Monday, October 05, 2015

Profit Maximisation and Wealth Maximisation: Meaning and Difference

Objectives of Financial Management (VVI for Nov’ 2015 Exam)

The firm’s investment and financing decision are unavoidable and continuous. In order to make them rational, the firm must have a goal. Two financial objectives predominate amongst many objectives. These are:

1. Profit maximization
2. Shareholders’ Wealth Maximization (SWM)

Profit maximization refers to the rupee income while wealth maximization refers to the maximization of the market value of the firm’s shares. Although profit maximization has been traditionally considered as the main objective of the firm, it has faced criticism. Wealth maximization is regarded as operationally and managerially the better objective. 

1. Profit maximization: Profit maximization implies that either a firm produces maximum output for a given input or uses minimum input for a given level of output. Profit maximization causes the efficient allocation of resources in competitive market condition and profit is considered as the most important measure of firm performance. The underlying logic of profit maximization is efficiency.


In a market economy, prices are driven by competitive forces and firms are expected to produce goods and services desired by society as efficiently as possible. Demand for goods and services leads price. Goods and services which are in great demand can command higher prices. This leads to higher profits for the firm. This in turn attracts other firms to produce such goods and services. Competition grows and intensifies leading to a match in demand and supply. Thus, an equilibrium price is reached. On the other hand, goods and services not in demand fetches low price which forces producers to stop producing such goods and services and go for goods and services in demand. This shows that the price system directs the managerial effort towards more profitable goods and services. Competitive forces direct price movement and guides the allocation of resources for various productive activities. 

Objections to Profit Maximization:
Certain objections have been raised against the goal of profit maximization which strengthen the case for wealth maximization as the goal of business enterprise. The objections are:

(a) Profit cannot be ascertained well in advance to express the probability of return as future is uncertain. It is not at all possible to maximize what cannot be known. Moreover, the return profit vague and has not been explained clearly what it means. It may be total profit before tax and after tax of profitability tax. Profitability rate, again is ambiguous as it may be in relation to capital employed, share capital, owner’s fund or sales. This vagueness is not present in wealth maximisation goal as the concept of wealth is very clear. It represents value of benefits minus the cost of investment.

(b) The executive or the decision maker may not have enough confidence in the estimates or future returns so that he does not attempt further to maximize. It is argued that firm’s goal cannot be to maximize profits but to attain a certain level or rate of profit holding certain share of the market or certain level of sales. Firms should try to ‘satisfy’ rather than to ‘maximise’.

(c)There must be a balance between expected return and risk. The possibility of higher expected yields are associated with greater risk to recognize such a balance and wealth maximisation is brought in to the analysis. In such cases, higher capitalization rate involves. Such combination of expected returns with risk variations and related capitalization rate cannot be considered in the concept of profit maximisation.

(d) The goal of maximisation of profits is considered to be a narrow outlook. Evidently when profit maximisation becomes the basis of financial decision of the concern, it ignores the interests of the community on the one hand and that of the government, workers and other concerned persons in the enterprise on the other hand.

(e) The criterion of profit maximisation ignores time value factor. It considers the total benefits or profits in to account while considering a project where as the length of time in earning that profit is not considered at all. Whereas the wealth maximization concept fully endorses the time value factor in evaluating cash flows. Keeping the above objection in view, most of the thinkers on the subject have come to the conclusion that the aim of an enterprise should be wealth maximisation and not the profit maximisation.

(f) To make a distinction between profits and profitability. Maximisation of profits with a view to maximizing the wealth of share holders is clearly an unreal motive. On the other hand, profitability maximisation with a view to using resources to yield economic values higher than the joint values of inputs required is a useful goal. Thus, the proper goal of financial management is wealth maximisation.

2. Shareholders’ Wealth Maximization: Shareholders’ wealth maximization means maximizing the net present value of a course of action to shareholders. Net Present Value (NPV) of a course of action is the difference between the present value of its benefits and the present value of its costs. A financial action that has a positive NPV creates wealth for shareholders and therefore, is desirable. A financial action resulting in negative NPV destroys shareholders’ wealth and is, therefore undesirable. Between mutually exclusive projects, the one with the highest NPV should be adopted.

NPVs of a firm’s projects are additive in nature. That is NPV(A) + NPV(B) = NPV(A+B)

The objective of Shareholders Wealth Maximization (SWM) considers timing and risk of expected benefits. Benefits are measured in terms of cash flows. One should understand that in investment and financing decisions, it is the flow of cash that is important, not the accounting profits. SWM as an objective of financial management is appropriate and operationally feasible criterion to choose among the alternative financial actions. 

Maximizing the shareholders’ economic welfare is equivalent to maximizing the utility of their consumption over time. The wealth created by a company through its actions is reflected in the market value of the company’s shares. Therefore, this principle implies that the fundamental objective of a firm is to maximize the market value of its shares. The market price, which represents the value of a company’s shares, reflects shareholders’ perception about the quality of the company’s financial decisions. Thus, the market price serves as the company’s performance indicator.

In such a case, the financial manager must know or at least assume the factors that influence the market price of shares. Innumerable factors influence the price of a share and these factors change frequently. Moreover, the factors vary across companies. Thus, it is challenging for the manager to determine these factors. 

Differences between profit maximization and wealth maximization are:
1)      The process through which the company is capable of increasing is earning capacity is known as Profit Maximization. On the other hand, the ability of the company in increasing the value of its stock in the market is known as wealth maximization.

2)      Profit maximization is a short term objective of the firm while long term objective is Wealth Maximization.

3)      Profit Maximization ignores risk and uncertainty. Unlike Wealth Maximization, which considers both.

4)      Profit Maximization avoids time value of money, but Wealth Maximization recognizes it.


5)      Profit Maximization is necessary for the survival and growth of the enterprise. Conversely, Wealth Maximization accelerates the growth rate of the enterprise and aims at attaining maximum market share of the economy.

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