Purpose Recent papers on target capital structure show that debt ratio seems to vary widely in space and time, implying that the functional specifications of target debt ratios are of little empirical use. Further, target behavior cannot be adjudged correctly using debt ratios, as they could revert due to mechanical reasons. The purpose of this paper is to develop an alternative testing strategy to test the target capital structure.
Design/methodology/approach The authors make use of a major “shock” to the debt ratios as an event and think of a subsequent reversion as a movement toward a mean or target debt ratio. By doing this, the authors no longer need to identify target debt ratios as a function of firm-specific variables or any other rigid functional form.
Findings Similar to the broad empirical evidence in developed economies, there is no perceptible and systematic mean reversion by Indian firms. However, unlike developed countries, proportionate usage of debt to finance firms’ marginal financing deficits is extensive; equity is used rather sparingly.
Research limitations/implications The trade-off theory could be convincingly refuted at least for the emerging market of India. The paper here stimulated further research on finding reasons for specific financing behavior of emerging market firms.
Practical implications The results show that the firms’ financing choices are not only depending on their own firm’s specific variables but also on the financial markets in which they operate.
Originality/value This study attempts to assess mean reversion in debt ratios in a unique but reassuring manner. The results are confirmed by extensive calibration of the testing strategy using simulated data sets.