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Debt and Product Market Fragility

  • Stefan ARPING

This paper studies the interplay between corporate leverage and product pricing when liquidation is costly for customers. I develop a model which illustrates that highly leveraged firms can enter a vicious circle in which financial distress and sales drops are re--enforcing. There is a "good'' equilibrium in which the firm is in good financial shape. However, when leverage is excessive there is also "bad'' equilibrium in which consumers' pessimistic perceptions about the firm's financial health become self-fulfilling. Moreover, whenever the "bad'' equilibrium exists the "good'' equilibrium is highly fragile in that a small shock can trigger a spiral of sales drops. I show that the firm can avoid the "bad'' equilibrium by not fully exercising market power (i.e. cutting prices) and reducing leverage. The model sheds light on why highly leveraged companies often face severe sales drops and how price cuts and debt restructurings can help to restore customer confidence.

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Paper provided by Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP in its series Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) with number 00.21.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lau:crdeep:00.21
Contact details of provider: Postal: Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP, Internef, CH-1015 Lausanne
Phone: ++41 21 692.33.20
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  1. Opler, Tim C & Titman, Sheridan, 1994. " Financial Distress and Corporate Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(3), pages 1015-40, July.
  2. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1998. "Default And Renegotiation: A Dynamic Model Of Debt," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 1-41, February.
  3. Dan Kovenock & Gordon M Phillips, 1995. "Capital Structure and Product Market Behavior: An Examination of Plant Exit and Investment Decisions," Working Papers 95-4, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. Bolton, Patrick & Scharfstein, David S, 1990. "A Theory of Predation Based on Agency Problems in Financial Contracting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 93-106, March.
  5. Hendel, Igal, 1996. "Competition under Financial Distress," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 309-24, September.
  6. Diamond, Douglas W & Dybvig, Philip H, 1983. "Bank Runs, Deposit Insurance, and Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 401-19, June.
  7. Jensen, Michael C, 1986. "Agency Costs of Free Cash Flow, Corporate Finance, and Takeovers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 323-29, May.
  8. Diamond, Douglas W, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414, July.
  9. Cooper, Russell & John, Andrew, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-63, August.
  10. Matutes, Carmen & Vives, Xavier, 1996. "Competition for Deposits, Fragility, and Insurance," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 184-216, April.
  11. Titman, Sheridan & Wessels, Roberto, 1988. " The Determinants of Capital Structure Choice," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(1), pages 1-19, March.
  12. Gilson, Stuart C., 1989. "Management turnover and financial distress," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 241-262, December.
  13. Jean Tirole, 1988. "The Theory of Industrial Organization," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262200716, June.
  14. Bolton, Patrick & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Optimal Debt Structure and the Number of Creditors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 1-25, February.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
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