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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
The Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page Good News and Bad News about Share Repurchases
George W. Fenn and Nellie Liang

Abstract: We estimate the cross-sectional relationship between open market repurchases and accounting data for a large sample of dividend- paying and non-dividend paying firms over a twelve year period (1984-95). Consistent with the hypothesis that firms use open market repurchases to reduce the agency costs of free cash flow, we find that repurchases are positively related to proxies for free cash flow and negatively related to proxies for marginal financing costs. We also examine the extent to which management stock options influence the choice between open market repurchases and dividend payments. Because the value of management stock options--like any call option--is negatively related to expected future dividend payments, management can increase the value of its stock options by substituting share repurchases for dividend growth. We find evidence that such substitution occurs: for dividend-paying firms, share repurchases are positively related and dividend increases are negatively related to a proxy for management stock options, whereas for non-dividend-paying firms, the relationship between repurchases and options is weak and statistically insignificant.

Keywords: Share repurchases, free cash flow, stock options, dividend increases

Full paper (108 KB PDF) | Full paper (224 KB Postscript)

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Last update: January 28, 1998