Financial structure, managerial incentives and product market competition
This dissertation provides a contribution to the understanding of the interactions between the firm's financial structure and its operating decisions. The main idea is that financial structure impacts the payoff to the firm's decision-maker and that this impact on the managerial payoff will in turn affect his optimal response when confronted with different possible operating decisions. A particular focus is on the case where the manager's optimisation problem arises in a strategic environment in which the firm competes with rival firms in a product market. The first main chapter reconsiders the strategic effect of debt, as first analysed by Brander and Lewis (1986), under the novel assumption that quantity choices are made by managers whose objective is to avoid bankruptcy. The basic result is that quantity choices, which are strategic substitutes under profit maximisation, may turn into strategic complements when the quantity choice is made by managers. This reversal in the nature of competition arises under reasonable assumptions on the firm's profit function. It allows debt to be used to sustain more collusive product market outcomes than in the benchmark case where firms maximise profits, thereby avoiding, and indeed reversing, the pro-competitive limited liability effect of debt, as described by Brander and Lewis (1986). Delegation of the quantity choice to a bankruptcy-averse manager is shown to occur in a dominant strategy equilibrium. The next chapter analyses the effect of asymmetric information between a firm and its outside investors on the firm's competitive position in a model where first-period competition is followed by a financing stage a la Myers and Majluf (1984). Interim profit generated by the competition stage takes the role of financial slack and determines the extent to which external equity finance is required for a new investment opportunity. The full set of equilibria of the financing game is characterised and financial slack is formally analysed as a comparative statics variable. Using this the firm's first period objective is derived from first principles. In contrast to models of predatory behaviour, one finds that in the presence of an adverse selection problem the need to finance externally may provide a strategic benefit rather than a strategic disadvantage. The reason is that the adverse selection problem may induce speculative behaviour, which will make the firm more aggressive vis a vis its rival. The last main chapter analyses a model where the firm's manager is asked to make an informed investment decision after evaluating the prospects of an investment project. In this model, which exhibits both moral hazard and hidden information on the part of the manager, different remuneration schemes are discussed and the optimal contract between financial investor and manager is derived. Assuming the manager is risk-neutral and protected by limited liability, a benefit from diversification is shown to exist, in that the right incentives can be provided more cheaply when the manager is supervising more than one project. This occurs even though the projects are technologically unrelated and choices made on one project do not constrain the choices on any other project.