The Corporate Finance of Multinational Firms
50 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020 Last revised: 16 Aug 2021
Date Written: February 2020
An increasing fraction of firms worldwide operate in multiple countries. We study the costs and benefits of being multinational in firms’ corporate financial decisions and survey the related academic evidence. We document that, among U.S. publicly traded firms, the prevalence of multinationals is approximately the same as domestic firms, using classification schemes relying on both income-based and a sales-based metrics. Outside the U.S., the fraction is lower but has been growing. Multinational firms are exposed to additional risks beyond those facing domestic firms coming from political factors and exchange rates. However, they are likely to benefit from diversification of cash flows and flexibility in capital sources. We show that multinational firms, indeed, have a better access to foreign capital markets and a lower cost of debt than otherwise identical domestic firms, but the evidence on the cost of equity is mixed.
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