Rollover risk in commercial paper markets and firms' debt maturity choice
By using short-term direct finance firms of the highest credit quality expose themselves to rollover risk in the public debt markets. Firms insure themselves against this risk by securing backup lines of credit from banks that they may use should market liquidity dry up. In a first step, this paper explains why high quality firms introduce a maturity mismatch into their balance sheets and do not simply use long-term direct finance. It also highlights why banks may be willing to roll over a firm's debt while direct investors may not. In a second step, I extend the model to allow for different levels of firm's publicly observable credit quality. Under plausible assumptions about the cost of bank borrowing the model generates a maturity structure choice broadly consistent with observed financing patterns: Low quality firms issue short-term direct debt, medium quality firms issue long-term direct debt, and high quality firms use short-term direct debt in normal times and bank debt in adverse times. The paper suggests that better publicly available information about firm quality and the moderation of the business cycle over the past decade help to explain the decrease in nonfinancial commercial paper outstanding since the beginning of the decade.
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