This article was the experience of the newly privatized UK utilities as a unique natural experiment to explore aspects of the life cycle/free cash-flow hypothesis of Dennis Mueller and Michael Jensen. It demonstrates that in their immediate post-privatization, regulated environment the UK utilities experienced severe attenuation of all the principal forms of corporate governance, while remaining substantial cash generators but with limited scope for core business growth. It shows that the firms responded with a rapid – and apparently unsuccessful – expansion of non-core activities. The article then uses a two-way random effects panel design and finds substantial and robust support for the maintained hypothesis that (lagged) cash-flow drove diversification. The results also generate clear implications for privatization policy. In particular, they suggest that the incentive benefits anticipated from substituting private for government ownership may become distorted if the managements of newly privatized enterprises are sheltered from the regular disciplines of corporate governance.
Review of Industrial Organization – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 15, 2004
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