Asli Demirguc-Kunt, Maria Soledad Martinez-Peria, Thierry Tressel | Journal of Corporate Finance
Using a dataset covering about 276,998 firms across 75 countries over the period 2004–2011, this paper examines the short-run evolution of firms’ capital structures following the start of the global financial crisis and its immediate aftermath, comparing the experience of already levered SMEs, large non-listed firms, and listed companies. We find that firm leverage and debt maturity declined both in advanced economies and in developing countries, even in those that did not experience a crisis. The deleveraging and maturity reduction were particularly significant for non-listed firms, including both SMEs as well as large non-listed companies. For SMEs, these effects were larger in countries with less efficient legal systems, weaker information sharing mechanisms, less developed financial sectors, and with more restrictions on bank entry. In contrast, there is weaker evidence of a significant decline in leverage and debt maturity among listed companies which are typically much larger than other firms and likely to benefit from the “spare tire” of easier access to capital market financing. Though our results are robust to many changes in sample and specification, we cannot rule out that survivorship bias and attrition could affect our estimates to some degree.