Accounting Information, Capital Investment Decisions, and Equity Valuation: Theory and Empirical Implications
39 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2001
Date Written: July 1999
This study develops an accounting-based valuation model in a setting where firms have the flexibility to expand or discontinue operations (real options). The model is used to examine the role of accounting earnings and book value in equity valuation and to explore cross-sectional differences in the behavior of the valuation function. Unlike prior studies (such as Ohlson 1995 and Feltham and Ohlson 1995) where capital investments are either unspecified or exogenously given, capital investment decisions in this model are made contingent on the firm's operating profitability and growth opportunities. Valuation requires first forming beliefs about future capital investments, and then valuing cash flows to be generated from invested assets. Current earnings and book value provide vital information both for forming beliefs about future investments and for forecasting cash flows. With real options, the valuation function emerges as convex, not linear. Specifically, equity value is an increasing and convex function of earnings, for any given book value, but it can be either increasing in, insensitive to, or decreasing in book value, depending on the firm's profitability and growth opportunity. The model leads to predictions regarding the relative importance of earnings versus book value in value determination and how this relative importance varies across firms. It also rationalizes the "anomalous" association between stock prices and negative earnings found in empirical studies (which is due to regression model misspecification). The study further shows how conservative accounting affects the characteristics of earnings and book value, and provides hypotheses regarding how accounting conservatism influences the properties of the valuation function. The predictions of the model are generally consistent with the evidence reported in empirical studies. Implications for empirical research are discussed.
Keywords: Earnings, book value, equity valuation, real options, accounting conservatism
JEL Classification: G12, M41, M44
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation