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Strategic Debt: Evidence from Bertrand and Cournot Competition

  • de Jong, A.
  • Nguyen, T.T.
  • van Dijk, M.A.

We investigate how competitive behavior affects the capital structure of a firm. Theory predicts that the impact of different types of output market uncertainty (in particular, unanticipated shocks in demand and costs) on a firm’s leverage depends on the type of competition in an industry. We test these predictions in a sample of U.S. manufacturing firms by classifying firms into Cournot competition (strategic substitutes), and Bertrand competition (strategic complements). We show that demand uncertainty is positively related to leverage for firms in both the Cournot and the Bertrand sample. Cost uncertainty has a significantly positive impact on the leverage of Cournot firms, but plays a negligible role for Bertrand firms. Our results support the strategic use of debt and highlight the role of firms’ competitive behavior in the product market in their capital structure decisions.

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Paper provided by Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam in its series ERIM Report Series Research in Management with number ERS-2007-057-F&A.

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Date of creation: 11 Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ems:eureri:10504
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  1. Phillips, Gordon M., 1995. "Increased debt and industry product markets An empirical analysis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 189-238, February.
  2. Showalter, Dean, 1999. "Strategic debt: evidence in manufacturing," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 319-333, April.
  3. Kovenock, Dan & Phillips, Gordon M, 1997. "Capital Structure and Product Market Behavior: An Examination of Plant Exit and Investment Decisions," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(3), pages 767-803.
  4. DeAngelo, Harry & Masulis, Ronald W., 1980. "Optimal capital structure under corporate and personal taxation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 3-29, March.
  5. Clarke, Richard N, 1989. "SICs as Delineators of Economic Markets," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62(1), pages 17-31, January.
  6. Evgeny Lyandres, 2006. "Capital Structure and Interaction among Firms in Output Markets: Theory and Evidence," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(5), pages 2381-2422, September.
  7. Dasgupta, Sudipto & Titman, Sheridan, 1998. "Pricing Strategy and Financial Policy," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 11(4), pages 705-37.
  8. Wanzenried, Gabrielle, 2003. "Capital structure decisions and output market competition under demand uncertainty," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 171-200, February.
  9. repec:dgr:rugsom:03e37 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Chevalier, Judith A, 1995. "Capital Structure and Product-Market Competition: Empirical Evidence from the Supermarket Industry," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(3), pages 415-35, June.
  11. Faure-Grimaud, Antoine, 2000. "Product market competition and optimal debt contracts: The limited liability effect revisited," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(10), pages 1823-1840, December.
  12. Bulow, Jeremy I & Geanakoplos, John D & Klemperer, Paul D, 1985. "Multimarket Oligopoly: Strategic Substitutes and Complements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 488-511, June.
  13. Campello, Murillo, 2006. "Debt financing: Does it boost or hurt firm performance in product markets?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 135-172, October.
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