Capital structure in Europe: determinants, market timing and speed of adjustment
2015-09-03T14:42:17Z (GMT) by
In broad terms, the aim of this thesis is to investigate the determinants of capital structure in European-listed firms. More specifically, it examines the existence of market timing effects in European firms and the speed of adjustment towards optimal capital structure as well as its determinants. Over the last two decades, Europe has undergone an intriguing experience involving changes in the political geography, financial liberalization, financial integration, a financial crisis and, most recently, financial reform. These exogenous shocks have taken their toll on European capital markets and banking sectors. In particular, the recent financial crisis has unveiled a number of inefficiencies in the incomplete financial integration process in terms of weak governance and ineffective regulations. The crisis period witnessed an increase in the following: the probability of bankruptcy; the number of banks and firms failing; illiquidity; and a significant loss in firms’ values. This in turn affected the flow of funds into firms either from bank lending channels or from capital markets. Indeed, such financial turmoil calls for further investigation into the determinants of firms’ capital structure in the European markets. This thesis contributes to the literature in two ways. First, this is the first study that empirically tests the market timing theory in 15 European countries. Second, it adds to the scant literature on comparative studies that examine the target capital speed of adjustment and its determinants. The thesis employs various econometric models to analyse the unbalanced panel data collected from 15 European countries. The generalized method of moments (GMM) estimator (among other panel data techniques) is deemed appropriate to estimate the models. It is designed to accommodate the unbalanced panels, multiple endogeneity and the autoregressive properties in the dependent variable. The new evidence provided by the findings of this study will be of great interest to the literature and policy-makers. The results confirm the effect of market valuation. However, it is negative in Europe, rather than positive as theory suggests. The results provide evidence that partially supports both pecking order and trade-off theories. For European firms, the annual speed of adjustment towards target capital is, on average, one quarter for book leverage and one half for market leverage. Firms in the Netherlands and Finland are the fastest to adjust their capital while firms in France and Spain are the slowest. The driving forces of the adjustment speed reveal that firms adjust more rapidly in wealthier and healthier environments such as those which involve a stable economy, a concentrated banking system and a promising future.