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The Emergence of Corporate Pyramids in China


  • Fan, Joseph P.H.
  • Wongb, T.J.
  • Zhang, Tianyu


We examine the pyramidal ownership structure of a large sample of newly listed Chinese companies controlled by local governments or private entrepreneurs. Both types of the owners use layers of intermediate companies to control their firms. However, their pyramiding behaviors are likely affected by different property rights constraints. Local governments are constrained by the Chinese laws prohibiting free transfer of state ownership. Pyramiding allows them to credibly decentralize their firm decision rights to firm management without selling off their ownership. Private entrepreneurs are constrained by their lack of access to external funds. Pyramiding creates internal capital markets that help relieving their external financing constraints. Our empirical results support these conjectures. Local governments build more extensive corporate pyramids when they are less burdened with fiscal or unemployment problems, when they have more long-term goals, and when their firm decisions are more subject to market and legal disciplines. The more extensive pyramids are also associated with smaller "underpricing" when the firms go public. Entrepreneur owners construct more complex corporate pyramids when they do not have a very deep pocket - as indicated by whether they are among the top-100 richest people in China.

Suggested Citation

  • Fan, Joseph P.H. & Wongb, T.J. & Zhang, Tianyu, 2006. "The Emergence of Corporate Pyramids in China," CEI Working Paper Series 2006-3, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hit:hitcei:2006-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Chan, Kalok & Wang, Junbo & Wei, K. C. John, 2004. "Underpricing and long-term performance of IPOs in China," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 409-430, June.
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    More about this item


    Pyramidal Ownership; Decentralization; China;

    JEL classification:

    • D33 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Factor Income Distribution
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure


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