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Do Firms Target Credit Ratings or Leverage Levels?

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  • Kisgen, Darren J.

Abstract

Firms reduce leverage following credit rating downgrades. In the year following a downgrade, downgraded firms issue approximately 1.5%–2.0% less net debt relative to net equity as a percentage of assets compared to other firms. This relationship persists within an empirical model of target leverage behavior. The effect of a downgrade is larger at downgrades to a speculative grade rating and if commercial paper access is affected. In particular, firms downgraded to speculative are about twice as likely to reduce debt as other firms. Rating upgrades do not affect subsequent capital structure activity, suggesting that firms target minimum rating levels.

Suggested Citation

  • Kisgen, Darren J., 2009. "Do Firms Target Credit Ratings or Leverage Levels?," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(06), pages 1323-1344, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jfinqa:v:44:y:2009:i:06:p:1323-1344_99
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