A Primer on Equity Financing

by Mufti Faraz Adam - Sharia Advisor for Qardus

Equity financing refers to a particular method of funding a business to sustain and grow its operations. Equity involves raising funds by issuing shares for investors.  Investors who buy shares of a company become shareholders and can earn investment gains if the stock price rises in value or if the company pays a dividend. Dividends are typically cash payments as a reward to shareholders for investing in the company. Equity finance allows a company to raise these funds without borrowing from conventional banks, which typically charge interest. In equity financing, there is no promise to repay the investment like in a loan arrangement, nor is there an interest component. 

Equity finance has no impact on a firm's profitability, but it can dilute existing shareholders' holdings because the company's net income is divided among a larger number of shares. This means that the overall number of shares have increased but the percentage of shares owned by a shareholder decreases. For example, let's say a company has 100 shares outstanding, and an investor owns ten shares or 10% of the company's stock. If the company issues 100 additional new shares, the investor now has 5% ownership of the company's stock since the investor owns five shares out of 200. In other words, the investor's holdings have been diluted by the newly issued shares.  

Generally, equity finance has the following characteristics:

  • Shareholders get a level of ownership in the company
  • Shareholders do no receive any interest payments, but may receive a dividend
  • The investment is generally permanent without any maturity
  • Upon liquidation, shareholders through equity financing are generally last to be paid  
Sources of Equity Financing 
  • Funds are generally raised through the following methods when financing through equity issuance:
  • Personal finances / bootstrapping - most small business begins this way
  • Venture capital (VC) - businesses who specialise in making investments in companies in whom they see potential
  • Private investors / angel investors - like VC, but they are usually individuals rather than firms
  • Family & friends - taking cash from people you know in exchange for part ownership
  • Crowdfunding or equity crowdfunding - a recent method of fundraising which gives the public early or exclusive access to a product or service in exchange for up-front funds. Equity crowdfunding involves offering shares for funds at an early stage
  • Government - in certain circumstances a government grant may be available for small businesses
  • IPO (or initial public offering) - to float your company on a stock exchange and sell shares to the public  
Shariah structures for Equity Financing 
There are two famous structures in Islamic Finance which are used to establish equity financing, they are Mudaraba and Musharaka. 

Mudaraba refers to a relationship between an investor (Rab al maal) and an investment manager (Mudarib) to establish a profit-sharing partnership to undertake a business or investment activity. Under this structure, the Rab al maal provides the financing or funds and the Mudarib provides the professional, managerial, and technical know-how to carry out the business or manage the investment. The Mudarib must invest the funds in a Shariah compliant way. The parties share in any profits according to a pre-agreed ratio. In a Mudaraba, the Mudarib:
  • Puts only its time and effort at risk and does not contribute any capital. 
  • Is not responsible for any losses of the venture. Losses, however, are borne entirely by the Rab al maal.
A Musharaka is an investment partnership or joint venture compliant with Islamic principles. In a Musharaka, the financing party and its client contribute assets (cash or property) to a joint venture and share in the profits of the joint venture in agreed percentages. The joint venture is structured so that the financing party receives its initial investment plus a return that is usually calculated by a reference to a benchmark. Losses, however, are shared in accordance with the parties' initial investment. All Musharaka parties have the right to exercise control over the joint venture but it is typically managed by the client.  
Musharaka is similar to Mudaraba except that in a Mudaraba only the financing party bears the losses associated with the joint venture or partnership. 

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