Much has been written in both the management and finance literatures about the impact of downsizing on the financial health and market valuation of companies. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the frequency of downsizing and the impact of frequent downsizings. The purpose of this paper is to look at trends in downsizing, asking the question are companies that downsize once more likely to downsize again. The paper also looks at the impact of frequent downsizing, asking the question are frequent downsizers differentially impacted compared to less frequent downsizers.
Companies that appeared on the Fortune 500 in 2014 and were also on the list in 2008 were assessed for the impact of repeat downsizings on financial measures (profitability, efficiency, debt, and revenue) and market valuation. A trend analysis was conducted to assess the trend in downsizing and repeated downsizing from 2008 through 2014. A series of univariate analysis of variances were conducted to assess the impact of repeated downsizings on the financial and market valuation indicators.
Findings indicate that companies that downsize between 2008 and 2009 were more likely to downsize again in future years. And this repeat downsizing happened at a higher rate than would be expected by the percentage of companies that initially downsized. Findings also indicate that multiple downsizings had a significantly negative impact on the company’s financial performance as measured by two profitability ratios (return on assets and return on investment) and a borderline significant negative impact on the company’s market valuation as measured by stock equity, regardless of industry or initial financial health of the company.
Two competing theories were considered and the evidence found here support both. However, the “band-aid solution” theory, that downsizing may function as a band-aid addressing the symptoms that lead to the downsizing but not the underlying disorder or cause may be a more parsimonious explanation for the results here. It is hoped that these findings will inform both scholars and practitioners, giving both a clearer picture of the impact of multiple downsizings on corporate performance.
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