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Organizational economics and the food processing industry

01 Jan 2004-

AbstractOF THESIS ORGANIZATIONAL ECONOMICS AND THE FOOD PROCESSING INDUSTRY The food processing industry is dominated by large corporations. These firms play a critical role in forming the derived demand faced by agricultural producers, but little is understood about how these companies make strategic choices. Organizational economics provides a framework for exploring the firm’s decision process. However, several theories exist in this discipline, operating in fundamentally different ways. This paper examines the two prevalent organizational theories, Transaction Cost Economics and Agency Theory, through a study of the food processing industry. This sector is thoroughly analyzed in order to make predictions from each theory regarding the aspects of capital structure and firm expansion. With accounting data for a sample of food processing firms, these predictions are then tested empirically using an ICAPM model in a cross-section of expected stock returns. Our results indicate that Agency Theory is the relevant organizational model for food manufacturers, making it the appropriate tool for evaluating the actions of these firms in agricultural markets.

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References
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Abstract: The interests and incentives of managers and shareholders conflict over such issues as the optimal size of the firm and the payment of cash to shareholders. These conflicts are especially severe in firms with large free cash flows—more cash than profitable investment opportunities. The theory developed here explains 1) the benefits of debt in reducing agency costs of free cash flows, 2) how debt can substitute for dividends, 3) why “diversification” programs are more likely to generate losses than takeovers or expansion in the same line of business or liquidationmotivated takeovers, 4) why the factors generating takeover activity in such diverse activities as broadcasting and tobacco are similar to those in oil, and 5) why bidders and some targets tend to perform abnormally well prior to takeover.

14,358 citations