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Capital structure and market timing in the UK : empirical evidence from UK firms

Hussain, Hafezali Iqbal


Hafezali Iqbal Hussain


Yilmaz Guney


This thesis studies capital structure of non-financial firm in the UK. It specifically examines the market timing theory of capital structure in the three different empirical chapters. Given that the market timing theory is new relative to the trade-off and pecking order explanations of firms‟ capital structure decisions; it provides an interesting discourse for the wider finance community. The thesis empirically tests the theory and provides evidence as well as theoretical implications for practising managers.

The first empirical chapter looks at the timing of IPOs and SEOs in the UK as well as the reversal and persistence of timing attempts. Consistent with the findings in Barker and Wurgler (2002) we find that firms do time IPOs as well as SEOs. However, similar to Alti (2006), we do not find that the effect is persistent. In addition to that, we find that the motive for timing SEOs are distinctively different from the motive for IPO managers. Although timers in both markets are inferior (they are less profitable and have a smaller growth frontier), SEO firms appear to be over-levered and their timing attempts appear to be motivated by reaching a target level. The findings in this chapter lay out an interesting avenue that provides opportunities for future research work.

The second empirical chapter studies the timing of issues as well as repurchases. Similar to Elliot et al. (2007) we use a direct measure of equity mispricing to measure how firms adjust security issues to reflect equity mispricing. Consistent with their findings in the US market, we find that firms increase debt issues during periods of undervaluation and equity issues during period of overvaluation to finance their deficit. We further investigate the impact of equity mispricing on repurchasing activities. The findings confirm those of Oswald and Young (2004) where firms repurchase activities are driven by equity mispricing and contradict Rau and Vermaelan (2002) where repurchases in the UK are tax driven. I further find that financial constraints play a critical role in timing of issues and repurchases. Constrained firms are more sensitive to equity mispricing and thus time the market more evidently. In addition to that, building from the work in Warr et al (2011) I find that firms are inclined to time security issues and repurchases to reach their target leverage levels.

The third empirical chapter studies the probabilities of firms issuing and repurchasing securities to time periods of equity mispricing. I find that firms time issues and thus rely on debt issues during periods of undervaluation (and vice versa). This action leads them to deviate further from target levels. This is an intuitive finding and supports conclusions derived in Hovakimian (2006) where firms that set target leverage levels also engage in market timing. Similar to Huang and Ritter (2009) I find that equity mispricing drive the issue decision as well as the issue choice. Building on the work of Hovakimian et al. (2001) I also find that issue size is also driven by market timing considerations. Further to that I also find that equity mispricing similarly influences on the repurchasing decision, size and choice of repurchases. Contributing further, I find that firms decision to issue equity accompanied by reducing debt (or issue debt accompanied by repurchasing equity) are more likely to be driven by equity mispricing than pure issue or repurchase decisions, suggesting that managers do try to lower overall cost of capital by switching to a relatively cheaper source of financing.

In brief this thesis provides empirical evidence that equity market timing influences capital structure decisions. In support of the market timing theory, I find that managers do indeed time security issues and repurchase securities to reflect equity mispricing. Their timing motivations seem to be driven by targeting behaviour and also financial capacity. I further find that managers substitute one form of financing with another due to market timing considerations. Further research into debt market timing such as Doukas et al. (2011) might shed further light into managerial timing decisions and its impact on capital structure of firms. Comparing both views simultaneously would also provide a more complete and insightful understanding of capital structure.


Hussain, H. I. (2011). Capital structure and market timing in the UK : empirical evidence from UK firms. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 22, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date Jul 1, 2011


Thesis (2.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2011 Hussain, Hafezali Iqbal. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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