An empirical study of Malaysian firms' capital structure
It is sometimes purported that one of the factors affecting a firm's value is its capital structure. The event of the 1997 Asian financial crisis was expected to affect the firms' gearing level as the firms' earnings deteriorated and the capital market collapsed. The main objective of this research is to examine empirically the determinants of the capital structure of Malaysian firms. The main additional aim is to study the capital structure pattern following the 1997 financial crisis. Empirical tests were conducted on two different data sets: the first data set is the published data extracted from Datastream and consists of: 572 companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE) between 1994 and 2000. The second data set comprises finance managers' responses to a questionnaire survey. Chi-square, Kruskal-Wallis, ANOVA, multiple regression, stepwise regression and logistic regression were utilised to analyse the data. The multiple regression analysis was employed to find the determinants of the capital structure using various account data items provided by Datastream. The gearing differences between the two boards and within the sectors were also analysed using ANOVA and Krukal-Wallis tests. The panel data were evaluated with regard to the gearing pattern following the 1997 currency crisis. Overwhelming evidence on profit was found, with past profitability being the major determinant of gearing. In particular was the support for pecking order theory, in that finance managers had given internal funds the highest priority, followed by debt and equity as a last option. The statistical analysis found a strong negative correlation between liquidity and the gearing ratio for both boards, implying firms considered highly the excess current assets for funding, a conservative approach towards debt management policy. On the other hand, taxation items were not highly significant in capital structure decisions. The results indicate the existence of gearing differences between the main board and the second board gearing with high debt levels employed by second board companies. However, the second board's high gearing is dominated largely by short to medium term bank credit. Differences were also significant between different sectors of companies listed on the main board. Firms' gearing ratios increased significantly following the 1997 financial crisis, and the gearing tended to increase where the company's share prices were highly sensitive towards currency volatility. Also inflation is found to influence the changes in actual and target gearing ratios following the crisis. Recent emphasis on the development of private debt securities may affect the findings of this research in the near future.