Credit Rating Targets
51 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2008 Last revised: 20 Jun 2009
Date Written: April 29, 2009
Credit ratings can be viewed as a summary statistic that captures various elements of a firm’s capital structure. They incorporate a firm’s debt ratio, the maturity and priority structure of its debt, as well as the volatility of its cash flows. However, regressions of credit ratings on firm characteristics provide inferences that are not always consistent with the interpretations of extant regressions that include various debt ratios as independent variables. In particular, we find that coefficients of variables that have been viewed as proxies for the uniqueness and the extent that assets can be redeployed, e.g., R&D expenses and asset tangibility, have different effects in the credit rating regressions than in the debt ratio regressions. In addition, we find that after controlling for whether or not firms have debt ratings, the extant evidence of a positive relation between debt ratios and size is reversed. Finally, using regression-based proxies for target ratings and debt ratios, we find that deviations from rating targets as well as debt ratio targets influence subsequent corporate finance choices. When observed ratings are below (above) the target, firms tend to make security issuance and repurchase decisions that reduce (increase) leverage. In addition, firms are more likely to decrease (increase) dividend payouts when they have below (above) target ratings and make more (fewer) acquisitions when they have above (below) target ratings.
Keywords: credit rating, leverage, capital structure, target capital structure, tradeoff theory
JEL Classification: G32, G34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation