnings method requires the use of
two risk adjusted rates, which doubles the opportunity for error in the
valuation. It is important to remember that discount rates are reflective of
both the risk of the investment and the general level of interest rates at the
time of the valuation and are thus subject to change.
The Fairweather Company can be used to demonstrate the excess earn-
ings approach to valuation. The Fairweather Company has the following
book value and market value balance sheet:
Book value Fair market value
Current assets $100,000 $100,000
Plant and equipment 500,000 750,000
Land 200,000 300,000
Total assets $800,000 $1,150,000
If the current market return on tangible assets is estimated to be 10%, a
fair return on Fairweather’s assets would be:
10% $1, 150, 000 ¼ $115, 000 an nually
If normalized earnings for next year are forecast to be $200,000, excess
earnings can be calculated as forecast earnings—fair return on asset s:
$200, 000
115, 000
Excess earnings $85, 000
Excess earnings would normally be capitalized at a rate 5% to 10%
higher than the rate on tangible assets. Let us assum e the going market
rate for intangibles is 18%. The present value of the excess earnings would
$85, 000=0:18 ¼ $472, 222
The value of the business could then be calculated as the sum of the
present value of excess earnings, the goodwill, and the value of the firm’s
tangible assets:
Valuation—Survey of Methods 165

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