Stock Prices, Investor Short-Termism, and Innovation
51 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2014
Date Written: November 17, 2014
Firms can change their outstanding shares to manage their stock price levels. Those with lower stock prices tend to attract more speculative trading, which causes higher price volatility and may force their managers to excessively focus on short-term earnings at the expense of R&D and other long-term projects. Thus, we hypothesize that firms investing more in R&D prefer to set higher stock prices to mitigate investor short-termism and foster innovation. Indeed, we find that firms with more R&D capital tend to keep higher stock prices and are less likely to split their stocks to lower prices. Furthermore, high-priced firms are less likely to cut R&D to reverse an earnings decline, and less likely to fire their CEOs in the presence of poor earnings. More importantly, firms’ R&D productivity — in terms of generating patents and patent citations — tends to increase with their stock prices, even after controlling for firm valuation, stock returns, stock liquidity, and institutional ownership. For robustness checks, we examine stock splits, which allow mangers to re-set their stock price levels, and IPOs in which managers set an offering price range before shares are publicly traded. Consistent with our hypothesis, we find that IPO firms setting higher offering prices have more future innovation and that innovation declines after firms split their stocks. Thus, our results imply that managers of R&D firms actively set high stock prices to foster innovation, and support Warren Buffett’s wisdom that firms can use stock prices to attract preferred clientele.
Keywords: Share price, innovation, institutional ownership, short-termism
JEL Classification: G12, G14, G23, O31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation