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Automatic Bankruptcy Auctions and Fire-Sales

45 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2009 Last revised: 7 May 2009

B. Espen Eckbo

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth; European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Karin S. Thorburn

Norwegian School of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Abstract

We test for fire-sale tendencies in automatic bankruptcy auctions. We find evidence consistent with fire-sale discounts when the auction leads to piecemeal liquidation, but not when the bankrupt firm is acquired as a going concern. Neither industry-wide distress nor the industry affiliation of the buyer affect prices in going-concern sales. Bids are often structured as leveraged buyouts, which relaxes liquidity constraints and reduces bidder underinvestment incentives in the presence of debt overhang. Prices in "prepack" auctions (sales agreements negotiated prior to bankruptcy filing) are on average lower than for in-auction going-concern sales, suggesting that prepacks may help preempt excessive liquidation when the auction is expected to be illiquid. Prepack targets have a greater industry-adjusted probability of refiling for bankruptcy, indicating that liquidation preemption is a risky strategy.

Keywords: Bankruptcy, auction, going-concern sale, piecemeal liquidation, fire-sale

JEL Classification: G33, G34

Suggested Citation

Eckbo, B. Espen and Thorburn, Karin S., Automatic Bankruptcy Auctions and Fire-Sales. Journal of Financial Economics (JFE), Vol. 89, pp. 404-422, 2008; Tuck School of Business Working Paper No. 2007-36. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1328964

B. Espen Eckbo (Contact Author)

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-3953 (Phone)
603-646-3805 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu/eckbo

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

Karin S. Thorburn

Norwegian School of Economics ( email )

Helleveien 30
N-5045 Bergen
Norway
+4755959283 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.nhh.no/cv/thorburn

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

HOME PAGE: http://www.ecgi.org

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