Three Essays on Capital Structure
This thesis consists of three self-contained essays about the relationship between cash flow and investment volatility and firm capital structure and cash holdings. Capital structure measures sources of financing that allow a firm to operate, invest, and grow. The first essay reviews the theoretical relationship between firm capital structure and cash flow volatility, develops testable hypotheses, constructs a data set, and then tests the hypotheses using several measures of firm cash flow volatility and econometric methods that account for the non-linear relationship of proportional variables. Overall, the evidence indicates that ceteris paribus, a one standard deviation increase from the mean of cash flow volatility, implies approximately by 24% decrease in the long-term debt ratio, a 26% decrease in probability of holding debt with over 10 years to maturity, and a 39% increase in the probability of not holding either short or long term debt. These findings are novel in the empirical capital structure literature and show the importance of cash flow volatility in firm financial policies. The second essay studies the financing behaviour of Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) from 1990 to 2013 and demonstrates variation in HCA’s market and book leverage ratios due to 1) mergers and acquisitions and divestitures that change the firm’s total assets, 2) share buybacks, and 3) leveraged buyouts and public offerings that change the firm’s ownership. The paper scrutinizes variation in HCA’s market and book leverage ratios independently as well as relative to each other. Our evidence shows that i) HCA’s management team used HCA’s excess cash from divestitures to repurchase HCA’s stock rather than pay off HCA’s debt, ii) HCA’s market leverage ratio tends to stay in a target leverage zone, and iii) in some years HCA’s management team used the book leverage ratio as a tool to keep the market leverage ratio inside a target leverage zone. In the third essay, we investigate the influence of investment volatility on capital structure and cash holdings using a broad definition of investment. Despite theoretical motivation, the relationship between investment volatility and capital structure has not been studied in the empirical literature. All in all, our evidence suggests that i) firms with relatively high capital expenditure and acquisition investment volatility hold relatively higher levels of debt and lower levels of cash, ii) firms fund large capital expenditures and/or acquisition by increasing debt or decreasing cash, and iii) immediately after funding large investment firms reduce debt levels and increase cash holdings. Research and development investment volatility is related to lower debt levels and higher cash levels, and does not exhibit similar investment spike funding. Overall, our results are consistent with parts, but not all, of the DeAngelo, DeAngelo and Whited (2011) model.