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«1. Introduction The trade credit represent 17.8% of total assets for all American firms in 1991 and in European countries trade credit represents ...»

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Executive Summary

“Does trade credit facilitate access to bank finance? An Empirical evidence from

Portuguese and Spanish small medium size enterprises”

Ana Paula Matias

Universidade da Beira Interior

1. Introduction

The trade credit represent 17.8% of total assets for all American firms in 1991 and in European

countries trade credit represents more than a quarter of total corporate assets (Petersen and Rajan,

1995). These numbers are recently confirmed by Mateut (2005). Attend to this numbers a relevant question arises: Why companies rely on their suppliers to obtain financing, rather than specialized financial intermediaries such as banks?

In fact, in the presence of specialized financial intermediaries, it is far from obvious why the exchange of goods is bundled with a credit transaction: When trade credit is cheaper than bank credit, the puzzle is that suppliers are willing to lend. When trade credit is more expensive, the puzzle is that banks are unwilling to lend. Indeed, a sizeable fraction of firms repeatedly fail to take advantage of early payments discounts and thus end up borrowing from their suppliers at annual interest rates above 40 percent (Petersen and Rajan, 1994b, 1997)1. Why do not banks increase these firms´ credits instead?

A common explanation for trade credit is that suppliers have a monitoring advantage over banks.

In the course of business, suppliers obtain information about the borrower which other lenders can only obtain at a cost as argued by Schwartz and Whitcomb, (1978, 1979), Emery, (1987), Freixa, (1993), Biais and Gollier (1997) and Jain, (2001) among others. This is particularly true when the costumers are small, young and opaque firms (Beger and Udell, 1995; Wilner, 2000) or operate in countries with poorly developed financial institutions (Fishman and Love, 2003). Thus equilibrium credit rationing related to ex-ante asymmetric information could result in more use of trade credit (Stiglitz and Weiss, 1981)2. Based on theses arguments bank and trade credit are two (somehow imperfect) substitutable financial resources, which are referred in the literature as the substitution hypothesis (Alphonse at al., 2006).

However, recent theoretical paper such as Biais and Gollier, (1997) and Burkart and Ellingsen, (2004) suggest that bank credit and trade credit could be also considered two complementary sources of financing.

According the model of Biais and Gollier (1997) the use of trade credit can alleviate the credit constrains for firms that suffer from imperfect information and credit rationing directly, in 1 See Wilner (2000) and Ng, Smith and Smith (1999) to know how implicit rates can be calculated from trade credit terms.

2 Schwartz (1974) is traditionally considered as the first paper pointing out this aspect.

1 accordance with the substitution hypothesis and indirectly. Indirectly given that trade credit could act as a signal that reveals supplier´s unique information to the bank, than banks agree to lend when suppliers also lend to their customers. In Biais and Gollier (1997) model, credit rationing occurs, in a first round, because the bank can not always assess the quality of a firm with enough precision. As a consequence, some firms with positive net present value projects could not be financed with bank debt. Nevertheless, suppliers could sometimes find it profitable to finance some of these firms and then extend trade credit. In a second round, banks observe this actual use of trade credit and update their beliefs concerning the quality of the firm. When the equilibrium is reached, some firms which would have suffered from credit rationing in the absence of trade credit finance actually finance net present value projects with a mix of trade credit and bank credit. Based on the result of this equilibrium game model, trade credit and bank credit are two complementary resources, which is referred as the complementary hypothesis3. The agency model of Bukart and Ellingsen (2004) reaches a similar result. In their model, additional trade credit increases the investment size and thereby the entrepreneur´s residual return and hence decreases the entrepreneur´s incentive to divert cash. As a consequence bank debt limit increases, making bank debt and trade credit complements.

The main objective of this paper is provide empirical evidence if trade credit could be considered as a substitute and/or as a complement to bank debt in order to assess the existence of credit rationing. More specifically, we analyse if trade credit could contribute to build a “good reputation” in the borrower market, in other words, the availability of trade credit facilitate the access to bank credit, especially for young small firms, due their financial opacity.

A panel dataset of small medium size (SME) of Portuguese and Spanish firms in the period 1998is used to test the complementary role of trade credit versus the substitution hypothesis. The option to study Portuguese and Spanish firms is sustained in the evidence provide by Breig (1994). According Breig (1994) trade credit tend to be more used in countries bank based oriented comparing to economies where financial markets play an information transmission and monitoring role such as United States. In fact, the previous research has been conducted in the United States, a country strongly immersed in the common-law system. We define the commonlaw model, which is built on Anglo-Saxon principles, as one with the pronounced leaning towards market, as opposed to bank debt financing. Legally, a common-law model is characterized by its relative strong protection to minority investors. Conversely, the European continental civil-law model is characterized by bias towards bank debt financing and relative minority-investor protection4. In this research, we broaden the previous research by looking at Portugal and Spain, civil-law countries, which has a financial system dominated by the presence of financial intermediaries, mostly banks5.





The focus on small firms can be explained for various reasons. First, small firms are more likely to suffer information problems in capital markets. They are typically restricted to obtaining 3 See Bond (2004), Berlin (2003) and Buckart, Ellingsen and Giannetti (2004) for recent assessments on the nature of trade credit vis-à-vis bank debt.

4 Fishamn and Love (2003) and Demirgüç and Maksiovic (2001) pointed that trade credit is more prevalent in countries with less efficient legal systems.

5 Only a few papers address the complementary role of trade credit versus the substitution hypothesis. Petersen and Rajan (1997) and Alphonse et al., (2006) addresses this important role of trade credit for United States. An exception was Cook (1997), who studies this topic for Russia data.

2 external finance only from financial institutions and suppliers. Public markets are only accessible for large firms. Second, due the lack credit history, the impossibility to credibly disclose their quality and the lack of separation between ownership and management, asymmetric information increases between insiders and outsiders (lenders). Third, SME play an important role in the world economies (Berger and Frame, 2007). In Portugal, SME are responsible for 75 percent and 83 percent of employment in industry and services respectively. A similar situation is found in Spain (the percentage of employment created in industry and services is 72 percent and 79 percent, respectively).

2. Methodology To contrast if the trade credit is a substitute and/or a complement o bank debt in order to assess the existence of credit rationing, we start by regressing trade credit on a bank debt, firm age, size and other financial characteristics of the firms, controlling for firm specific fixed effects. The

basic regression model has the following form:

Trade creditit = β0 + β1Bank Debtit + β3Firm Ageit + β4 Firm Sizeit + β Financial Characteristicsit + ηi +νt +µit where ηi are the firm fixed effects, νt are year fixed-effects and µit is the error term.

This model assumes that bank debt is exogenous or pre-determinate. However, modern theory of finance views all financing claims as inputs in a portfolio or pool of funds approach. This induces that the need to account the possibility that bank and trade credit are simultaneous determined.

Thus bank debt is potentially endogenous with trade credit, which would lead to inconsistent estimations for the model proposed above. We address this potential problem of reverse causality by using the Generalized Method of Moments (GMM) (Arellano, 2003). Arellano also recommends including instruments. Considering that variables used in this study are characteristic of the firms and economic and financial magnitudes that are affected by past disruptions, the instruments used were the variables lagged one period (Wooldridge, 2002)6.

A second estimation problem comes from the fact that it is possible that the relation between trade credit and bank debt is neither a correlation running from bank debt to trade credit nor a reverse correlation, but rather a spurious relationship attributed to unobservable individual heterogeneity among firms, For instance, a manager with good negotiation skills may be able to maintain strong relationships with suppliers and at the same time be able to bargain debt to a lower cost. Using panel data and assuming individual heterogeneity to be the fixed individual effect does not vary through time is a way to solve the endogeneity caused by spurious relationship.

Because we expect that age is positively related with trade credit for young firms (for older firms we expect the reverse effect), we introduce a dummy variable for age. This expectation could be explained based on firms´s growth cycle. Young firms tend do experience a more rapid growth than older firms. As a consequence they should have higher financial needs due the lack of retained earnings.

