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Does National Culture Influence the Firm’s Choice of Debt Maturity?

Authors


  • Acknowledgments: We appreciate helpful comments from two anonymous referees.

Corresponding author: Jung Bum Wee, Department of Management/Management Paradigm Center, School of Management, Kyung Hee University, 1 Hoegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130–701, Republic of Korea. Tel: and Fax: +82-2-9619210, email: jbw@khu.ac.kr.

Abstract

Debt is an effective mechanism to mitigate agency costs in relieving manager–shareholder conflicts. Similarly, debt maturity choice allows the firm to discipline entrenched managers. In this paper we show cross-country evidence that national culture, along with corporate governance factors, influences the lender’s (or the borrower’s) debt maturity choice. Uncertainty avoidance index, masculinity, and long-term orientation indices are negatively related to overall debt maturity in a country. This implies that the risk-averse lenders offer (or, borrowing firms use) short-term debt when the surrounding economic environment becomes more uncertain and ambiguous. This is consistent with the extant literature that national culture plays a critical role in determining financing decisions in the presence of uncertainty and ambiguity. We argue that national culture is one of the last factors to influence the significant variation of debt maturities across firms in different countries. The relative effect of national culture and corporate governance on firms’ debt maturity selection depends on whether a country’s financial system is a bank-based economy (e.g. Japan and Germany) or a market-based economy (e.g. the US and the UK).

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