Are Corporate Default Probabilities Consistent with the Static Tradeoff Theory?
Baruch College - Zicklin School of Business
Louisiana State University
University of Texas at Austin - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
June 1, 2011
Probability of default plays a central role in the static tradeoff theory of capital structure. We provide a direct test of this theory by regressing the probability of default, measured by S&P credit ratings and Moody’s KMV Expected Default FrequencyTM (EDFTM), on firm characteristics that proxy for the costs of bankruptcy and the tax benefits of debt. Contrary to predictions of the theory, firms with high bankruptcy costs, that is smaller firms and firms with lower asset tangibility, choose capital structures with higher bankruptcy risk. Further analysis suggests that the capital structures of smaller firms with lower asset tangibility, which tend to have less access to capital markets, are more sensitive to negative profitability and equity value shocks, making them more sensitive to bankruptcy risk.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: capital structure, tradeoff theory, default probability
JEL Classification: G32
Date posted: July 22, 2011