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What is a Company Really Worth? Intangible Capital and the "Market to Book Value" Puzzle

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  • Charles R. Hulten
  • Xiaohui Hao
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    Abstract

    "What is a company really worth?" is a question asked repeatedly during the recent financial crisis. Attention has been focused on short-term valuation issues, like the "mark-to-market" controversy. Sorting out these issues is complicated by the fact that the market puts a value on shareholder equity that is consistently more than twice the reported book value of a company. Numerous observers have pointed to the absence of most intangible assets from financial statements as an important source of this puzzle. We use Compustat financial data for 617 R&D intensive firms to test this possibility. We find that conventional book value alone explains only 31 percent of the market capitalization of these firms in 2006, and that this increases to 75 percent when our estimates of intangible capital are included. The debt-equity ratio also falls from 1.46 to 0.61. These findings suggest that financial reports tend to substantially understate the long-run intrinsic value of corporate America.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14548.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14548

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    Cited by:
    1. MIYAGAWA Tsutomu & TAKIZAWA Miho & EDAMURA Kazuma, 2013. "Does the Stock Market Evaluate Intangible Assets? An empirical analysis using data of listed firms in Japan," Discussion papers 13052, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    2. Rahaman, Mohammad M. & Zaman, Ashraf Al, 2013. "Management quality and the cost of debt: Does management matter to lenders?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 854-874.
    3. E. Marrocu & R. Paci & M. Pontis, 2009. "Intangible capital and firms productivity," Working Paper CRENoS 200916, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
    4. Guillaume Garnotel & Patrick Loux, 2011. "Définition des bonus des dirigeants et performance des entreprises de haute technologie," Revue Finance Contrôle Stratégie, revues.org, vol. 14(3), pages 119-150, September.
    5. Carol A. Corrado & Charles R. Hulten, 2013. "Innovation Accounting," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Szalavetz, Andrea, 2012. "Az immateriális beruházások és a nem közvetlenül a termelésben foglalkoztatottak szerepe a gazdasági felzárkózásban
      [The role intangible investments and non-production workers play in ec
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(11), pages 1187-1206.
    7. Carol A. Corrado & Charles R. Hulten, 2010. "How Do You Measure a "Technological Revolution"?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 99-104, May.
    8. Carol A. Corrado & Charles R. Hulten, 2014. "Financial Intermediation in the National Accounts: Asset Valuation, Financial Intermediation, and Tobin′s q," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Wealth and Financial Intermediation and Their Links to the Real Economy National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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