Open Market Share Repurchases in Europe: A Cross Country Analysis
This thesis addresses the topic of open market share repurchases in Europe over the period 1997 to 2006. This thesis strives to document and clarify the managerial motives as well as the market perception and respective reaction to open market share repurchases, in a cross country framework. Therefore this thesis delves into the hypotheses that have been developed in the literature for interpreting these issues. The theories and hypotheses investigated in this thesis are mainly the information asymmetry and signalling for undervaluation, the tax hypothesis, the dividend substitution, the capital structure adjustment, and agency costs hypotheses under varying regulatory and institutional frameworks. Consistent with the U.S. evidence, share repurchases are popular in the U.K., but I find that the market does not have the same level of reaction as in the U.S. For Germany and France, share repurchase activity has been a more recent phenomenon, but not common. Nevertheless due to recent regulatory changes, this trend seems to be changing in favour of share repurchases. The empirical evidence in this thesis shows that market reaction to the announcement of intention to repurchase shares in the open market varies significantly among countries, and that the market becomes more accustomed to subsequent announcements made by the same firms. Furthermore, I find that ownership concentration, firm size, leverage, and in some cases past share price performance, have a significant impact on the market reaction, as well as on the managerial motives for announcing an open market share repurchase programme. Moreover, the evidence shows that not all the managerial motives and drivers of the market reaction have a uniform impact throughout the varying markets. Rather, it is only a number of firm characteristics that consistently influence the likelihood of an open market share repurchase in all three countries. Furthermore, I find that firms on average repurchase approximately three quarters of the shares targeted at the time of the announcement, suggesting that on average, firms repurchase a substantial portion but not the intended amount. In addition, I find that managers repurchase shares in order to provide price support. Finally, this thesis provides evidence that it is the actual trades and their respective reporting, and not the repurchase announcement itself that convey risk related information to the market. Therefore, the reporting of the actual repurchase trades sends positive signals to the market, which are reflected on the reduction of firms’ systematic risk.
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