Disclosure and the Option Value of Equity
40 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2011 Last revised: 10 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 10, 2013
This paper examines the implications of the option value of equity for firms' disclosures. Merton (1974) shows that the equity of levered firms is equivalent to a call option whose value increases in the expected variance of future cash flows. I use this equivalence to calculate firms' vega, which measures the extent to which a given firm's equity values increase from uncertainty regarding future cash flows. I hypothesize that high vega firms disclose less information because they are more likely to receive valuation benefits from increased uncertainty. Consistent with this hypothesis, I find that high vega firms provide less earnings guidance, have less readable financial statements, and are less likely to preempt earnings surprises. Additionally, I find that firms decrease earnings guidance following exogenous shocks to firms' option value of equity driven by state corporate tax rates. Taken together, the results identify the option value of equity as a channel through which firms can benefit from providing less disclosure and thus may help to explain why some firms withhold information regarding future cash flows.
JEL Classification: M00, M40, M41, G30, G31, G32
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