Pecking order as a dynamic leverage theory
European Journal of Finance
Static tradeoff theories, which do not explicitly treat the impact of transaction costs, do not explain the policy of asymmetry between frequent small debt transactions and infrequent large equity transactions. Nor do these theories explain why the debt ratio is allowed to wander a considerable distance from its alleged static optimum, or how much of a distance should be tolerated. We offer a class of diffusion models that mimic this behaviour in a stochastic-dynamic framework and are designed
... o optimize a financing strategy using any static tradeoff theory as input. The models developed reveal the determinants of the size and frequency of equity transactions and the range of values over which leverage variations are tolerated in four generic scenarios. They also yield a new formulation of the cost of capital that recognizes stochastic transaction costs and a penalty for deviation from any static-optimal leverage. Our class of models augments the pecking order theory, provides a flexible quantitative framework for its implementation as a decision tool, and facilitates the formulation of additional hypotheses for its empirical validation. Symmetrically, our results show the importance of dynamic factors in designing and interpreting empirical tests of static tradeoff theories. The results presented have important implications for the role played by static tradeoff theories in a stochastic-dynamic framework. One such implication is that the static-optimal leverage has no direct effect on the firm's leverage policy in this setting. The target leverage for refinancing transactions is different from the static-optimal leverage, and the mean leverage is generally different from both. As a consequence, the latter cannot be used to estimate the former. Another implication is that even when the mean leverage equals the static optimum, mean reversion is not an optimal behaviour and therefore not a legitimate test for the existence of a static tradeoff in a dynamic context. Still another implication is that wide variations in leverage ratios cannot be interpreted as evidence of leverage indifference. It follows that the pecking order theory is consistent with static tradeoff theories and does not require the assumption of leverage indifference.