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中国的企业储蓄之谜:The Chinese Corporate Savings Puzzle: A Firm-level

时间:2014-01-02 11:55来源:www.ukassignment.org 编辑:Tamim Bayoumi, Hui T 点击:
China’s national savings rate, at 50% of GDP in 2007, is among the world’s highest for any economy of a significant size.
I. INTRODUCTION
 
This has been said to be an underlying cause of the U.S. housing price bubble during 2002-2007 (Bernanke, 2005; and Greenspan, 2009), and by extension, of the current global financial crisis. This illustrates the attention that has been paid to global implications of China’s savings issue. It is therefore useful to understand China’s high savings rate.
Several authors have noted that a significant part of China’s high national savings rate come from its large corporate savings, which by 2007 accounted for roughly half of the national savings. According to Hofman and Kuijs (2006), what makes China stands out is the high savings by its enterprises. Furthermore, low dividend payments by state owned enterprises(SOEs), due to a large-scale agency problem, are the primary cause of the large corporate savings. Martin Wolf, an influential Financial Times commentator, asserts (Financial Times, October 3, 2006) “But we must then also ask why China is running such large surpluses. ... the frugality of Chinese households is not the chief explanation for China’s surplus savings ..., the principal explanation is China’s huge corporate savings.”
As far as we can see, the first claim – that the large corporate savings rate in China is what drives its high national savings relative to other countries – is based on the flow-of-funds data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which cannot be checked independently by a third party. When it issued revisions to the flow of funds data, the magnitude of the revisions could be large. For example, the recent revision in 2009 changed the Chinese corporate savings in 2003 from 13% to 18% of GDP, or a revision on the order of US$ 700 billion. The second claim – that a combination of windfall profits received by state-owned enterprises and their low dividend payout due to mis-governance – is based mostly on a hunch, as we have not seen any study that formally compares the profits and dividend practices across Chinese firms by ownership and sector.
In this paper, we examine these claims by adopting a firm-level cross-country perspective: comparing the savings patterns between 1557 Chinese publicly listed firms with 29330 listed firms in 51 other countries during 2002-2007, and comparing state-owned enterprises with majority privately-owned firms within China. Unlike the NBS flow-of-funds data, the financial statements of listed firms are at least subject to independent auditing. The listed firms, collectively, are also an important part of the economy. According to the China
Security Regulatory Commission (October 4th, 2009), the profits of the listed firms’ revenues accounted for 37.7% of the GDP in 2008, and their profits accounted for 36.3% of all enterprise profits. As far as we know, this is the first paper that adopts the firm-level comparative perspective.
Our results cast doubt on the reliability of both claims. First, we find that Chinese listed firms do not seem to have higher gross savings (as a share of total assets) than listed firms in other countries during our sample period. Moreover, the gross savings rate for a typical listed Chinese firm declined from 2002 to 2007, albeit insignificantly, even though China’s current account surplus rose significantly over the same period. This is inconsistent with the view that a rise in the corporate savings rate drives China’s rising current account surplus. Second, from a comparison of state-owned versus non-state Chinese firms, we do not find significant differences between these two groups in terms of their savings and dividend patterns. If anything, privately owned firms appear to have a higher savings rate on average.
The finding that the Chinese corporate savings rates are not much higher than those in other countries is not surprising from the viewpoint of the empirical corporate finance literature
in recent years. For example, J.P. Morgan (2005) and the IMF (2005) have noted that corporations in G-7 economies have all exhibited a rise in undistributed profits. Bates, Kahle and Stulz (2009) note that a typical firm in the United States had so much cash holdings by 2005 that it could pay off its entire corporate debt and still have some cash left over. The corporate finance literature does not presume that high corporate savings per se reflect inefficiency or corporate mis-governance. Indeed, Bates et al. hypothesize that it could be a rational (optimal) response to rising working capital needs faced by corporations. Moreover,
Fama and French (2001) document a pattern of disappearing dividends in the U.S. from 1978 to 1999. The fraction of firms paying cash dividends falls from 66.5% in 1978 to 20.8% in 1999.
Part of the reason is a rising population of small firms with strong growth opportunities.
Hoberg and Prabhala (2007) argue that a rising risk and therefore an increased need for risk control are the main explanation. Interestingly, the studies that focus on Chinese corporate savings rates appear unaware of this literature and of the fact that the high corporate savings rates in China are part of the global phenomenon.
The firm-level comparative approach in this paper has its limitations. In particular, it doesn’t account for unlisted firms. It is theoretically possible that both existing claims are correct through the actions by non-listed firms. We note, however, that most non-listed firms are private firms. If the savings by non-listed Chinese firms are much higher than non-listed firms in other countries, it is unlikely to be driven primarily by the mis-governance issues associated with state-owned firms. A more likely candidate would be financial constraints faced by privately-owned firms. In any case, our results should be interpreted with the caveat that nonlisted firms are not part of the analysis.2
Our findings have important implications for policy discussions. First, the existing claims advocate that state-owned firms need to pay more dividends. But if they save for whatever reasons that have led non-state-owned Chinese firms and firms in other countries to save, then forcing them to do less could lower economic efficiency. Second, the existing claims have led to the view that Chinese corporate savings are the primary driver for its large current account surplus, and a reduction in corporate savings would be key to reducing the current account surplus. However, if the Chinese corporate savings rates are actually not much higher than in other countries, then one needs to turn to households and government savings in understanding cross-country differences in national savings. As an analogy, even though the skin is the biggest part of an elephant’s body, to understand why an elephant doesn’t run as fast as a leopard, we would not want to focus on an elephant’s skin. Similarly, even though Chinese
2 Also, our results examine the level of savings but not the quality of its allocation. Future research can further examine whether Chinese enterprises use their savings more or less efficiently than firms in other countries, along the line suggested in Wurgler (2000) and Durnev, Morck, and Yeung (2004).
corporate savings is the biggest part of its national savings, it need not be the driver for why the Chinese national savings rate is so much higher than other countries.
The rest of the paper is organized in the following way. In Section 2, we analyze savings patterns with macro-level data based on flow of funds or national income accounts. In Section 3, we turn to firm-level data when we have a much better way to control for various determinants of corporate savings, and can separate gross versus net corporate savings. In Section 4, we conclude.

