NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Growth Options and Firm Valuation

Holger Kraft, Eduardo S. Schwartz, Farina Weiss

NBER Working Paper No. 18836
Issued in February 2013, Revised in April 2017
NBER Program(s):   AP

This paper studies the relation between firm value and a firm's growth options. We find strong empirical evidence that (average) Tobin's Q increases with firm-level volatility. The significance mainly comes from R&D firms, which have more growth options than non-R&D firms. By decomposing firm-level volatility into its systematic and unsystematic part, we document that only idiosyncratic volatility has a significant effect on valuation. Second, we analyze the relation of stock returns to realized contemporaneous idiosyncratic volatility and R&D expenses. Single sorting on idiosyncratic volatility yields a significant negative relation between portfolio alphas and contemporaneous idiosyncratic volatility for non-R&D portfolios, whereas in a four-factor model the portfolio alphas of R&D portfolios are all positive. Double sorting on idiosyncratic volatility and R&D expenses also reveals these differences between R&D and non-R&D firms. To control for several explanatory variables simultaneously, we also run panel regressions of firm-level alphas which confirm the relative importance of idiosyncratic volatility that is amplified by R&D expenses. Finally, we show that our results are robust to the definition of idiosyncratic volatility. We tease out the "true" idiosyncratic volatilities by performing a principal-component analysis on the residuals of Fama-French regressions and find that our main results still hold for this alternative definition of idiosyncratic volatility.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18836

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