Small Business Economics

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 949–975

Firm exit after distress: differentiating between bankruptcy, voluntary liquidation and M&A

  • Sofie Balcaen
  • Sophie Manigart
  • Jozefien Buyze
  • Hubert Ooghe
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11187-011-9342-7

Cite this article as:
Balcaen, S., Manigart, S., Buyze, J. et al. Small Bus Econ (2012) 39: 949. doi:10.1007/s11187-011-9342-7

Abstract

This paper examines firm-level determinants of mature firm exits after economic distress. Using nested logit models and a sample of 6,118 distress-related exits in Belgium, we analyze the type of exit that distressed firms experience. We show that 41% of the firms in our sample exit through a court driven exit procedure (mainly bankruptcy), 44% are voluntarily liquidated and 14% are acquired, merged or split (hereafter M&A). Distressed firm exit follows two distinct stages. First, a firm either decides to exit voluntarily or is forced into bankruptcy, which is the least efficient exit strategy. Compared to bankruptcy, the probability of a voluntary exit increases with higher levels of cash, lower leverage, holding no secured debt and being embedded in a group. If a firm exits voluntarily, it enters a second stage and decides either to exit through voluntary liquidation or through a M&A. Conditional on not going bankrupt, the likelihood of voluntary liquidation compared to M&A increases with higher levels of cash or secured debt, with smaller size and with an absence of group relations. We contribute to the firm exit literature by jointly analyzing three exit types and showing that bankruptcy and voluntary liquidation are fundamentally different exit routes. While voluntary liquidation is an important exit route for distressed firms, most previous studies have failed to distinguish between bankruptcy and liquidation. We hence contribute to the exit literature by showing that bankruptcy, voluntary liquidation and M&A are fundamentally distinct exit routes for distressed firms, driven by different firm level characteristics and following a two-stage process.

Keywords

Firm exitBankruptcyLiquidationAcquisitionEconomic distressNested logit

JEL Classifications

G33G34C12C25D21

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sofie Balcaen
    • 1
  • Sophie Manigart
    • 2
  • Jozefien Buyze
    • 3
  • Hubert Ooghe
    • 2
  1. 1.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School and Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium