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The economic causes and consequences of corporate divestiture

Author

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  • Myeong-Hyeon Cho

    (Korea University, Seoul, Korea)

  • Mark A. Cohen

    (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA)

Abstract

This study investigates economic causes and consequences of large corporate divestitures between 1983 and 1987. Prior empirical evidence suggests that firms hold on to poorly performing operating units for many years before divestiture. An agency-cost explanation for 'holding on to losers' has been proposed in the literature, as managers may be unwilling to admit they invested in inappropriate asset choices in the first place. However, a puzzle still remains: why should such a manager ever sell off such a unit? We provide both a possible explanation and empirical evidence that suggests managers hold on to losers as long as they can 'blur' their poor performance under the cover of the remaining operating units of the firm. We find that firms do not sell off poorly performing business units until the firm's other units experience significant underperformance relative to their industry peers. Finally, although there is evidence that the stock market reacts favorably to divestitures, we find that beyond the initial improvement, the firm's performance reverts back to its mean pre-divestiture level.© 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Myeong-Hyeon Cho & Mark A. Cohen, 1997. "The economic causes and consequences of corporate divestiture," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(5), pages 367-374.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:18:y:1997:i:5:p:367-374
    DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1468(199708)18:5<367::AID-MDE831>3.0.CO;2-4
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    Cited by:

    1. Evžen Kočenda & Jan Hanousek, 2010. "Divide and Privatize : Firms Break-up and Performance," Working Papers 291, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).
    2. Panos Desyllas, 2009. "Improving performance through vertical disintegration: evidence from UK manufacturing firms," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(5), pages 307-324.
    3. Evžen Kočenda & Jan Hanousek, 2011. "Vliv rozdělení českých podniků na ziskovost a produktivitu
      [Effect of the Czech Firms Break-Up on their Profitability and Productivity]
      ," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2011(5), pages 579-598.
    4. John Kwoka & Michael Pollitt & Sanem Sergici, 2010. "Divestiture policy and operating efficiency in U.S. electric power distribution," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 86-109, August.
    5. Naga Lakshmi Damaraju & Jay B. Barney & Anil K. Makhija, 2015. "Real options in divestment alternatives," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(5), pages 728-744, May.
    6. Borland, Jeff & Lee, Leng & Macdonald, Robert D., 2011. "Escalation effects and the player draft in the AFL," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 371-380, June.

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