Is Cash Negative Debt? A Hedging Perspective on Corporate Financial Policies
55 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2005 Last revised: 18 Aug 2010
Date Written: June 2005
We model the interplay between cash and debt policies in the presence of financial constraints. While saving cash allows financially constrained firms to hedge against future income shortfalls, reducing debt - "saving borrowing capacity" - is a more effective way of securing future investment in high cash flow states. This trade-off implies that constrained firms will allocate excess cash flows into cash holdings if their hedging needs are high (i.e., if the correlation between operating cash flows and investment opportunities is low). However, constrained firms will use excess cash flows to reduce current debt if their hedging needs are low. The empirical examination of cash and debt policies of a large sample of constrained and unconstrained firms reveals evidence that is consistent with our theory. In particular, our evidence shows that financially constrained firms with high hedging needs have a strong propensity to save cash out of cash flows, while showing no propensity to reduce outstanding debt. In contrast, constrained firms with low hedging needs systematically channel free cash flows towards debt reduction, as opposed to cash savings. Our analysis points to an important hedging motive behind standard financial policies such as cash and debt management. It suggests that cash should not be viewed as negative debt.
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