When Does Leverage Hurt Performance? - A Firm-Level Analysis
39 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 21, 2012
In the wake of the global financial crisis, several macroeconomic contributions have highlighted the risks of excessive credit expansion. In particular, too much finance can have a negative impact on growth. We examine the microeconomic foundations of this argument, positing a non-monotonic relationship between leverage and firm-level productivity growth in the spirit of the trade-off theory of capital structure. A threshold regression model estimated on a sample of Central and Eastern European countries confirms that TFP growth increases with leverage until the latter reaches a critical threshold beyond which leverage lowers TFP growth. This estimate can provide guidance to firms and policy makers on identifying “excessive” leverage. We find a similar non-monotonic relationship between leverage and proxies for firm value. Our results are a first step in bridging the gap between the literature on optimal capital structure and the wider macro literature on the finance-growth nexus.
Keywords: trade-off theory, optimal leverage, TFP growth, non-linear relationship, threshold regression, transition economies
JEL Classification: G32, O16
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