DP12441 Inflexibility and Stock Returns

Author(s): Lifeng Gu, Dirk Hackbarth, Tim Johnson
Publication Date: November 2017
Keyword(s): Operating flexibility, real options, risk premia, Stock returns
JEL(s): D31, D92, G12, G31
Programme Areas: Financial Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12441

Investment-based asset pricing research highlights the role of irreversibility as a determinant of firms' risk and expected return. In a neoclassical model of a firm with costly scale adjustment options, we show that the effect of scale flexibility (i.e., contraction and expansion options) is to determine the relation between risk and operating leverage: risk increases with operating leverage for inflexible firms, but decreases for flexible firms. Guided by theory, we construct easily reproducible proxies for inflexibility and operating leverage. Empirical tests provide support for the predicted interaction of these characteristics in stock returns and risk.