The Capital Structure Puzzle

The Capital Structure Puzzle T his paper's title is intended to remind you of Fischer Black's well‐known note on “The Dividend Puzzle,” which he closed by saying, “What should the corporation do about dividend policy? We don't know.” [ 6 , p. 8] I will start by asking, “How do firms choose their capital structures?” Again, the answer is, “We don't know.” The capital structure puzzle is tougher than the dividend one. We know quite a bit about dividend policy. John Lintner's model of how firms set dividends [ 20 ] dates back to 1956, and it still seems to work. We know stock prices respond to unanticipated dividend changes, so it is clear that dividends have information content—this observation dates back at least to Miller and Modigliani (MM) in 1961 [ 28 ]. We do not know whether high dividend yield increases the expected rate of return demanded by investors, as adding taxes to the MM proof of dividend irrelevance suggests, but financial economists are at least hammering away at this issue. By contrast, we know very little about capital structure. We do not know how firms choose the debt, equity or hybrid securities they issue. We have only recently discovered http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of Finance Wiley

The Capital Structure Puzzle

The Journal of Finance, Volume 39 (3) – Jul 1, 1984

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
1984 The American Finance Association
ISSN
0022-1082
eISSN
1540-6261
D.O.I.
10.1111/j.1540-6261.1984.tb03646.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

T his paper's title is intended to remind you of Fischer Black's well‐known note on “The Dividend Puzzle,” which he closed by saying, “What should the corporation do about dividend policy? We don't know.” [ 6 , p. 8] I will start by asking, “How do firms choose their capital structures?” Again, the answer is, “We don't know.” The capital structure puzzle is tougher than the dividend one. We know quite a bit about dividend policy. John Lintner's model of how firms set dividends [ 20 ] dates back to 1956, and it still seems to work. We know stock prices respond to unanticipated dividend changes, so it is clear that dividends have information content—this observation dates back at least to Miller and Modigliani (MM) in 1961 [ 28 ]. We do not know whether high dividend yield increases the expected rate of return demanded by investors, as adding taxes to the MM proof of dividend irrelevance suggests, but financial economists are at least hammering away at this issue. By contrast, we know very little about capital structure. We do not know how firms choose the debt, equity or hybrid securities they issue. We have only recently discovered

Journal

The Journal of FinanceWiley

Published: Jul 1, 1984

References

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