ABSTRACT

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to examine whether the cash policies of retail firms listed on Korean stock markets are consistent with the evidence provided in the study of Almeida et al. (2004). Liquidity management is an important issue for financially constrained firms relative to financially unconstrained firms. Because there are few sources of external funding, the optimal liquidity policies of financially constrained firms should reflect their own earnings or cash inflows to create opportunities for current and future real investments. According to this simple idea, we estimate the sensitivity of cash to cash flows and simply check whether the estimated sensitivity to cash flows of the cash retained by constrained retail firms is greater than that of the cash retained by unconstrained retail firms. Through this work, we aim to explain why the cash policies of the retail firms listed on the Korean stock markets differ from those of listed manufacturing enterprises. Research design, data, and methodology – To explain a firm’s cash holdings, we use only three explanatory variables: earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT), Tobin’s q, and size. All the variables are defined as the value of the numerator divided by aggregate assets. Thanks to this definition, it is possible to treat all the sample firms as a single large firm. The sample financial data for this study are collected from the retail enterprises listed on the KOSPI and KOSDAQ markets from 1991 to 2013. We can obtain these data from WISEfn, the financial information company. This study’s methodology has its origin in Keynes’s simple idea of precautionary liquidity demand: When a firm faces financial constraints, cash savings from earnings or cash inflows become important from the corporate finance perspective. Following this simple idea, Almeida et al. (2004) developed their theoretical model and found empirical evidence that the sensitivity of cash to cash flows varies systematically according to different types of financing frictions. To find more empirical evidence for this idea, we examined the cash flow sensitivity of the cash held by Korean retail firms. Results – Through several robustness tests, we empirically showed that financially constrained Korean retail firms display significant positive propensity to save cash from earnings before interest and taxes, while the estimated cash flow sensitivity of the cash held by unconstrained retail firms is not significant. Despite the relatively low earnings of retail firms, their sensitivity is three times greater than that of manufacturing enterprises. This implies that Korean retail firms have greater intentions of facilitating future investments rather than current investments. Conclusions – The characteristics of the cash policies of Korean retail firms differ from those of manufacturing firms. This contrast may be attributable to industry-oriented policy planning, regulations, and institutional differences. However, the industrial policymakers should observe signals of the long-term growth options of retail firms based on their high propensity to save from their cash inflows.

KEYWORD

Retail Industry, Cash Flow Sensitivity of Cash, Cash Policy, Future Investment, Financially Constrained Firms

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