The (Self-)Funding of Intangibles
55 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2016 Last revised: 23 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 17, 2017
We model how technological change leads to a shift in corporate investment towards intangible capital, and test its implications for corporate financial policy. While tangible assets can be purchased and funded externally, most intangible capital is created by skilled workers investing their human capital, so it requires lower upfront outlays. Indeed, U.S. high-intangibles firms have larger free cashflows and lower total investment spending, and do not appear more financially constrained. We model and test how these firms optimally retain cash for both a precautionary as well as a retention motive. The optimal reward for risk-averse human capital involves deferred compensation and a commitment to retain cash. High-intangibles firms also should favor a payout policy of repurchases over dividends to avoid penalizing unvested claims. Our empirical evidence supports these predictions.
Keywords: Technological change, intangible assets, cash holdings, human capital, corporate leverage, equity grants, deferred equity, share vesting
JEL Classification: G32, G35, J24, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation