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Real Options, Taxes and Financial Leverage


  • Stewart C. Myers
  • James A. Read, Jr.


We show how the value of a real option depends on corporate income taxes and the option's "debt capacity," defined as the amount of debt supported or displaced by the option. The value of the underlying asset must be an adjusted present value (APV). The risk-free rate of interest must be after-tax. Debt capacity depends on the APV and target debt ratio for the underlying asset, on the option delta and on the amount of risk-free borrowing or lending that would be needed for replication. The target debt ratio for a real call option is almost always negative. Observed debt ratios for growth firms that follow the tradeoff theory of capital structure will be lower than target ratios for assets in place. Our results can rationalize some empirical financing patterns that seem inconsistent with the tradeoff theory, but rigorous tests of the theory for growth firms seem nearly impossible.

Suggested Citation

  • Stewart C. Myers & James A. Read, Jr., 2012. "Real Options, Taxes and Financial Leverage," NBER Working Papers 18148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18148
    Note: CF

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard S Ruback, 2002. "Capital Cash Flows: A Simple Approach to Valuing Risky Cash Flows," Financial Management, Financial Management Association, vol. 31(2), Summer.
    2. Myers, Stewart C, 1974. "Interactions of Corporate Financing and Investment Decisions-Implications for Capital Budgeting," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 29(1), pages 1-25, March.
    3. Rajan, Raghuram G & Zingales, Luigi, 1995. " What Do We Know about Capital Structure? Some Evidence from International Data," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(5), pages 1421-1460, December.
    4. Cox, John C. & Ross, Stephen A., 1976. "The valuation of options for alternative stochastic processes," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1-2), pages 145-166.
    5. Antoniou, Antonios & Guney, Yilmaz & Paudyal, Krishna, 2008. "The Determinants of Capital Structure: Capital Market-Oriented versus Bank-Oriented Institutions," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(01), pages 59-92, March.
    6. Miles, James A. & Ezzell, John R., 1980. "The Weighted Average Cost of Capital, Perfect Capital Markets, and Project Life: A Clarification," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(03), pages 719-730, September.
    7. Ivo Welch, 2004. "Capital Structure and Stock Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(1), pages 106-131, February.
    8. Myers, Stewart C., 2003. "Financing of corporations," Handbook of the Economics of Finance,in: G.M. Constantinides & M. Harris & R. M. Stulz (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Finance, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 215-253 Elsevier.
    9. Robert L. McDonald, 2006. "The Role of Real Options in Capital Budgeting: Theory and Practice-super-1," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 18(2), pages 28-39.
    10. Cox, John C. & Ross, Stephen A. & Rubinstein, Mark, 1979. "Option pricing: A simplified approach," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 229-263, September.
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    JEL classification:

    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill

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