In our paper, Financing Through Asset Sales, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we analyze a source of financing that is first-order in reality but relatively unexplored in the literature — selling non-core assets such as a division or a plant. Asset sales are substantial in practice: in 2010, there were $133bn of asset sales in the U.S., versus $130bn in seasoned equity issuance. In contrast, most existing research on a firm’s financing decisions studies the choice between debt and equity and ignores asset sales. We build a model that allows asset sales to be undertaken not only to raise capital, but also for operational reasons (dissynergies). We study the conditions under which asset sales are preferable to equity issuance and vice-versa, how financing and operational motives interact, and how firm boundaries are affected by financial constraints.
The firm comprises a core asset and a non-core asset. The firm must raise financing to meet a liquidity need, and can sell either equity or part of the non-core asset. Following Myers and Majluf (1984) (MM), we model information asymmetry as the principal driver of this choice. The firm’s type is privately known to its manager and comprises two dimensions. The first is quality, which determines the assets’ standalone (common) values. The value of the core asset is higher for high-quality firms. The value of the non-core asset depends on how we specify the correlation between the core and non-core assets. With a positive (negative) correlation, the value of the non-core asset is higher (lower) for high-quality firms. The second dimension is synergy — the additional value that the non-core asset is worth to its current owner.