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Optimal Financing for R&D-Intensive Firms

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  • Richard T. Thakor
  • Andrew W. Lo

Abstract

We develop a theory of optimal financing for R&D-intensive firms that uses their unique features—large capital outlays, long gestation periods, high upside, and low probabilities of R&D success—that explains three prominent stylized facts about these firms: their relatively low use of debt, large cash balances, and underinvestment in R&D. The model relies on the interaction of the unique features of R&D-intensive firms with three key frictions: adverse selection about R&D viability, asymmetric information about the upside potential of R&D, and moral hazard from risk shifting. We establish the optimal pecking order of securities with direct market financing. Using a tradeoff between tax benefits and the costs of risk shifting for debt, we establish conditions under which the firm uses an all-equity capital structure and firms raise enough financing to carry excess cash. A firm may use a limited amount of debt if it has pledgeable assets in place. However, market financing still leaves potentially valuable R&D investments unfunded. We then use a mechanism design approach to explore the potential of intermediated financing, with a binding precommitment by firm insiders to make costly ex post payouts. A mechanism consisting of put options can be used in combination with equity to eliminate underinvestment in R&D relative to the direct market financing outcome. This optimal intermediary-assisted mechanism consists of bilateral “insurance” contracts, with investors offering firms insurance against R&D failure and firms offering investors insurance against very high R&D payoffs not being realized.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard T. Thakor & Andrew W. Lo, 2017. "Optimal Financing for R&D-Intensive Firms," NBER Working Papers 23831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23831
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    6. Adam Jørring & Andrew W. Lo & Tomas J. Philipson & Manita Singh & Richard T. Thakor, 2017. "Sharing R&D Risk in Healthcare via FDA Hedges," NBER Working Papers 23344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. V. Minasyan В. & В. Минасян Б., 2019. "Модели оценки рисков деятельности компаний, реализующих проекты с НИОКР // Risk Assessment Models of the Companies Implementing R&D Projects," Финансы: теория и практика/Finance: Theory and Practice // Finance: Theory and Practice, ФГОБУВО Финансовый университет при Правительстве Российской Федерации // Financial University under The Government of Russian Federation, vol. 23(1), pages 133-146.
    2. Pellens, Maikel & Licht, Georg, 2017. "Business angels: Crucial elements of the European financial ecosystem," ZEW policy briefs 5/2017, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    3. Adam Jørring & Andrew W. Lo & Tomas J. Philipson & Manita Singh & Richard T. Thakor, 2017. "Sharing R&D Risk in Healthcare via FDA Hedges," NBER Working Papers 23344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • 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
    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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