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Sample CFA Level 2 Mock Questions

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Passage

Compass Engineering's board of directors is deciding between cash dividends or a share repurchase program as a method to begin returning cash to shareholders. Liam Fischer, a member of the board, states that both cash dividends and share repurchases have certain advantages that should be considered:

Advantage 1: Share repurchases tend to be more flexible. Although dividends can be raised, lowered, or suspended, they appear to create an expectation among investors that the distribution will continue in the future. Share repurchases do not seem to create the same expectation.
Advantage 2: If the tax rates for capital gains and dividends are the same, and the information content is the same, then shareholders' wealth will be greater with cash dividends since all shareholders receive cash.

Alicia Wu, the chairman of the board, indicates that Compass should review the long-term trends in the country (the United Kingdom) before deciding.

After deliberation, the board favors a share repurchase program. Jessica King, another member of the board, is concerned about the effect of share repurchases on Compass' EPS. She collects the following data for 20X2:

In addition, King wonders what effect share repurchases have on companies' book values. She gathers data from three of Compass' peers who have made a share repurchase:

The board members then discuss the best approach for Compass to repurchase shares. King has identified two possible scenarios, both using the same amount to repurchase shares:

Scenario 1: Purchase shares using all cash on hand.

Scenario 2: Purchase shares with funds from an issuance of debt.

Wu states that her preference is to choose a method by which the company can control the process and execute it quickly. She also prefers a process that would allow Compass to discover the minimum price at which it can repurchase the desired number of shares.

Based on Scenario 1 and Exhibit 1, a share repurchase would cause Compass' 20X2 EPS to be closest to:

  1. £6.72
  2. £6.77
  3. £6.80
Submit Next

Explanation:

Share repurchases are a popular alternative to cash dividends for returning cash to shareholders.  Repurchases allow companies to purchase shares currently being held by shareholders using one of several methods. Once repurchased, the shares are either held for reissue (ie, treasury shares) or retired (ie, canceled shares).

The repurchase leaves fewer shares for investors to hold (ie, shares outstanding), which often results in a change to a company's per-share financial ratios (eg, EPS). Like dividends, share repurchases are made using corporate cash, whether the cash is on hand or obtained through the issuance of new debt.

  • When cash on hand is used, EPS always increases.
  • When new debt is issued, the change in EPS depends on the company's after-tax cost of debt and its earnings yield.

In this question, Compass' EPS following the share repurchase would be £6.77, calculated below.

(Choice A) £6.72 results from incorrectly applying the company's tax rate to the cash used to repurchase shares, arriving at cash of £400 million [£500 million × (1 − 0.2)].

(Choice C) £6.80 incorrectly uses the company's share price instead of the purchase price to calculate the number of shares repurchased.  Companies do not always repurchase shares at the market price.

Things to remember:
Share repurchases are a popular alternative to cash dividends.  They often result in a change to a company's per-share financial ratios.  When cash on hand is used for a repurchase, EPS will always increase.  When new debt is issued instead, the change in EPS depends on a company's after-tax cost of debt and its earnings yield.

Passage

Tom Johnson, CFA, is a portfolio manager at Universal Advisors, a US-based wealth management firm that serves high-net-worth individuals and families. Universal's equity portfolio offering includes separately managed accounts (SMAs) in which clients own individual securities. Johnson manages the portfolio with an aggressive high-risk, high-reward strategy, investing mostly in small-cap growth stocks. To reduce transaction costs and to simplify trading and settlement, Universal buys only US-listed securities for client accounts.

Johnson instructs Francois Martin, a CFA Level II candidate and new equity analyst at the firm, to conduct research on Vent Industries, a French wind turbine manufacturer. Vent is dually listed on exchanges in France and in the US. Martin, a French national who recently moved to the US, is already familiar with the company since he has been following it personally for the past two years.

After completing due diligence on Vent, Martin is thoroughly impressed by the investment prospects and suggests that Johnson add the US-listed shares of Vent to client portfolios. Johnson, as the sole decision-maker, reviews Martin's research and financial models but wants to think about the suggestion before reaching a conclusion.

