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Investment Banking Interview Accounting Question: “Walk me through the accounting for the following transaction”

Note: We continue our series on investment banking interview questions with this investment banking interview accounting question example. For this question, you’ll need basic accounting knowledge.

The Question:

If I issue $100mm of debt and use that to buy new machinery for $50mm, walk me through what happens in the financial statements when the company first buys the machinery and in year 1.  Assume 5% annual interest rate on debt, no principal pay down for the 1st year, straight-line depreciation, useful life of 5 years, and no residual value.

Sample Great Answer

If the company issues $100mm of debt, assets (cash) goes up by $100mm and liabilities (debt) goes up by $100mm.  Since the company is using some of the proceeds to buy machinery, there is actually a second transaction that will not affect the total amount of assets.  $50mm of cash will be used to buy $50mm of PPE; thus, we are using one asset to buy another one.  This is what happens when the company first buys the machinery.

Because we have issued $100mm of debt, which is a contractual obligation, and because we are not paying down any part of the principal, we must pay interest expense on the entire $100mm. So, in year 1 we must record corresponding interest expense which is the interest rate times the principal balance. Interest expense for the 1st year is $5mm ($100mm * 5%).  And, since we now have $50mm of new machinery, we must record depreciation expense (as required by matching principle) for use of the machinery.

Since the problem specifies straight-line depreciation, useful life of 5 years, and no residual value, depreciation expense is $10mm (50/5).  Both interest expense and depreciation expense provide tax shields of $5mm and $10mm, respectively, and will ultimately reduce the amount of taxable income.

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