Financing Through Asset Sales
NBER Working Paper No. 18677
Most research on firm financing studies the choice between debt and equity. We model an alternative source – non-core asset sales – and allow asset sales to occur for operational as well as financing motives. We identify three new factors that drive a firm's choice between selling assets and equity. First, equity investors own a claim to the cash raised. Since cash is certain, this mitigates the information asymmetry of equity (the "certainty effect"). In contrast to Myers and Majluf (1984), even if assets exhibit less information asymmetry, the firm issues equity if the financing need is high. This result is robust to using the cash for an uncertain investment. Second, firms can disguise the sale of a low-quality asset as instead being motivated by operational reasons (dissynergies), and thus receive a high price (the "camouflage effect"). Third, selling equity implies a "lemons" discount for not only the equity issued but also the rest of the firm, since its value is perfectly correlated. In contrast, a "lemons" discount on assets need not lead to a low stock price, as the asset is not a carbon copy of the firm (the "correlation effect").
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