Relationship lending in a financial turmoil
We investigate whether the shape of relations between banks and firms has had a detectable effect in mitigating the credit contraction that followed Lehman's default in September 2008. Using micro data on a large sample of Italian firms, we analyze the relation between firms' debt concentration and credit availability. We show that firms borrowing from a higher number of banks suffered on average a larger contraction in bank credit and a higher probability of experiencing a reduction in outstanding bank debt. The same results hold for firms diversifying their borrowing, concentrating a smaller proportion with the main bank. The stability of the bank-firm relationship, measured by its duration, also appears to have been of some value in mitigating the credit restriction. Our results also suggest the existence of a different regime in credit supply towards firms experiencing a reduction in outstanding bank debt. If there is a contraction in credit, the decrease is limited if relations are more intense i.e. a lower number of financial institutions from which the firm borrows, more concentrated lending and relations of greater duration. The opposite is true for firms with positive credit growth.
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