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The Chinese Corporate Savings Puzzle; A Firm-Level Cross-Country Perspective

  • Hui Tong
  • Shang-Jin Wei
  • Tamim Bayoumi

China’s high corporate savings rate is commonly claimed to be a key driver for the country’s large current account surplus. The mainstream explanation for high corporate savings is a combination of windfall profits in state-owned firms, especially in resource sectors, and mis-governance of state-owned firms represented by their low dividend payout. The paper casts doubt on these views by comparing the savings of 1557 Chinese listed firms with those of 29330 listed firms from 51 other countries over 2002-07. First, Chinese firms do not have a significantly higher savings rate (as a share of total assets) than the global average because corporations in most countries have a high savings rate. The rising corporate savings rate is also consistent with a global trend. Second, there is no significant difference in the savings behavior and dividend patterns between Chinese majority state-owned and private listed firms, contrary to the received wisdom.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 10/275.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: 01 Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:10/275
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  1. Jeffrey Wurgler, 1999. "Financial Markets And The Allocation Of Capital," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm123, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Mar 2001.
  2. Hui Tong & Shang-Jin Wei, 2010. "The Composition Matters: Capital Inflows and Liquidity Crunch during a Global Economic Crisis," Working Papers 172010, Hong Kong Institute for Monetary Research.
  3. Eugene F. Fama & Kenneth R. French, . "Disappearing Dividends: Changing Firm Characteristics or Lower Propensity to Pay?."," CRSP working papers 509, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  4. Thomas W. Bates & Kathleen M. Kahle & Rene M. Stulz, 2006. "Why Do U.S. Firms Hold So Much More Cash Than They Used To?," NBER Working Papers 12534, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(3), pages 511 - 564.
  6. Art Durnev & Randall Morck & Bernard Yeung, 2004. "Value-Enhancing Capital Budgeting and Firm-specific Stock Return Variation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(1), pages 65-105, 02.
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