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Real options, irreversible investment and firm uncertainty: New evidence from U.S. firms

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  • Laarni T. Bulan

Abstract

This paper investigates real options behavior in capital budgeting decisions using a firm‐level panel data set of U.S. companies in the manufacturing sector. Specifically, this paper looks at the relationship between the firm's investment to capital ratio and total firm uncertainty, measured as the volatility of the firm's equity returns. Total firm uncertainty is decomposed into its market, industry and firm‐specific components. Given that the irreversibility of capital is derived from asset‐specificity at the industry level, increased industry uncertainty displays a pronounced negative effect on firm investment consistent with real options behavior. Increased firm‐specific uncertainty is also found to depress firm investment—a result that can be attributed to real options behavior and not just managerial risk aversion. The results are robust to various specifications that control for the firm's investment opportunities that are captured by Tobin's q, cash flow, marginal profitability of capital and firm leverage.

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  • Laarni T. Bulan, 2005. "Real options, irreversible investment and firm uncertainty: New evidence from U.S. firms," Review of Financial Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 14(3-4), pages 255-279.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:revfec:v:14:y:2005:i:3-4:p:255-279
    DOI: 10.1016/j.rfe.2004.09.002
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