NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Two Tales of Debt

Amir Kermani, Yueran Ma

NBER Working Paper No. 27641
Issued in August 2020
NBER Program(s):Corporate Finance, Law and Economics, Monetary Economics

We study the nature of debt among US non-financial firms and its determinants. One approach of debt enforcement lends against the liquidation value of discrete assets (such as fixed assets or working capital). Another approach lends against the going-concern value of the business. Using a new dataset on the liquidation value of different types of assets as well as the going-concern value of distressed firms across major industries, we present several findings. First, non-financial firms have limited liquidation values from fixed assets and working capital, which sum to around 23% of book assets for the average firm. Second, firms with lower liquidation values have more loans with monitoring and tighter performance covenants. Third, lower liquidation values are associated with higher interest rates, but only for debt against discrete assets. We finally present a model that matches the main findings, which demonstrates how covenants and control right institutions facilitate borrowing well beyond liquidation values.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27641

 
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