The purpose of this paper is to provide new insights into the low-leverage phenomenon by analyzing the dynamics of firms’ financing policies. The authors explore three theoretical explanations of firms’ motivations to switch among different levels of debt aversion: financial constraints, financial flexibility and financial distress.
The authors apply a multilevel mixed-effects model to a panel data sample of 9,005 US listed firms during 1987-2014. To use a multinomial ordered logit model, the authors break down the low-leverage firms into several levels of debt aversion.
The empirical analysis provides four main findings. First, there is a dynamic behavior regarding leverage policy: after five years, 39.4 per cent of initial zero debt firms remain all-equity firms, 14.2 per cent are leveraged firms and approximately 19.7 per cent still adopt a low-leverage policy. Second, greater asset volatility increases the expected likelihood that firms will be debt averse. Third, when firms grow bigger and older, they show a greater likelihood of moving toward a higher leverage level. Fourth, results derived from the investment variables of research and development, acquisitions, and capital expenditure provide strong evidence in favor of the financial flexibility hypothesis.
These findings suggest that conservative debt policy is integrated with corporate investment decisions.
This paper contributes to extant literature by emphasizing the dynamic process associated with a low-leverage policy, unlike prior studies that focus on the determinants and characteristics of low-leverage firms. It also applies an econometric methodology that is new to the field: multilevel models.
The authors appreciate financial support from the Research Unit in Business Sciences (NECE), financed by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), multiannual program for R&D units.
Ferrão, J., Curto, J. and Gama, A. (2016), "Low-leverage policy dynamics: an empirical analysis", Review of Accounting and Finance, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 463-483. https://doi.org/10.1108/RAF-09-2015-0135Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited