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HFRC Working Paper Series

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Institutional Investors

Foreign bias in institutional portfolio allocation: The role of social trust

Wolfgang Drobetz, Marwin Mönkemeyer, Ignacio Requejo, Henning Schröder
HFRC Working Paper Series | Version 05/2022
Using a large sample of institutionally managed portfolios, we study the role of social trust in the equity allocations of 8,088 investors from 33 countries over the 2000-2017 period. The negative relation between social trust and foreign bias suggests that institutional investors from high-social trust countries are less prone to underinvesting in foreign equity. Our results provide credence to an information-based explanation, indicating that social trust reduces foreign bias by compensating the lack of information about foreign markets. The negative relation between social trust and foreign bias does not hold unconditionally, but only relates to host countries with weak formal institutional frameworks. The informal institution of social trust can offset the lack of formal country-level institutions in international portfolio decisions. Social trust helps investors accomplish greater cross-country portfolio diversification.

Foreign institutional investors, legal origin, and corporate greenhouse gas emissions disclosure

Wolfgang Drobetz, Simon Döring, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami, Henning Schröder
HFRC Working Paper Series | Version 10/2021
The disclosure of corporate environmental performance is an increasingly important element of a firm’s ethical behavior. We analyze how the legal origin of foreign institutional investors affects a firm’s voluntary carbon disclosure. Using a large sample of firms from 36 countries, we show that foreign institutional ownership from civil law countries improves the scope and quality of a firm’s greenhouse gas emissions reporting. This relation is robust to addressing endogeneity and selection biases. The effect is more pronounced in firms from non-climate-sensitized countries, for which the gap between firms’ environmental standards and investors’ environmental targets is potentially larger, and in less international firms. Firms with a higher level of voluntary carbon disclosure also exhibit higher valuations.

Do foreign institutional investors affect international contracting? Evidence from bond covenants

Paul Brockman, Wolfgang Drobetz, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami, Ying Zheng
HFRC Working Paper Series | Version 08/2021
We examine the impact of foreign institutional shareholders on the prevalence of restrictive bond covenants using a sample of 959 Yankee bonds from 29 countries over the period 2001–2019. We find a significantly negative relation between foreign institutional ownership and debt covenants. This inverse relation is strongest for U.S. institutional ownership of foreign-issued Yankee bonds, and for covenants designed to mitigate such opportunistic behavior as claims dilution and wealth transfers. We also show that the inverse relation between U.S. institutional ownership and restrictive debt covenants is moderated by country- and firm-level variables related to corporate governance, information asymmetry, and agency costs of debt. Additional analyses show that U.S. institutional ownership has a significant pricing effect on Yankee bond investors by lowering the issuer’s cost of borrowing.

Institutional investment horizons, corporate governance, and credit ratings: International evidence

Hamdi Driss, Wolfgang Drobetz, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami
HFRC Working Paper Series | Version 01/2021
Using a comprehensive set of firms from 57 countries over the 2000–2016 period, we examine the relation between institutional investor horizons and firm-level credit ratings. Controlling for firm- and country-specific factors, as well as for firm fixed effects, we find that larger long-term (short-term) institutional ownership is associated with higher (lower) credit ratings. This finding is robust to sample composition, alternative estimation methods, and endogeneity concerns. Long-term institutional ownership affects ratings more during times of higher expropriation risk, for firms with weaker internal governance, and for those in countries with lower-quality institutional environments. Additional analysis shows that long-term investors can facilitate access to debt markets for firms facing severe agency problems. These findings suggest that, unlike their short-term counterparts, long-term investors can improve a firm’s credit risk profile through effective monitoring.

Institutional ownership and firm performance in the global shipping industry

Wolfgang Drobetz, Sebastian Ehlert, Henning Schröder
Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review | 01/2021 | Forthcoming
We examine the effect of institutional investors on the valuation of listed shipping firms. Institutional investors have a positive influence on the market value of shipping firms, confirming that institutional ownership is a “universal” corporate governance mechanism. This valuation effect is more pronounced in firms dominated by institutional investors with a short-term investment horizon. It is also stronger in firms with high stock liquidity, suggesting that short-term investors, through the threat of exit, are able to mitigate agency conflicts and improve corporate governance. Investment regressions indicate that shipping firms with a larger fraction of short-term investors are better able to exploit growth opportunities.

