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Q-theory of investment and earnings retentions—evidence from Scandinavia

Abstract

In a frictionless milieu, retentions should have no impact on investment behavior. Empirical studies, however, typically find that retentions are an important determinant of investment. Managerial discretion and financial constraints are two alternative explanations that have been suggested. This article uses a panel of listed Scandinavian firms to examine the importance of earnings retentions as a determinant of investment. Measures of Tobin’s Q, marginal q, and sales accelerator are used to control for investment opportunities. Scandinavian firms are found to depend on earnings retentions to a high degree, more so than in other developed economies. This high dependence on retentions suggests that the Scandinavian capital markets are suffering from allocational inefficiencies. This can be assumed to have detrimental effects on the speed of structural change. Moreover, these market frictions appear too large to per se be caused by information asymmetries or managerial discretion phenomena. Possible institutional explanations are suggested.

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Correspondence to Johan E. Eklund.

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Eklund, J.E. Q-theory of investment and earnings retentions—evidence from Scandinavia. Empir Econ 39, 793–813 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00181-009-0323-5

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Keywords

  • Investment
  • Liquidity
  • Retained earnings
  • Free cash flow
  • Tobin’s Q
  • Marginal q

JEL Classification

  • G0
  • G30