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Financial flexibility and the impact of the global financial crisis: Evidence from France

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this study is to gain some insights into how managers perceive and achieve financial flexibility and its value in coping with the 2008 global financial crisis. The study focuses on the following questions: What are the sources and measures of financial flexibility? Do financially flexible firms suffer a lower impact from the crisis? Is financial flexibility related to business flexibility? and Is financial flexibility important for the firm's capital structure decision? Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper employs two methods: a questionnaire survey and interviews with chief financial officers (CFOs). The results are used to examine the relation between the firm's financial flexibility level and the impact of the global financial crisis on its liquidity, investments, capital structure and business operations. The results are used to analyze the robustness of different financial flexibility measures constructed from the survey data to identify an appropriate financial flexibility measure. Findings ‐ The main finding is that firms with high financial flexibility suffer lower impact from the crisis. The results show that firms with greater internal financing are likely to have lower leverage, higher cash ratios, and suffer a lower impact from the crisis on their business operations. The analysis indicates that an index based on the firm's leverage, liquidity, and operating ratios, similar to the Altman Z-score, might be a better financial flexibility measure than long-term debt ratio. The evidence also suggests that financial flexibility is a part of the firm's business strategy and is important for its capital structure decisions. Originality/value ‐ A major challenge for researchers is how to measure the firm's financial flexibility level, as it is unobservable and difficult to quantify. The innovation of this paper is to directly ask managers about the firm's financial flexibility, from both internal and external financing, construct several financial flexibility variables based on the survey data, and examine their correlations with the global financial crisis impact, to identify a robust financial flexibility measure. The research also provides unique data to investigate the value of financial flexibility during a severe credit crisis.
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Keywords: Capital structure; Financial flexibility; Financial risk; France; Liquidity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-04-05

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