Capital structure and its determinants in the UK - a decompositional analysis

Alan Bevan, Jo Danbolt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research on capital structure by Rajan and Zingales (1995) suggests that the
level of gearing in UK companies is positively related to size and tangibility, and
negatively correlated with pro®tability and the level of growth opportunities. However, as argued by Harris and Raviv (1991), `The interpretation of results must be tempered by an awareness of the difficulties involved in measuring both leverage and the explanatory variables of interest’. In this study the focus is on the difficulties of measuring gearing, and the sensitivity of Rajan and Zingales’ results to variations in gearing measures are tested. Based on an analysis of the capital structure of 822 UK companies, Rajan and Zingales’ results are found to be highly definitional-dependent. The determinants of gearing appear to vary significantly, depending upon which component of debt is being analysed. In particular, significant differences are found in the determinants of long- and short-term forms of debt. Given that trade credit and equivalent, on average, accounts for more than 62% of total debt, the results are particularly sensitive to whether such debt is included in the gearing measure. It is argued, therefore, that analysis of capital structure is incomplete without a detailed examination of all forms of corporate debt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-170
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Financial Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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