Martin is so impressed with Vent's investment prospects that he wants to buy it for his personal account. For guidance, Martin references Universal's publicly available personal transaction disclosure, which states only the following:

"Investment personnel are subject to policies and procedures regarding their personal trading."

Needing more detail, Martin checks with the firm's compliance officer, who informs him that the firm does have policies and procedures designed to prevent potential conflicts of interest related to personal trading. Universal does not require that employees obtain preclearance before trading, but the firm's policies do require:

  • a two-day blackout period before and after client trades, and
  • a quarterly report by its investment decision-making personnel on transactions and holdings.

Based on this information, Martin immediately places an order to buy Vent shares listed in France through his personal French brokerage account, which he established prior to joining Universal. Three days later, Johnson decides to invest for clients in the US-listed shares of Vent and places the order through Universal's trading desk.

Johnson is a board member for a local hospital endowment; for this, he receives modest compensation. Universal has approved Johnson's board participation and compensation. Johnson is considered to be a thoughtful and successful investor. The other board members, unhappy with the fees and performance of the endowment's existing income-oriented large-cap equity manager, asked Johnson a year ago if he would be willing to manage the equity portion of the endowment. Johnson responded by stating:

"The hospital provides so much to this community, I would be happy to manage the endowment's equity portfolio. It won't even take much time; I will manage the endowment portfolio as an exact replica of Universal's equity portfolio."

The next month, without informing Universal, Johnson began managing the endowment portfolio as a mirror image of Universal's equity strategy.

Recently, Johnson evaluated the investment prospects of an upcoming IPO for a small-cap biotech firm. The company does innovative cancer research, but it is still years away from profitability. After conducting thorough due diligence, Johnson has concluded this is a great investment opportunity; he would like the hospital endowment to participate, believing the other board members would be excited about the company's cancer research.

Johnson speaks to Universal's lead underwriter and requests that 5% of the firm's IPO allotment be allocated to the endowment. A few days later, when the IPO is priced and allocated, Universal receives 95,000 shares and the endowment receives 5,000 shares.

Which of Universal's procedures for personal investing by employees is inconsistent with CFA Institute's required and recommended procedures?

  1. There is no preclearance requirement.
  2. Transaction and holdings disclosures are not frequent enough.
  3. The blackout period is insufficient to prevent front-running of client trades.
Submit

Explanation:

"Investment transactions for clients and employers must have priority over investment transactions in which a Member or Candidate is the beneficial owner."

Standard VI(B) Priority of Transactions stipulates that once a firm has established a policy on personal investing, specific reporting of personal holdings and securities transactions of investment personnel is required to ensure the policy is enforced. Since the policy's overriding goal is to address client concerns regarding personal securities transactions and any conflicts of interest for the firm's employees, enforcement procedures must also be established.

Key elements of the enforcement requirements include:

  • Initial disclosure of holdings in which an employee has beneficial ownership (eg, for self, trust, spouse)
  • Holdings disclosure, at least annually
  • Duplicate transaction confirmations and periodic statements provided to the employer
  • Preclearance procedures before the employee can trade

(Choice B) Standard VI(B) stipulates that duplicate transaction confirmations and periodic statements be provided, but it does not specify how frequently. Transaction confirmations should be done at the time of trade to ensure adequate supervision of activity, but quarterly holdings disclosure is adequate and common in most circumstances.

(Choice C) A blackout period is a recommended (not required) policy, and each firm has discretion regarding the period's duration. Although the minimum period is not specified, a blackout of two days before and after a client trade is likely adequate to minimize market impact and prevent a conflict of interest and/or front-running of client trades.

Things to remember:
The key requirements of Standard VI(B) for investment personnel include trade preclearance and reporting personal holdings and securities transactions.

Passage

Chao Li is a vice president at Tailwind Capital, a private equity (PE) firm. He is currently raising £100 million for Tailwind Fund A. Li meets with An Heng, an associate at Insular Insurance Co., a potential institutional investor. In their meeting, Li explains the general structure of PE funds to Heng:

Statement 1: The limited partners (LPs) and the general partner (GP) in a private equity fund participate in managing the fund.

Statement 2: The GP is entitled to carried interest, which is typically a percentage of the fund's profits after management fees.

Statement 3: PE funds are closed-end funds, so LPs can redeem their investments only at specified times.

Heng says, "I understand there are costs associated with investing in PE, such as significant performance fees, dilution costs whenever the PE firm starts new funds, and annual audit costs. And I know that there are some agency risks involved with investing in a PE fund. Is there a governance provision that would address GP gross negligence?"

Subsequently, Li raises the full £100 million for Fund A. One of the fund's investments is ModernWare, an online services company. The initial investment is £20 million: £13 million in debt, £2 million in preferred equity, and £5 million in the PE fund's equity. Tailwind plans to sell ModernWare 5 years from now and plans to reduce the debt balance by £10 million by the time of exit. The promised return for the preferred equity holders is 15%.

Several years after the fund's inception, Tailwind exits two investments: StoneWare and BronzeWare (Exhibit 1). Carried interest to the GP is accrued on a deal-by-deal basis and equals 20% of the profits from each exit. The hurdle rate is 10%. When a deal's IRR is above the hurdle rate, carried interest is accrued; when a deal's IRR is below the hurdle rate, a clawback penalty amount is accrued if there is a loss.

Twelve years after the fund's inception, Li meets with Heng again to review Fund A's performance, shown in Exhibit 2.

Which of Li’s statements on Tailwind's fund structure is incorrect?

  1. Statement 1
  2. Statement 2
  3. Statement 3
Submit

Explanation:

Statement 1: The limited partners (LPs) and the general partner (GP) in a private equity fund participate in managing the fund.

Statement 2: The GP is entitled to carried interest, which is typically a percentage of the fund's profits after management fees.

Statement 3: PE funds are closed-end funds, so LPs can redeem their investments only at specified times.

PE funds are typically structured as limited partnerships in which the GP (ie, fund manager) acts as an agent on behalf of the LPs (ie, investors). The GP actively manages the fund and is responsible for all debts (ie, unlimited liability). The LPs commit capital to the GP, and their liabilities are limited to their invested amounts. Statement 1 is incorrect since LPs are not actively involved in managing the fund.

(Choice B) In exchange for managing funds, GPs charge management fees, some transaction fees, and carried interest.

(Choice C) PE funds are closed-end funds since existing investors are restricted from redeeming their shares for long periods of time. In addition, new investors can be restricted from entering the fund during certain windows.

Things to remember: A private equity fund consists of a general partner (GP) (ie, fund manager) and limited partners (ie, investors). The GP is entitled to management fees and carried interest in exchange for managing the fund. However, the GP is responsible for all the fund's debt (ie, unlimited liability), whereas the limited partners' liabilities are limited to their invested amounts.

Passage

Botan Saito is a portfolio manager for Spire Financial. Spire's investments are largely domestic, and Saito plans to diversify Spire's holdings by adding investments in international markets. Saito identifies three countries that he will research further. He collects the following economic data for each country, using average year-on-year growth rates:

During his research, Saito realizes that numbers are not fully explaining the economic differences in these countries. He further researches institutional economic information, shown in Exhibit 2:

Country 2 is planning to implement new policies that create a more open trade policy. Saito expects that this will result in a higher permanent steady-state GDP growth rate.

Saito is interested in how economic factors will ultimately impact each country's stock market. He notes that Country 3's:

  • GDP growth is slightly above the country's steady-state GDP growth rate in 20X4;
  • earnings-to-GDP ratio was above the country's historical average in 20X4; and
  • price-to-earnings ratio of the country's publicly traded stocks was below its historical average in 20X4.

Saito is also interested in how potential GDP will affect each country's bonds. He arrives at the following conclusions:

Conclusion 1 Actual GDP growth relative to a country's potential GDP growth rate is an important factor in central bank decision-making and the likelihood of changes to the central bank's policies.

Conclusion 2 A decrease in a country's potential GDP growth rate increases the likelihood that the credit ratings on its sovereign debt will be downgraded.

Saito wishes to identify how capital deepening will affect each country's per capita output growth. Based on the neoclassical model, which of the following factors is most appropriate for Saito to consider?

  1. Capital-to-labor ratio
  2. Steady-state GDP growth
  3. Average hours worked per worker
Submit

Explanation:

Capital deepening is an increase in a country's capital per worker (ie, capital-to-labor ratio). When workers gain more capital, they traditionally become more productive. However, the neoclassical model of economic growth states that the per capita production function, which measures capital per worker against output per worker, exhibits diminishing marginal returns. Therefore, when a country has a greater capital-to-labor ratio, it will likely see a smaller per capita output increase from capital deepening than if it had a lesser capital-to-labor ratio, all else equal.

(Choice B) Steady-state GDP growth considers several factors, including capital growth, labor growth, capital and labor as a percentage of total factor cost, and total factor productivity. Therefore, this measure would not be the most appropriate to identify how capital deepening will affect each country's growth in output per capita.

(Choice C) Average hours worked per worker affects the factor of labor, not capital, when calculating economic output. Therefore, this measure would not be the most appropriate to use when specifically identifying how capital deepening will affect each country's growth in output per capita.

Things to remember:
Capital deepening is an increase in a country's capital per worker. In the neoclassical model, the per capita production function has diminishing returns. Therefore, a country with a greater capital-to-labor ratio will likely see a smaller output increase from capital deepening than a country with a lesser capital-to-labor ratio.

Passage

Herman Schmidt is a fund manager working at Rosige Zukunft LLC (RZ), a derivatives trading firm. RZ uses the carry arbitrage model to assess the value of bond forward contracts. Exhibit 1 contains information on several German government bonds that pay coupons once per annum and have five years remaining until maturity. Schmidt directs Hedwig Meyer, an RZ analyst, to price forward contracts on Bond A, Bond B, and Bond C. The 6-month risk-free rate is 1.50% and the 1-year risk-free rate is 2.00%.

Schmidt and Meyer discuss different methods for valuing interest rate and currency swaps. Exhibit 2 contains information on at-market EUR and CHF interest rate swaps, and the CHF/EUR exchange rate.

Schmidt has RZ initiate a fixed-for-fixed EUR/CHF currency swap, agreeing to pay 1.20% in CHF and receive 1.80% in EUR. RZ exchanges the swap notional with the counterparty at contract initiation, paying EUR 10 million and receiving CHF 10.5 million. Six months later, at-market 2.5-year fixed-for-fixed EUR/CHF currency swaps are quoted at 1.60% EUR for 1.40% CHF and the spot CHF/EUR exchange rate is 1.1000.

Schmidt anticipates that the equity of Dash Haber Ltd., a UK clothing retailer, will outperform versus expectations. He decides to use a 1-year, quarterly settled, equity-return-for-fixed-interest rate swap to gain long exposure to Dash Haber equity. Exhibit 3 contains information related to the swap:

All interest rates are annual compound rates and are based on a 360-day year.

Based on Exhibit 1, the no-arbitrage 6-month forward price of Bond A is most likely:

  1. less than its spot price.
  2. equal to its spot price.
  3. greater than its spot price.
Submit Prev

Explanation:

The no-arbitrage forward price of an asset is the:

  • future value of the asset's spot price, adjusted for the
  • costs and benefits (ie, "carry" costs and benefits) of holding the asset to the forward contract expiration.

The forward price of a zero-coupon bond is just the future value of the bond's spot price since there are:

  • no explicit carry costs, due to the opportunity cost of capital being captured in the future value of the spot price, and
  • no carry benefits since a bondholder receives no periodic coupon payments.

As a result, CC0 and CB0 in the formula above both equal 0, reducing the calculation of the no-arbitrage forward price to:

In this scenario, the 6-month forward price of the 5-year zero-coupon bond (ie, Bond A) is calculated as:

F0 = 86.261 (1.015)0.5 = 86.906

If interest rates are positive, the no-arbitrage forward price of an asset with no holding costs or benefits is greater than the asset's spot price (Choices A and B). The spot/forward price difference reflects the opportunity cost of capital (eg, cost of financing a position in the asset) over the time to the forward contract expiration.

Things to remember:
The no-arbitrage forward price of an asset is the future value of the asset's spot price adjusted for the costs and benefits of holding the asset to the forward expiration. The forward price of an asset with no holding costs or benefits is above the asset's spot price by the opportunity cost of capital over the time to the forward expiration.

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