6 It should be emphasizes that the use of trade credit is also related to macroeconomic factors (Meltzer, 1960;

Bernanke and Blinder, 1988; Ramey, 1992 and Nielsen, 1999).

–  –  –

3. Empirical results and economic implications As we expected the variable bank debt is negatively correlated in a meaningful level with the variable trade credit. This result is consistent with the substitution hypothesis, which states that firms use trade credit, in spite of its high cots, when they are credit constrained. When dummy variable for age is introduced, we observe that the trade credit increase more for young firms.

This could be explained, in line of the models of Biais and Gollier (1997) and Burkart and Ellingsen (2004) to the fact that trade credit helps young firms to build their reputation as low borrower and is used as a high quality signal towards uninformed banks. Based on these results we could conclude that firms with a higher degree of substitution between bank and trade credit (young and small firms) are ones that immersed in a more asymmetric information environment.

Furthermore, the evaluation of this link could be indicate the persistence of adverse selection that prevents firms obtaining the bank financing they need.

Indeed, it is well known that the establishment of relationship between money lender and borrower is one way to reducing the asymmetric information (Leland and Pyle, 1977; Diamon, 1989, 1991; Rajan, 1992; Petersen and Rajan, 1994a,b, 1995; Berger and Udell, 1995 among others). The establishment of a close relationship with financial institutions may generate advantages such as increase credit availability. Nevertheless, thus close relationship may also convey some disadvantages (Sharpe, 1990; Dewatripont and Maskin, 2000; Berger and Udell, 1998; Detragiache et al., 2000; Boot and Tahkor, 2000; Carleti et al., 2007). For example, firms are “informally captured” by the financial intermediary, because only he knows the real level of risk of the firm. In these circumstances, the monopolistic relationship may be exploited in order to charge a grater interest rate on new loans or even to ration additional borrowing. Our results confirm that firms which are more likely to be subject a monopolistic condition, (firms indebted with fewer than three financial institutions), are those obtain fewer funds for the same increase in interest rates (comparing with other firms that borrow from several financial institutions), which indicates that these firms have more credit rationing.

Our empirical evidence show that trade credit can alleviate bank credit rationing due to asymmetric information between banks and firms, especially when the interest rate increases.

Further research should include an analysis of macro economic implications of trade credit. For example, to investigate how the interaction between information motivated bank credit rationing and trade credit varies with the business cycle; how this affect the conduct of monetary policy and how trade credit, by generating chain bankruptcies, can have a feedback effect on the economic development.

Key words: asymmetric information; small business; credit rationing; trade credit; bank relationship

–  –  –

ALPHONSE, P.; DUCRET, J. and SÉVERIN, E. (2006) “When Trade Credit Facilitates Access to Bank Finance: Evidence from U.S. Small Business Data”, Working Paper, Université de Nancy, University of Valenciennes and University of Lille.

ARELLANO, M. (2003) “Panel data Econometric”, Oxford University Press.

BERGER, A. N. and FRAME, S. (2007): “Small Business Credit Scoring and Credit Availability”, Journal of Small Business Management, 45, (1): 5-22.

BERGER, A. N. and UDELL, G. F. (1995): “Relationship Lending and Lines of Credit in Small Firm Finance”, Journal of Business, 68, (3): 351-381.

BERGER, A.N. and UDELL, G.F. (1998) “The Economics of Small Business Finance: The Roles of Private Equity and Debt Markets in the Financial Growth Cycle”, Journal of Banking and Finance, 22 (8):613-673.

BERLIN, M. (2003) “Trade Credit:Why do Production Firms Act as Financial Intermediaries?”, Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Q3:21-28.

BERNANKE, B.S. and BLINDER, A. (1988) “Credit, Money and Aggregate Demand”, American Economic Review, 78 (2):435-439.

BIAIS, B. and GOLLIER, C. (1997): “Trade Credit and Credit Rationing”, The Review of Financial Studies, 10, (4): 903-937.

BOND, P. (2004) “Bank and Nonbank Financial Intermediation”, Journal of Finance, 59 (6): 2489-2529.



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