1932

Abstract

We review the literature on debt structure, which is a central element in a firm's capital structure. We first survey both theoretical and empirical research pertaining to debt characteristics—maturity and priority—and debt types—bank loans, corporate bonds, credit lines, commercial paper, and capital leases. We then present comprehensive empirical evidence on public US firms’ debt structure over the period 2002–2018, highlighting that more than three-quarters of US firms concentrate their borrowing in one debt type, and offer some suggestive explanations for the observed pattern. Finally, we discuss directions for future research, including a better understanding of debt structure choices by non-US firms and by private firms, the cross-sectional and temporal variations in debt structure, the corporate policy implications of firms’ debt structure choices, and the interaction between types of assets and debt structure.

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2020-11-01
2024-06-15
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