Privatization and the Rise of Global Capital Markets

By Boutchkova, Maria K.; Megginson, William L. | Financial Management, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Privatization and the Rise of Global Capital Markets


Boutchkova, Maria K., Megginson, William L., Financial Management


William L. Megginson [*]

We examine the growth in global capital market valuation, trading volume and security issuance over the past two decades. After estimating the impact of share issue privatizations on the growth of stock markets, we find that privatizations have significantly increased market liquidity, as measured by the turnover ratio. We examine the effect privatizations have had on the pattern of share ownership by individuals and institutional investors and find that privatizations have dramatically increased the number of shareholders in many countries. However, the extremely large numbers of shareholders created by many share issue privatizations are not a stable ownership structure.

By any measure, the past two decades have been a golden age for financial capitalism. Two of the most dramatic manifestations of capitalism's intellectual and economic ascendancy have been the rapid growth in the total value and trading volume of the world's capital markets (especially stock markets) and the spread of privatization programs around the world. From fairly humble--and extremely controversial--beginnings during Margaret Thatcher's first British government in the early 1980s, privatization has developed into a robust, even orthodox, economic policy tool that at least 100 national governments have adopted to one degree or another. This popularity is at least partly due to the fact that privatization programs can generate a great deal of revenue for governments, without having to raise taxes or cut spending programs. In fact, Gibbon (1998, 2000) reports that the cumulative value of proceeds raised through privatization programs by governments exceeded $1 trillion sometime during the second half of 1 999, and the amount of such revenue raised each year is now roughly $140 billion.

Although governments usually adopt privatization programs primarily to raise revenue, and in order to improve the economic efficiency of former state-owned enterprises, most also hope that privatizations implemented through public share offerings will develop their national stock markets. Recent economic research (Levine (1997), Demirguc-Kunt and Maksimovic (1998), Levine and Zervos (1998), Rajan and Zingales (1998), Subrahmanyam and Titman (1999), Beck, Levine and Loayza (2000), Henry (2000), Wurgler (2000) and Bekaert and Harvey (2000)) has given added impetus to this objective by conclusively documenting a direct link between capital market development and economic growth. A looming demographic crisis in the pay-as-you-go pension systems of many European and Asian countries has also lead to a dawning realization that efficient and liquid capital markets are a prerequisite for developing a funded pension system. Therefore governments have adopted share issue privatization programs as a means to jump-start the growth of these markets.

In spite of the obvious importance of capital market development, and of privatization's potential role therein, we are aware of only two academic studies that (indirectly) attempt to document or empirically examine this process. Domowitz, Glen and Madhavan (2000) examine the dynamics of external corporate financing choices and find that privatization activity is initially followed by foreign equity issuance, but eventually leads to a higher level of domestic bond issues. Bortolotti, Fantini and Scarpa (2000) examine governments' choices between selling privatization share offerings domestically versus externally. While both of these studies examine the impact of privatization issues on subsequent external financing, and the Bortolotti, et al paper indirectly measures privatization's impact on stock market development, the current study focuses much more directly on privatization's role in market development and patterns of stock ownership. This paper is organized as follows. Section I documents that capital market-based finance has in fact been increasing in importance, both absolutely and relative to financial intermediary-based finance, in both developed and developing countries over the past decade.

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