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The Costs of Financial Distress Across Industries

Arthur G. Korteweg

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

September 20, 2007

I estimate the market's opinion of ex-ante costs of financial distress (CFD) from a structurally motivated model of the industry, using a panel dataset of monthly market values of debt and equity for 269 firms in 23 industries between 1994 and 2004. CFD are identified from market values and betas of a company's debt and equity. The market expects costs of financial distress of 5% of firm value for observed leverage ratios. In bankruptcy, distress costs can rise as high as 31%. Across industries, CFD are driven primarily by the potential for debt overhang problems and distressed asset fire-sales. There is considerable empirical support for the hypothesis that firms choose a leverage ratio based on the trade-off between tax benefits and CFD. The results do not confirm the under-leverage puzzle for firms with publicly traded debt.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: financial distress, bankruptcy, capital structure, trade-off theory, agency costs, MCMC

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Date posted: November 17, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Korteweg, Arthur G., The Costs of Financial Distress Across Industries (September 20, 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=945425 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.945425

Contact Information

Arthur G. Korteweg (Contact Author)
University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )
3670 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~korteweg/

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