Essays on Asset Purchases and Sales: Theory and Empirical Evidence

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This dissertation consists of a theory essay and an empirical essay that investigate a firm's decision to buy or sell corporate assets. It seeks to answer the following research questions: (1) why do firms choose to buy or sell assets? (2) what makes assets in an industry more likely to be traded than assets in other industries? and (3) within an industry, why asset sales come in waves and tend to cluster over a certain time period?

In my theory essay, "The Real Determinants of Asset Sales", I develop a dynamic equilibrium model that jointly analyzes firms' decisions to buy or sell assets and the activity of asset sales in the industry. In my model, a firm maximizes its value by making two inter-related decisions: how much to invest in new assets and whether to buy or sell existing assets. These decisions are made under both firm- and industry-level productivity shocks. The model is solved through simulations and it is calibrated using the plant-level data from Longitudinal Research database. I show that most of the empirical evidence documented in the literature on asset sales is consistent with value-maximizing behavior.

In my empirical essay, "What Drives Asset Sales - The Empirical Evidence", I test the model's predictions using the plant-level data from Longitudinal Research Database on manufacturing firms in the period of 1973 to 2000. The patterns of transactions (firm-level purchase/sale decisions, and the cross-industry and the time-series variation in asset sales activities) are consistent with my theoretical model.