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Determinants of corporate cash holdings: Evidence from spin-offs

By Ranjan D'Mello, Sudha Krishnaswami and Patrick J. Larkin

Abstract

We study the factors that influence the cash allocation decision around a spin-off, using variables suggested by the trade-off theory, and controlling for the possible endogeneity of leverage and cash ratios. Spin-offs provide an opportunity to examine the determinants of cash allocation at the margin at the time of creation of a new entity. Our results indicate that managers allocate higher cash ratios to smaller firms, and firms with high research and development expense ratio, low net working capital ratio, and low leverage. Thus, higher cash ratios are correlated with difficulty of raising external capital and reduced availability of cash from internal sources. In addition, managers also base the cash allocation on observable immediate growth opportunities instead of on long-term possible growth. An analysis of excess cash ratios, defined as the difference between the actual and predicted cash ratios, indicate that firms are, on average, allocated less cash than suggested by trade-off models, and this deviation in allocated cash from predicted levels is explained only by concurrent profitability of the firms (a pecking order theory implication).

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