Accounting for Fixed Assets and Investment Efficiency: A Real Options Framework

Accounting and Business Research, Forthcoming

56 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2019

See all articles by Lufei Ruan

Lufei Ruan

San Francisco State University

Date Written: September 27, 2019


In a perfect world, a manager's investment in fixed assets would increase with the assets' profitability. However, when managers privately know their project profitability and care about their company’s short-term share price, managers of less profitable firms face the temptation to overinvest in order to pool with strong firms. This creates pressure on strong firms to overinvest to the point where weak firms cease to find it worthwhile to mimic strong firms. I show that, when firms have abandonment options, the willingness of a weak firm's manager to mimic depends on the expected future resale value of the fixed assets. An impairment policy (prohibiting write-ups) reduces the value of abandonment options, which are particularly important for weak firms. The reduced value of the abandonment options decreases the amount of overinvestment required by strong firms to separate themselves from weak firms. I also show that allowing firms to choose depreciation schedules improves investment efficiency: in equilibrium, strong firms choose faster depreciation. Last, in the staged-investments setting, I show that an impairment policy also mitigates underinvestment at an initial stage. These findings rationalize the current accounting standards for fixed assets and contribute to related policy debates on accounting measurement.

Keywords: accounting for fixed assets, conservatism, investment efficiency, abandonment options, staged investments, real options

JEL Classification: G31, M41, M48

Suggested Citation

Ruan, Lufei, Accounting for Fixed Assets and Investment Efficiency: A Real Options Framework (September 27, 2019). Accounting and Business Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Lufei Ruan (Contact Author)

San Francisco State University ( email )

1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
United States

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