Everything You Need to Know About Finance and Investing by William Ackman (Transcript)

William Ackman

William Ackman, the CEO of Pershing Square Capital, discusses the nuts and bolts of finance and investing in this lecture titled Everything You Need to Know About Finance and Investing…

So let’s begin. We’re going to go into business together.  We’re going to start a company and we’re going to start a lemonade stand and now I don’t have any money today, so I’m going to have to raise money from investors to launch the business.

So how am I going to do that?  Well I’m going to form a corporation. That is a little filing that you make with the State and you come up with a name for a business. We’ll call it Bill’s Lemonade Stand and we’re going to raise money from outside investors. We need a little money to get started, so we’re going to start our business with 1,000 shares of stock. We just made up that number and we’re going to sell 500 shares more for a $1 each to an investor. The investor is going to put up $500. We’re going to put up the name and the idea. We’re going to have 1,000 shares.

He is going to have 500 shares. He is going to own a third of the business for his $500? So what is our business worth at the start?  Well it’s worth $1,500. We have $500 in the bank plus $1,000 because I came up with the idea for the company.

Now I’m going to need a little more than $500, so what am I going to do?  I’m going to borrow some money. I’m going to borrow from a friend and he’s going to lend me $250 and we’re going to pay him 10% interest a year for that loan.

Now why do we borrow money instead of just selling more stock? Well by borrowing money we keep more of the stock for ourselves, so if the business is successful we’re going to end up with a bigger percentage of the profits. So now we’re going to take a look at what the business looks like on a piece of paper. We’re going to look at something called a balance sheet and a balance sheet tells you where the company stands, what your assets are, what your liabilities are and what your net worth or shareholder equity is.

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If you take your assets, in this case we’ve raised $500. We also have what is called goodwill because we’ve said the business—in exchange for the $500 the person who put up the money only got a third of the business. The other two-thirds is owned by us for starting the company. That is $1,000 of goodwill for the business. We borrowed $250. We’re going to owe $250. That is a liability. So we have $500 in cash from selling stock, $250 from raising debt and we owe a $250 loan and we have a corporation that has, and you’ll see on the chart, shareholders’ equity of $1,500, so that’s our starting point.

Now let’s keep moving. What do we need to do to start our company? We need a lemonade stand. That’s going to cost us about $300. That is called a fixed asset. Unlike lemon or sugar or water this is something like a building that you buy and you build it. It wears out over time, but it’s a fixed asset. And then you need some inventory. What do you need to make lemonade? You need sugar. You need water. You need lemons. You need cups. You need little containers and perhaps some napkins and you need enough supplies to let’s say have 50 gallons of lemonade in our start of our business. Now 50 gallons gets us about 800 cups of lemonade and we’re ready to begin.

Let’s take a new look at the balance sheet. So now we’ve spent $500 on supplies. We only have $250 left in the bank, but our fixed assets are now $300. That is our lemonade stand. Our inventory is $200. Those are the supplies and things, the lemons that we need to make the lemonade. Goodwill hasn’t changed at 1,000, so our total assets are $1,750 and we still owe $250 to the person who lent us the money. Shareholder equity hasn’t changed, so we haven’t made any money. All we’ve done is we’ve taken cash and we’ve turned it into other assets that we’re going to need to succeed in our lemon stand business.

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