Impaired Bank Health and Default Risk ( Forthcoming in "Pacific-Basin Finance Journal". )
Empirical studies in corporate finance have long been focused on the role of banks in reducing the costs of financial distress. The environment and events in Japan provide a "natural experiment" that allows such empirical studies. The number of bankruptcies steadily increased throughout the 1990s, and peaked in 2000. During this period, Japan?s banking sector, in contrast, faced considerable problems regarding the disposal of their bad loans. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how various measures of bank health and how defaults of major trading partners affected the probability of bankruptcy among medium-size firms in Japan. Using probit models, we examine the causes of bankruptcy for unlisted Japanese companies in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We find that several measures of bank-specific financial health have had significant impacts on a borrower's probability of bankruptcy, even when observable characteristics relating to these borrower's financial variables are controlled. In particular, a close bank-firm relationship - which usually reduces the probability of bankruptcy - exacerbates the impacts of a financial crisis, which substantially damages other bank health measures as well.
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