NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

An International Comparison of Capital Structure and Debt Maturity Choices

Joseph P.H. Fan, Sheridan Titman, Garry Twite

NBER Working Paper No. 16445
Issued in October 2010
NBER Program(s):   CF

This study examines the influence of institutional environment on capital structure and debt maturity choices by examining a cross-section of firms in 39 developed and developing countries. We find that a country’s legal and tax system, the level of corruption and the preferences of capital suppliers explain a significant portion of the variation in leverage and debt maturity ratios. Our evidence indicate that firms in countries that are viewed as more corrupt tend to use less equity and more debt, especially short-term debt, while firms operating within legal systems that provide better protection for financial claimants tend to have capital structures with more equity, and relatively more long-term debt. In addition, the existence of an explicit bankruptcy code and/or deposit insurance is associated with higher leverage and more long-term debt. We also find that firms tend to use more debt in countries where there is a greater tax gain from leverage, while firms in countries with larger government bond markets have lower leverage, suggesting that government bonds tend to crowd out corporate debt. Countries with more extensive defined benefit pension funds have higher debt ratios and longer debt maturities, whereas those with more extensive defined contribution fund activities have lower debt ratios. In addition, debt ratios are lower in countries that limit the bond holdings of pension funds. Finally, we do not find a significant association between financing choices and the size of the insurance industry.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16445

Published: Joseph P.H. Fan, Sheridan Titman, and Gary Twite. 2012. An International Comparison of Capital Structure and Debt Maturity Choices. Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis 47(1), 23-56.

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