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Debt financing and firm performance: an empirical study based on Swedish data

Darush Yazdanfar (Department of Business Administration, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden)
Peter Öhman (Department of Business, Economics and Law, Centre for Research on Economic Relations, Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden)

Journal of Risk Finance

ISSN: 1526-5943

Article publication date: 19 January 2015




The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between debt level and performance among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).


Unlike the vast majority of previous research, this study uses three-stage least squares (3SLS) and fixed-effects models to analyse a comprehensive, cross-sectoral sample of 15,897 Swedish SMEs operating in five industry sectors during the 2009-2012 period.


This study confirms that debt ratios, in terms of trade credit, short-term debt and long-term debt, negatively affect firm performance in terms of profitability. As a high debt ratio seems to increase the agency costs and the risk of losing control of the firm, SME owners and managers tend to finance their businesses with equity capital to a fairly high degree.

Practical implications

As debt policy significantly influences firm performance, and thereby firm value and survival, SME owners and managers should focus on finding a satisfactory debt level.


To the authors’ best knowledge, this study is among the first to use 3SLS and fixed-effects models to analyse the relationship between debt level and firm performance. Moreover, while most previous research has examined listed firms, this study highlights the issue among SMEs, which play a fundamental role in the economy.



Yazdanfar, D. and Öhman, P. (2015), "Debt financing and firm performance: an empirical study based on Swedish data", Journal of Risk Finance, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 102-118.



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