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Debt Policy and the Rate of Return Premium to Leverage

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  • Alex Kane
  • Alan J. Marcus
  • Robert L. McDonald

Abstract

Equilibrium in the market for real assets requires that the price of those assets be bid up to reflect the tax shields they can offer to levered firms.Thus there must be an equality between the market values of real assets and the values of optimally levered firms. The standard measure of the advantage to leverage compares the values of levered and unlevered assets, and can be misleading and difficult to interpret. We show that a meaningful measure of the advantage to debt is the extra rate of return, net of a market premium for bankruptcy risk, earned by a levered firm relative to an otherwise-identical unlevered firm. We construct an option valuation model to calculate such a measure and present extensive simulation results. We use this model to compute optimal debt maturities, show how this approach can be used for capital budgeting, and discuss its implications for the comparison of bankruptcy costs versus tax shields.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Kane & Alan J. Marcus & Robert L. McDonald, 1984. "Debt Policy and the Rate of Return Premium to Leverage," NBER Working Papers 1439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1439
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Galai, Dan & Masulis, Ronald W., 1976. "The option pricing model and the risk factor of stock," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1-2), pages 53-81.
    2. Merton, Robert C., 1977. "On the pricing of contingent claims and the Modigliani-Miller theorem," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 241-249, November.
    3. James H. Scott Jr., 1976. "A Theory of Optimal Capital Structure," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 7(1), pages 33-54, Spring.
    4. Brennan, Michael J & Schwartz, Edwardo S, 1978. "Corporate Income Taxes, Valuation, and the Problem of Optimal Capital Structure," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(1), pages 103-114, January.
    5. Kane, Alex & Marcus, Alan J & McDonald, Robert L, 1984. " How Big Is the Tax Advantage to Debt?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(3), pages 841-853, July.
    6. Constantinides, George M, 1978. "Market Risk Adjustment in Project Valuation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(2), pages 603-616, May.
    7. Kim, E Han, 1978. "A Mean-Variance Theory of Optimal Capital Structure and Corporate Debt Capacity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(1), pages 45-63, March.
    8. Turnbull, Stuart M, 1979. "Debt Capacity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 34(4), pages 931-940, September.
    9. Miller, Merton H, 1977. "Debt and Taxes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 261-275, May.
    10. McDonald, Robert & Siegel, Daniel, 1984. " Option Pricing When the Underlying Asset Earns a Below-Equilibrium Rate of Return: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(1), pages 261-265, March.
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