The Impact of Firm and Industry Characteristics on Small Firms’ Capital Structure
We study the impact of firm and industry characteristics on small firms’ capital structure, employing a proprietary database containing financial statements of Dutch small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 2003 to 2005. The firm characteristics suggest that the capital structure decision is consistent with the pecking-order theory: Dutch SMEs use profits to reduce their debt level, and growing firms increase their debt position since they need more funds. We further document that profits reduce in particular short-term debt, whereas growth increases long-term debt. We also find that inter- and intra-industry effects are important in explaining small firms’ capital structure. Industries exhibit different average debt levels, which is in line with the trade-off theory. Furthermore, there is substantial intra-industry heterogeneity, showing that the degree of industry competition, the degree of agency conflicts, and the heterogeneity in employed technology are also important drivers of capital structure.