Two Essays on Corporate Finance
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This Dissertation consists of two essays. The first essay examines how corporate financial policies depend on the properties of future cash flows. In contrast to prior literature, we investigate the role of asymmetries in the distributionof cash flows. We document the relevance of such asymmetries for firms' payout, liquidity, and capital structure policies. Policies are more sensitive to downside volatility and the directional effect of upside variation is often opposite that of downside. Controlling for cash flow volatility,policies significantly relate to measures of skewness. Firms adopt more conservative policies (lower propensity to pay, more cash, less leverage) when cash flow news is more negatively skewed. The second essay addresses a mythical relationship between corporate payout and short-termism. Over the past 30 years, aggregate investment by US public corporations has declined, and corporate payout has increased. These facts are interpreted as evidence that public firms are plagued by short-termism and are foregoing valuable investment opportunities to support the large payouts. We find that large increases in corporate payout do not impact firm investment or innovative activities in the short run. In the long run, firms which increase their payout invest more in physical capital than control firms and that their RandD spending is comparable. Firms which increase their payout do not experience a decline in operating profitability or valuation in the long run. These conclusions hold when we restrict our attention to firms who persist in making large payouts and for those high payout firms that rely on internal funds. Our results are inconsistent with the view that unusually high payout harms the long-term viability of US firms. The evidence in the paper suggests that the high payers are from industries with declining growth opportunities but the firms themselves are expecting their high profitability and cash flow to persist.
General Audience Abstract
Large increases or decreases in a company’s earnings or stock returns are breathcatching. Do such large changes contain information about the company’s future performance? If so, what information do they carry? My first essay answers these questions by looking into the data. We find that extreme stock returns do carry information about firms’ long-run performance, and this information effectively predicts firms’ financial decisions including payout, cash balance, and leverage. U.S. public firms have been decreasing their capital investment and increasing their cash payout to shareholders in the past 30 years. This create a concern because these firms are supposed to support economy growth and create jobs. Some commenters would conclude that if public firms payout so much money to shareholders, they would not have enough resource to support economy growth and create jobs. We try to find evidence from the data to support or refute this argument. The data shows that firms that payout a large amount of cash to shareholders do not reduce investment relative to their otherwise similar peers, neither in the short run nor in the long run. We also find that the firms that payout high amount are from industries with declining growth opportunities but the firms themselves are expecting their high profitability and cash flow to persist.
- Doctoral Dissertations