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Cross-Country Variations in Capital Structures: The Role of Bankruptcy Codes

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  • Acharya, Viral V
  • John, Kose
  • Sundaram, Rangarajan K

Abstract

We conduct a theoretical and empirical investigation of the impact of bankruptcy codes on firms’ capital-structure choices. In our theoretical framework, costs of financial distress are endogenously determined as a function of the bankruptcy code. Anticipated liquidation values emerge as the key variable in the capital structure-bankruptcy code link: among other things, the theory predicts that the difference in leverage between a debt-friendly bankruptcy code (such as the UK’s) and a more equity-friendly code (such as the US’s) should be a monotone function of liquidation values. We examine empirical support for the theory by comparing leverages in the US and the UK for the period 1990 to 2002. Our tests use two (inverse) proxies of liquidation values: asset-specificity of the firm, and the fraction of the firm’s assets that are intangibles. We find the theory is strongly backed by the data. The results are robust to considerations such as employing net leverage (debt net of cash holdings) and controlling for other firm characteristics that affect leverage.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4916.

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Date of creation: Feb 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4916

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Keywords: asset-specificity; bankruptcy costs; financial distress; intangibles; leverage;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Acharya, Viral V & Subramanian, Krishnamurthy, 2007. "Bankruptcy Codes and Innovation," CEPR Discussion Papers 6307, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Rainer Haselmann & Katharina Pistor & Vikrant Vig, 2010. "How Law Affects Lending," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(2), pages 549-580, February.
  3. Viral V. Acharya & Yakov Amihud & Lubomir Litov, 2009. "Creditor rights and corporate risk-taking," NBER Working Papers 15569, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fan, Joseph P.H. & Huang, Jun & Zhu, Ning, 2013. "Institutions, ownership structures, and distress resolution in China," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 71-87.
  5. Akbel, Basak & Schnitzer, Monika, 2010. "Creditor Rights and Debt Allocation within Multinationals," CEPR Discussion Papers 7958, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Dang, Viet Anh, 2013. "An empirical analysis of zero-leverage firms: New evidence from the UK," International Review of Financial Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 189-202.
  7. Zhang, Andrew Jianzhong, 2012. "Distress risk premia in expected stock and bond returns," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 225-238.

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