Comparing the Cash Policies of Public and Private Firms
Harvard Business School
October 1, 2014
I document that the cash-to-assets ratio of public U.S. firms is on average over ten percentage points higher than that of privately held firms. This difference is not uniform: While precautionary motives lead smaller and riskier public firms to have higher cash holdings than larger and safer ones, I find that private firms have little demand for precautionary cash, regardless of their size or risk. As a result, the cash gap between public and private firms is decreasing in firm size and increasing in firm risk. My results suggest that differences in the extent to which public and private firms are subject to misvaluation shocks and engage in market timing in response to these shocks are a key driver of public firms' higher demand for precautionary cash.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 71
Keywords: Private companies; Corporate cash hoarding; Precautionary motives; Market timing; Share issuance; IPOs
JEL Classification: G32; L26; D22working papers series
Date posted: December 6, 2010 ; Last revised: October 2, 2014
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