ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

Much of the initial material in Financial Management is covered in Paper F9. P4 covers the more advanced components of the syllabus and contains topics which reflect the changing nature of financial markets and the developing needs of companies.

What is the main focus of P4?

P4 is set at Masters level. As such, the main focus is not just on carrying out complex calculations but also on their relevance to the real world. Some of the materials in P4 require real expertise such as knowledge of how financial prices are quoted in the press or on the internet.

Will specific topical issues be included within the option sections of the paper?

It will mainly depend on the topical issue. More general ones are likely to be included in section A while specific ones may be included in section B.

How does dividend capacity relate to free cash flows?

There is the trite point that dividends are paid out of cash rather than profit and it is usually the availability of the former which constrains what can be distributed.

However, the logic of the free cash flow to equity model and the use of free cash flow after net reinvestment as a proxy for the distributable element of return to investors, is based upon the original concept of income first proposed by Hicks that what is distributable is what can be taken out and leave the value of the business unimpaired.

Value in this sense is taken to be the present value of the future cash flows of the business so what can be distributed is the change in the present value of future cash flows.

The free cash flow to equity model in valuation works on the same principle as the dividend valuation model in that we seek to determine the free cash flow, after net reinvestment sufficient to maintain the operating capacity of the business, which could be available for distribution to the equity investors.

The legal definition of what may be distributed is almost always considerably more than what should be paid out in cash if the business is to maintain the operating capacity and hence the value of the business.

There may be alternative answers to many of the questions, why are they not included in the model answers?

Given the advanced nature of the subject, there will be different interpretations about what is a correct answer. The marking team is diligent in reviewing the range of possible answers and making sure that candidates are given credit even though their answer may not fully accord with the model answer.

The process of answer generation and review goes through many steps and only those solutions which are justifiable technically or theoretically are published. Answer variants which would not be expected of a reasonably prepared candidate are not published although the answers may contain a depth of detail and explanation which would not be achievable under examination conditions.

What are the core areas of the P4 syllabus?

Syllabus and study guide areas C, D, E and F are the main areas and will be tested in parts A and B of the examination. Syllabus areas A, B and G will support these areas and will probably not be tested as full questions in Section A of an examination.

However, they could be tested as part of a Section A question or as a full question or part of a question in Section B.

Is EVA (economic value added) a core area? What level of adjustments is expected?

EVA is a testable topic but it would probably only form part of a question.  It could be tested as a means of evaluating or analysing performance or as a method of business valuation. The details of the EVA calculation would be provided in the examination but the candidates should know about overall approach and key adjustments. There are articles in Student Accountant on EVA which will make useful reading for candidates.
 

Could transaction cost economics be tested?

This is in the syllabus and study guide (reference A3a) and therefore can be tested.

How is portfolio theory examined?

It can be examined in various ways. For example, candidates could be asked to analyse the impact of taking a new project into a company's current portfolio of projects or to describe the impact on a non well-diversified portfolio. (see Q1 of the pilot for example).

How important is the emerging issues section of the syllabus?

Emerging issues in finance are an important part of the P4 syllabus. They appear in Section G of the syllabus and study guide and also overlap other topics.

Candidates are advised to read the quality financial press regularly, such as the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, and magazines such as the Economist and the Student Accountant.

Yes, credit will be given as long as the conclusion makes sense based on the figures provided. It is important that candidates give full workings and present these well as credit will be given for the approach taken, even where an early error results in the whole calculation being incorrect. If the approach is correct, the majority of the marks can be awarded.

Are any changes happening to the professional leval exams in 2014?

There are no structural changes happening to the professional level exams in 2014. The P6 syllabus will be updated for the June 2014 sitting. The syllabus for the other professional level papers will be updated for the December 2014 session, with quite a few changes in some cases. Make sure that you check the resources available for each paper on our website to stay abreast of these changes. There will also be information in Student Accountant.

Last updated: 11 Apr 2014