 

II. THE PATTERNS FROM THE FLOW-OF-FUNDS DATA

 

We start by presenting patterns of corporate savings rates from the flow-of-funds data for China from the CEIC dataset from 1992 to 2007 (the latest available data), the same dataset used in Hofman and Kuijs (2006) and virtually all other papers on the topic in the literature.
Figure 1 presents China’s national savings rate (total savings/GDP) during this period, and decomposes it into gross corporate savings, gross household savings and gross government savings. Corporate as a share of GDP rose over time from 11.7% in 1992 onwards, peaked at 23.5% in 2004, and declined gradually thereafter to 18.8% in 2007. The household savings as a share of GDP experienced more ups and downs. It became less important than corporate savings in 2003 and 2004, but exceeded corporate savings again after 2005.
In spite of limitations about the flow-of-funds data, it may be useful to perform some simple cross country comparisons based on the macro data. The top panel of Figure 2 compares the aggregate corporate gross savings (as a share of assets) from 1995-2007 for China, Japan,Korea, Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States. The Chinese data show a faster increase in the savings rate up to 2004 which then started to decline in the next three years. Note that the corporate savings rates in Japan and Korea are higher than China’s in every year during the sample period. In fact, in most years, the Chinese aggregate gross corporate savings rate tends to be lower than the Japanese corporate savings rate by about 5% of GDP, and lower than the Korean corporate savings rate by about 10% of GDP.
The lower panel of Figure 2 plots the net savings rates (gross savings/asset – investment/asset) for the same set of countries. The most striking feature is that China is the only economy in the group that has a significantly negative net savings rate in every single year.
This reflects not only the high investment rates in China, but also the greater desire to hoard cash by firms in other economies (rather than to invest or to issue dividends). Overall, what stands out the most is not how much more Chinese firms save than their counterparts in other economies, but how much less they save, conditional on the investment need. (One may argue about whether Chinese investment is more or less efficient than investments elsewhere, but one cannot conclude that the corporate sector in China, on net, has contributed more to its current account than their counterparts in other countries.)


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