Corporate finance in Germany: Structural adjustments and current developments

Journal of Applied Corporate Finance | 01/2016


For a very long time, the financing of German companies was dominated by German universal banks, which functioned as sources of both capital-as equity holders as well as providers of loans-and corporate governance. Although internal finance (retained earnings) has always been and will remain the most important source of finance, several recent developments have forced German companies to search for alternatives to their traditionally heavy dependence on bank lending. As a result, the composition of external finance has changed, with substantial net contributions of corporate bond and equity offerings. Furthermore, both the equity ratios and cash holdings of German companies have increased over the years. Thus, although the German financial system still exhibits many differences from those in the U.S. and U.K., the financing patterns of German companies have to some extent converged with those of their peers from Anglo-American market-based financial systems. The growth in recent years of German capital markets-and of German companies' reliance on them-has led to important changes in both German and European corporate governance, including the evolution of a common European market for corporate control that is still in its early stages.