U.S. financial regulators found themselves on the receiving end of an outpouring of concern from law makers last Wednesday about the risks to the banking sector and debt markets from the treatment of collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”) in the Volcker Rule final regulations. Regulators and others have come to realize that treating CLOs as if they were hedge funds is a problem and we now understand from Governor Tarullo’s testimony that the treatment of CLOs is at the top of the list for the new interagency Volcker task force. But what, if any, solutions regulators will offer—and whether they will be enough to allow the banking sector to continue to hold CLOs and reduce the risks facing debt markets—remains to be seen.
Posts Tagged ‘Debt’
Following a robust 2012, the financing markets in 2013 continued their hot streak. Syndicated loan issuances topped $2.1 trillion, a new record in the United States. However, as in 2012, financing transactions in the early part of 2013 were devoted mostly to refinancings and debt maturity extensions rather than acquisitions. In fact, new money debt issuances were at record lows during the first half of 2013. The second half of 2013, though, saw an increase in M&A activity generally, and acquisition financing in the fourth quarter and early 2014 increased as a result.
In our paper, A Theory of Debt Maturity: The Long and Short of Debt Overhang, forthcoming in the Journal of Finance, we study the effects of the debt maturity on current and future real investment decisions of an owner of equity (or a manager who is compensated by equity). Our analysis is based on debt overhang first analyzed by Myers (1977), who points out that outstanding debt may distort the firm’s investment incentives downward. A reduced incentive to undertake profitable investments when decision makers seek to maximize equity value is referred to as a problem of “debt overhang,” because part of the return from a current new investment goes to make existing debt more valuable.
Myers (1977) suggests a possible solution of short-term debt to the debt overhang problem. In part, this extends the idea that if all debt matures before the investment opportunity, then the firm without debt in place can make the investment decision as if an all-equity firm. Hence, following this logic, debt that matures soon—although after relevant investment decisions, as opposed to before—should have reduced overhang.
Understanding how capital markets affect the growth and survival of newly created firms is perhaps the central question of entrepreneurial finance. Yet, much of what we know about entrepreneurial finance comes from firms that are already established, have already received venture capital funding, or are on the verge of going public—the dearth of data on very-early-stage firms makes it difficult for researchers to look further back in firms’ life histories. Even data sets that are oriented toward small businesses do not allow us to measure systematically the decisions that firms make at their founding. This article uses a novel data set, the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), to study the behavior and decision-making of newly founded firms. As such, it provides a first-time glimpse into the capital structure decisions of nascent firms.
In our paper, The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we use the confidential, restricted-access version of the KFS, which tracks nearly 5,000 firms from their birth in 2004 through their early years of operation. Because the survey identifies firms at their founding and follows the cohort over time, recording growth, death, and any later funding events, it provides a rich picture of firms’ early fund-raising decisions.
On July 2, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “FRB”) unanimously approved final rules (the “Final Rules”) establishing a new comprehensive capital framework for U.S. banking organizations  that would implement the Basel III capital framework  as well as certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”). The Final Rules largely adhere to the rules as initially proposed in June 2012 (the “Proposed Rules”),  notwithstanding that the industry objected, sometimes strenuously, to certain aspects of the Proposed Rules. Most of the changes made in response to the industry’s most fundamental concerns were effectively limited to community banks and other smaller banking organizations; the most stringent rules for “advanced approaches banking organizations”—those with $250 billion or more in total consolidated assets or $10 billion or more in foreign exposures—were maintained. For example:
In our paper, Corporate Funding: Who Finances Externally?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we provide new information on security issues and external financing ratios derived from annual cash flow statements of publicly traded industrial companies over the past quarter-century. Our use of cash flow statements permits us to differentiate between competing forms of internal financing, including operating profits, cash draw-downs, reductions in net working capital, and sale of physical assets. Unlike leverage ratios which dominate the focus of the extant capital structure literature, our cash-flow-based financing ratios are measured using market values (cash) and are unaffected by the firm’s underlying asset growth rate.
The empirical analysis centers around three main issues, the first of which is to establish the importance of external finance in the overall funding equation. In our pool of nearly 11,000 (Compustat) non-financial firms, the net contribution of external cash raised (security issues net of repurchases and dividends) was negative over the sample period. Moreover, the average (median) firm raised merely 12% of all sources of funds externally. Also, annual funds from total asset sales contributed more to the overall funding equation than net proceeds from issuing debt.
