Information asymmetry and the value of cash
Journal of Banking and Finance | 09/2010
This study investigates the market value of corporate cash holdings in connection with firm-specific and time-varying information asymmetry. Analyzing a large international sample, we test two opposing hypotheses. According to the pecking order theory, adverse selection problems make external financing costly and imply a higher market value of a marginal dollar of cash in states with higher information asymmetry. In contrast, the free cash flow theory predicts that excessive cash holdings bundled with higher information asymmetry generate moral hazard problems and lead to a lower market value of a marginal dollar of cash. We use the dispersion of analysts’ earnings per share forecasts as our main measure of firm-specific and time-varying information asymmetry. Extending the valuation regressions of Fama and French [Fama, E.F., French, K.R., 1998. Taxes, financing decisions, and firm value. Journal of Finance 53, 819–843], our results support the free cash flow theory and indicate that the value of corporate cash holdings is lower in states with a higher degree of information asymmetry.