Institutional investment horizons and firm valuation around the world

Wolfgang Drobetz, Simon Döring, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami, Henning Schröder
Journal of International Business Studies | 09/2020 | Forthcoming
Using a comprehensive dataset of firms from 34 countries, we study the effect of institutional investors’ investment horizons on firm valuation around the world. We find a positive relation between institutional ownership and firm value that is driven by short-horizon institutional investors. Accounting for the interaction between investors’ investment horizon and nationality, we show that foreign short-horizon institutions, which are more likely to discipline managers through the threat of exit rather than engaging in monitoring made costly by the liability of foreignness, are the investor group with the strongest effect on firm value. Reinforcing the threat of exit channel, we find that the value-enhancing effect of short-horizon investors is stronger in the presence of multiple short-horizon investors, who are more likely to engage in competitive trading. The positive valuation effect of short-horizon investors is stronger when stock liquidity is high, which makes the exit threat more credible, and in firms prone to free cash flow agency problems. Overall, our results are consistent with short-horizon institutional investors, especially foreign institutional owners, affecting firm value by disciplining managers through a credible threat of exit.

Cross-country determinants of institutional investors’ investment horizons

Wolfgang Drobetz, Simon Döring, Sadok El Ghoul, Omrane Guedhami, Henning Schröder
Finance Research Letters | 06/2020 | Forthcoming
Using a large dataset of firms from 35 countries, we study the country-level determinants of institutional investors’ investment horizons. We show that an equity investor-friendly institutional environment is more important for long-term investors, while short-term investors seem to be less concerned about the quality of the financial and legal environment. Beyond the financial and legal structure, the cultural environment and economic policy uncertainty in a country are other important determinants of investor horizons. These findings improve our understanding of cross-country differences in the corporate governance role, i.e., engagement vs. exit, of institutional investors.

Capital allocation and ownership concentration in the shipping industry

Wolfgang Drobetz, Malte Janzen, Ignacio Requejo
Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review | 02/2019
We measure the sensitivity of investment to changes in investment opportunities in the shipping industry, and test whether this relation is moderated by ownership concentration. For a sample of 126 globally listed shipping firms, we find that investment in commercial shipping follows freight rates, a measure of the potential income stream from owning a vessel. Ownership concentration, measured as the ownership stake of the largest shareholder, reinforces the positive effect of freight rates on investment, indicating a higher relative efficiency of capital allocation. The positive impact ownership has on the investment-freight rate sensitivity also translates into higher firm value. An analysis of investor identity shows that our results are driven by the group of firms where the largest owner is a financial investor, who is usually more focused on shareholder value maximization.

Corporate cash holdings in the shipping industry

Meike Ahrends, Wolfgang Drobetz, Nikos K. Nomikos
Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review | 04/2018
We examine the corporate cash holdings of listed shipping companies. Shipping firms hold more cash than similar firms in other asset-heavy industries. Higher cash holdings in the shipping industry are not attributable to firm- or country-level characteristics, but rather to the higher marginal value of cash. Shipping firms value an additional dollar of cash higher than matched manufacturing firms, regardless of their financial constraints status, but depending on their cultural background and the cyclicality of their expansion opportunities. Less procyclical shipping firms have a higher marginal value of cash, and this valuation effect is most pronounced in bad times of the business cycle when external capital supply tends to become scarce. Overall, it appears that shipping companies are more conservative than their peers in managing their cash positions.

The returns to hedge fund activism in Germany

Wolfgang Bessler, Wolfgang Drobetz, Julian Holler
European Financial Management | 01/2015
Recent regulatory changes in the German financial system shifted corporate control activities from universal banks to other capital market participants. Particularly hedge funds took advantage of the resulting control vacuum by acquiring stakes in weakly governed and less profitable firms. We document that, on average, hedge funds increased shareholder value in the short‐ and long‐run. However, more aggressive hedge funds generated only initially higher returns and their outperformance quickly reversed, whereas non‐aggressive hedge funds ultimately outperformed their aggressive peers. These findings suggest that aggressive hedge funds attempt to expropriate the target firm's shareholders by exiting at temporarily increased share prices.