Why do governments repay external sovereign borrowing? This is a question that has been central to discussions of sovereign debt capacity, yet the answer is still being debated. Models where countries service their external debt for fear of being excluded from capital markets for a sustained period (or some other form of harsh punishment such as trade sanctions or invasion) seem very persuasive, yet are at odds with the fact that defaulters seem to be able to return to borrowing in international capital markets after a short while. With sovereign debt around the world at extremely high levels, understanding why sovereigns repay foreign creditors, and what their debt capacity might be, is an important concern for policy makers and investors. In our paper, Sovereign Debt, Government Myopia, and the Financial Sector, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we attempt to address these issues.
My article, Private Equity Firms as Gatekeepers, identifies an important and overlooked way in which private equity creates value: private equity firms act as gatekeepers in the debt markets. As repeat players, private equity firms establish reputations with lenders that are tied to the credit performance of the companies that they acquire and manage. In turn, private equity firms use their reputations both to certify the creditworthiness of their companies ex ante and to bond against misconduct or poor performance by their companies ex post. Private equity firms thereby mitigate the problems of borrower adverse selection and moral hazard that plague the debt markets. These certification and bonding functions of private equity are best understood as gatekeeping: by causing companies to behave better toward creditors than they otherwise would, private equity firms afford companies access to more capital, and on better terms, than they could otherwise get. The article provides both conceptual and formal proofs of this gatekeeping hypothesis.
The most obvious benefit from private equity’s gatekeeping role is that, all else being equal, it should allow private equity-owned companies to borrow money on better terms than other companies. And crucially, this role will become increasingly valuable in light of sweeping changes in the corporate loan markets. Lenders’ traditional methods of controlling borrower adverse selection and moral hazard – screening, monitoring, and covenants – are in sharp decline. This decline is due to the major shift from relationship banking, in which a company borrows from a single bank that holds the loan until maturity, to syndicated lending. Syndicated loans are funded by large numbers of unrelated creditors and may be traded or securitized to reach still more creditors. As the chain from the borrowing companies to their ultimate creditors lengthens, the information gap between them increases significantly, while creditors’ incentives to monitor their borrowers decline. If private equity firms can credibly fill the void in monitoring left by lenders, their companies will get significantly better financing than other companies.
The topic of this outline is mergers and acquisitions where the target company is “distressed.” Distress for these purposes generally means that a company is having difficulty dealing with its liabilities—whether in making required payments on borrowed money, obtaining or paying down trade credit, addressing debt covenant breaches, or raising additional debt to address funding needs.
Distressed companies can represent attractive acquisition targets. Their stock and their debt often trade at prices reflecting the difficulties they face, and they may be under pressure to sell assets or securities quickly to raise capital or pay down debt. Accordingly, prospective acquirors may have an opportunity to acquire attractive assets or securities at a discount. This outline considers how best to acquire a distressed company from every possible point of entry, whether that consists of buying existing or newly-issued stock, merging with the target, buying assets, or buying existing debt in the hope that it converts into ownership.
Some modestly distressed companies require a mere “band-aid” (such as a temporary waiver of a financial maintenance covenant when the macroeconomy has led to a temporary decline in earnings, but the company is able to meet all of its obligations as they come due). Others require “major surgery” (as where the company is fundamentally over-levered and must radically reduce debt).
In the recent NBER working paper, my co-author, Guillermo Ordoñez of the University of Pennsylvania, and I develop a model to examine the important role collateral plays in the economy. Where do safe assets come from? Empirical evidence suggests that the private sector creates more near riskless assets when the supply of government debt is low and reduces privately-created near riskless assets when the supply of government debt is high. Krishnamurthy and Vissing-Jorgensen (2012) show that the net supply of government debt is strongly negatively correlated with the net supply of private near-riskless debt.
The substitution between public and private safe debt is also shown by Krishnamurthy and Vissing-Jorgensen (2012) who document that changes in the supply of outstanding U.S. Treasuries have large effects on the yields of privately created assets. Gorton, Lewellen, and Metrick (2010) also find this relationship between government debt and privately produced substitutes. They document that the share of safe assets in the U.S. economy, including both U.S. Treasury debt and privately created near-riskless debt has remained constant as a percentage of all U.S. assets since 1952. Xie (2012) shows that the issuance of asset-backed securities tends to occur when the outstanding government debt is low and Sunderam (2012) documents the same phenomenon with respect to asset-backed commercial paper.
By “safe assets,” we mean government debt and privately created high quality debt, in particular, asset-backed securities. Such safe assets are used to collateralize repo, derivative positions, and are needed as collateral in clearing and settlement. See IMF (2012). Further, because they are ”information-insensitive” (in the nomenclature of Dang, Gorton, and Holmstrom (2012)), they are highly liquid and hence can store value without fear of capital losses in times of stress, a form of private money.