Financing Payouts

Joan Farre-Mensa, Roni Michaely, and Martin Schmalz

♦ We find that 43% of firms that make payouts also raise capital during the same year, resulting in 31% of aggregate payouts being externally financed, primarily with debt. Most financed payouts cannot be explained by payout-smoothing in response to volatile earnings or investment—rather, they are the result of firms persistently setting payouts above free cash flow. In fact, 25% of aggregate payouts could not have been paid without the firms simultaneously raising capital. Profitable firms with moderate growth use debt-financed payouts to jointly manage their leverage and cash, thus highlighting the close relationship between payout and capital structure decisions.

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