Corporate ownership, equity agency costs and dividend policy: an empirical analysis

Truong, T 2007, Corporate ownership, equity agency costs and dividend policy: an empirical analysis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Corporate ownership, equity agency costs and dividend policy: an empirical analysis
Author(s) Truong, T
Year 2007
Abstract Equity agency costs are important to the firm and the management of these costs is a critical element of corporate governance, yet empirical research that focuses on the magnitude and impact of agency costs is limited. This thesis sets out to furnish empirical evidence in the area of corporate ownership with a particular focus on the magnitude of equity agency costs as well as the relation that exists between the largest shareholder in a firm and equity agency costs and between the largest shareholder and the dividend policy that a firm adopts.

This thesis provides an empirical analysis of the effect of corporate ownership, together with other governance mechanisms on equity agency conflicts for the largest 500 Australian listed firms. The results from this analysis provide strong support for the view that equity agency costs are related to corporate ownership. Specifically, there is evidence of a significant non-linear relation between inside ownership and the proxies for agency costs. Further, the results demonstrate that other governance mechanisms, particularly board size, board leadership and short-term debt financing, are effective in improving the use of firm assets, yet they do not seem to restrain firm management from incurring excessive discretionary operating expenses.

This thesis also extends the investigation of the corporate ownership-equity agency cost relation by focusing on the largest shareholder for 9,165 listed firms drawn from 43 countries around the world. The results suggest that cross-sectional variation in equity agency costs can be partly attributable to corporate ownership. Specifically, there is evidence of a statistically significant non-linear relation between the shareholding of the largest shareholder and the agency cost proxies. The type of the largest shareholder, i.e. whether the largest shareholder is an insider or a financial institution, is also important in analysis of this relation. Further, debt financing, dividend policy and legal origin vary in their impact on the agency cost proxies.

This thesis also investigates the interaction between the largest shareholder and dividend policy for 8,279 listed firms drawn from 37 countries around the world. Consistent with previous studies, the results suggest that firms are more likely to pay dividends when profitability is high, debt is low, investment opportunities are limited, or when the largest shareholder is not an insider. It is also apparent that largest shareholding and dividend payout are related and that, consistent with the extant literature, legal system does matter in dividend policy decisions.

Together, the results imply that equity agency costs vary with corporate ownership though this relation remains, of course, the subject of continuing investigation in finance. A major contribution of this thesis is demonstrating that corporate ownership, particularly the largest shareholder, plays a pivotal role in controlling agency costs. Accordingly, this suggests the following policy implication: by improving the legal environment and regulatory constraints imposed on large shareholders as well as legal protection for minority shareholders, the efficiency gains generated from large shareholder control can be translated into higher firm valuation to the benefit of all shareholders in the firm.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Economics, Finance and Marketing
Keyword(s) Agency costs
Financial management
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