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Corporate Deleveraging

Fisher College of Business Working Paper No. 2016-03-021

Charles A. Dice Center Working Paper No. 2016-21

68 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2016  

Harry DeAngelo

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department

Andrei S. Gonçalves

Ohio State University (OSU), Fisher College of Business, Department of Finance

René M. Stulz

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2016

Abstract

Proactive deleveraging from all-time peak market leverage (ML) to near-zero ML and negative net debt is the norm among 4,476 nonfinancial firms with five or more years of post-peak data. ML is 0.543 at the historical peak and 0.026 at the later trough for the median firm in this sample, with a six-year median time from peak to trough. These deleveraging episodes are largely proactive, with debt repayment and earnings retention accounting for 93.7% of the peak-to-trough decline in ML for the median firm. Attenuated deleveraging, with ML staying well above zero, is the norm at 3,118 firms that are delisted due to financial distress within four years of peak. Leverage is path dependent, with the key to explaining whether ML is high or low at the post-peak trough being how high it was at the peak and prior trough and whether the firm has had only a short time to deleverage, e.g., due to distress-related delisting. The findings are consistent with proactive deleveraging to avoid distress and to restore financial flexibility, and are hard to reconcile with materially positive target leverage ratios.

Keywords: deleveraging, capital structure, payout policy, cash balances, leverage dynamics, financial flexibility, financial distress

JEL Classification: G31, G33, G35

Suggested Citation

DeAngelo, Harry and Gonçalves, Andrei S. and Stulz, René M., Corporate Deleveraging (November 2016). Charles A. Dice Center Working Paper No. 2016-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2864506

Harry DeAngelo (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department ( email )

Marshall School of Business
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6541 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

Andrei S. Gonçalves

Ohio State University (OSU), Fisher College of Business, Department of Finance ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH
United States

HOME PAGE: http://fisher.osu.edu/academic-departments/department-finance

Rene M. Stulz

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Finance ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cob.ohio-state.edu/fin/faculty/stulz

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

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

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