Do’s and Don’ts for Corporate Finance case study write-ups
Chair of Corporate Finance – University of Mannheim
Last Revised: October 30, 2006
Your case study write-ups are a major part of your assessment for the case-seminar. We ask
you to adhere to the following guidelines. We have to read and assess a large number of
write-ups, so a clear and concise presentation of your work is imperative. We will evaluate
your write-ups based on content and the quality of your presentation, and we reserve the right
to ignore those parts of your write-up that are not comprehensible.
We limit the write ups to a maximum of four (4) DIN A4, 1.5 line spaced computer written
pages in 11 (preferably 12) font size with 2cm margins on all sides (give yourself a chance to
receive feedback). Use a standard font, like "Times New Roman" and "Arial" or one with a
comparable letter size. Also, reducing word spacing and character size in order to squeeze in
more text is not acceptable.
• aim for a concise, analytical style.
• analyse by example and by reference.
o By example: "...there are circumstances where the plan resulted in zero payouts
because of one significant event (a zero incentive payout in ’92 because of the
loss of a single customer)..."
o By reference: "The plan is quite complex and subject to change at any time
(see the final note on Case Exhibit 6)."
• try to draw inferences from the numbers and exhibits given in the case. It is not
enough simply to understand how the case spreadsheets have been created; you need
to use them to illustrate and justify your analysis.
o Example: "Computing P/E-ratios for companies X and Z from exhibit 10 and
comparing them with industry averages (exhibit 11) allows us to conclude
• use your conceptual knowledge of finance, accounting, economics and other
disciplines of management and apply it to the case. The point of this case course is to
let you demonstrate your conceptual knowledge by applying it to a real life
o Example: "Here the conditions for applying the internal rate of return-criterion
• use the lectures, lecture notes, teaching notes and the textbooks (especially the
assigned chapters) to enhance your conceptual knowledge and build a framework for
analyzing the case.
o Example: If you read the two pages in Grinblatt/Titman that show why the
present value of future EVAs is equal to the NPV of a project, you stand much
better chances to pick up what is right about EVA as a performance metric.
• give a clear structure to your spreadsheets. Spreadsheet printouts must be readable
without access to the electronic version of the tables:
o Assumptions should be declared as such and grouped together in one area, for
example at the top or bottom of the sheet.
o For key mathematical operations it is sometimes advisable to number the lines
in a separate column and to use line-references (e. g., (3)=(1)*(2)).
o Key results should be grouped together in the same way. For example, if you
do a valuation, you should not have to search all over the spreadsheet to find
the value of the company.
• provide a basis for your assumptions wherever possible. The statement "I use average
yield of CCC-rated debt (15.2%, from exhibit 10), as a discount rate" is far superior to
"I assume the cost of debt is 15%."
• put all your numerical analysis (spreadsheets) into tables in an appendix and number
them. Then refer to them in your verbal exposition in the text.
o Example: "On the basis of these assumptions we perform a DCF-analysis (see
• put all discussions of assumptions in the text. Reading your verbal exposition should
give the reader a clear understanding of the logical steps of your analysis and how you
built your spreadsheets. The reader should be in a position to unambiguously recreate
• answer all the questions and structure your write-up along the questions.
• Write your text in English or in German.
• use the "chatty" approach to answering questions.
• make value judgements (such as: "this is the wrong approach") without saying why
and/or suggesting a better one. For example: "Prime + 2% is not the right way to
approximate cost of capital." Why not? What might be more suitable?
• make loose generalizations that may or may not be correct. For example, the statement
"In today’s business environment, managers frequently do not stay in the same
position for a long period of time." is too general and should be avoided.
• simply repeat data or exhibits that are given in the case. Use them by reference to
justify your analysis or to emphasise a point that you are making. Assume the reader
of your write-up is familiar with the case, you do not need to summarize it or fill your
write-up with lengthy quotes.
• repeat passages from textbooks, teaching notes or lecture notes. Assume the reader is
familiar with those, so you can just reference them.
• surrender to the temptation of producing endless pages of spreadsheet output in order
to make your case write-up appear more analytical. All exhibits and tables you attach
should have a clear purpose for your argument and be referenced in the text.
• write answers to questions that have not been asked. You do not need to restate the
questions themselves (we know them!), but it should be clear which part of your text
refers to which question.
• exceed the space limit. Four pages of text, not including numerical exhibits are the
maximum. Please do not use a font-size less than 11pt, spacing less than 1.5, or
margins less than 2cm.
• extend the page-limit by including verbal discussions and expositions in your exhibits.
If your exhibits are mainly verbal, we will count them as text.
• mix languages by using English terms in a German text (or the opposite) if a standard