The issue of value creation for stakeholders of the firm as a result of the composition of its financial mix can be traced to the seminal work of Modigliani and Miller (MM) in 1958. Their argument is the irrelevance of the financing mix of firms on value. Thus, whether the firm uses equity or debt, the value of the firm does not change. There have been several theories after the works of MM carried out by several scholars either criticizing or supporting the Modigliani and Miller Irrelevance theorem. The Trade-off theory of capital structure suggests that there is an advantage to finance the firm with debt and also a cost of financing with debt. As a result, firms are assumed to trade-off the tax benefits of debt with the bankruptcy cost of debt when making their financing decisions. However, present and potential investors need single information which is, the value creating potential of the firm no matter the composition of the firm’s financing mix. Therefore this study had the following objectives; to determine the impact of debt financing on the ability of the firm to make profit; to determine the impact of debt financing on the ability of the firm to maximise the use of its assets; to determine the impact of debt financing on the firm’s earning power on per share basis; to determine the impact of debt financing on the ability of the firm to reward shareholders on per share basis; to determine the impact of debt financing on the firm’s ability to meet its’ financial obligations as at when due and to determine whether debt financing enhance the value of Nigerian firms. The ex post facto research design was adopted to enable the researcher make use of secondary data and determine cause-effect relationship for twenty-eight quoted Nigerian firms for the period 2004-2008 on a firm by firm as well as on aggregate basis. The Ordinary Least Square (OLS) estimation technique was adopted using SPSS statistical software to evaluate objectives one to five where ratio values of Total Debt Rate (TDR) was used as the independent variable while Net Profit Margin (NPM), Total Asset Turnover (TAT), Earnings Per Share (EPS), Dividend Per Share (DPS) and Current Ratio (CR) as dependent variables, while adopting a bankruptcy model, the Multiple Discriminant Analysis Model (MDA) to evaluate objective six using MDA’s Z-score benchmark of 2.675 to determine value (Rashmi and Sinha, 2004; Xing and Cheng, 2005). The study revealed that on a firm by firm basis there were mix variations of the impact of Total Debt Rate on the firms’ value parameters (NPM, TAT, EPS, DPS and CR) across firms sampled while on aggregate basis; there was a positive non-significant impact of Total Debt Rate on Net Profit Margin; there was a negative non-significant impact of Total Debt Rate on Asset Turnover Rate; there was a positive non-significant impact of Total Debt Rate on Earnings per Share; there was a positive non-significant impact of Total Debt Rate on Dividend per Share and there was a negative non-significant impact of Total Debt Rate on Current Ratio and twenty firms created value as a result of the firms’ use of debt financing representing 71.4% of firms sampled while eight firms representing 28.6% of firms did not create value. From the foregoing therefore, the use of debt financing enhances the value of Nigerian firms, thus could be used to enhance shareholders’ wealth, however further studies could still be carried out as to determine why some firms did not enhance value as a result of the used of debt finance in the financial mix of Nigerian firms .

The Modigliani-Miller theorem is one of the cornerstones of modern corporate finance. At its heart, the theorem is an irrelevance proposition; the Modigliani-Miller theorem provides conditions under which a firm’s financial mix does not affect its value. No wonder, Modigliani (1980, xiii) explains the theorem as follows:

           with well-functioning market (and neutral taxes) and rational investors, who can undo the corporate financial structure by holding positive or negative amount of debt, the market value of the firm-debt plus equity, depends only on the streams of income generated by its assets. It follows, in particular, that the value of the firm should not be affected by the share of debt in its financial structure or by what will be done with the returns paid out as dividend or reinvested (profitably)…

In fact, what is currently understood as the Modigliani-Miller theorem comprises three distinct results from a series of papers (1958, 1961 and 1963). The first proposition establishes that under certain conditions, a firm’s debt-equity ratio does not affect its market value. The second proposition establishes that a firm’s leverage has no effect on its weighted average cost of capital (that is, the cost of equity capital is a linear function of the debt-equity ratio) while the third proposition establishes that the firm’s value is independent of its dividend policy.

Miller (1991:217) succinctly explains the intuition for the theorem with a simple analogy, he says;

…think of the firm as a gigantic tub of whole milk. The
farmer can sell the whole milk as it is, or he can separate
out the cream and sell it at a considerably higher price than
the whole milk would bring...

He continues

…the Modigliani-Miller proposition say that if there were no
costs of separation (and of course, no government dairy
support program), the cream plus the skim milk would bring
the same price as the whole milk...

The essence of Miller’s argument is that, increasing the amount of debt (cream) lowers the ratio of outstanding equity (skim milk) – selling off safe cash flows to debtholders which leaves the firm with more valued equity thus keeping the total value of the firm unchanged. Put differently, any gain from using more of what might be seem to be a cheaper debt is offset by the higher cost of riskier equity. Hence, given a fixed amount of total capital, the allocation of capital between debt and equity is irrelevant because the weighted average of the two costs of capital to the firm is the same for all possible combinations of the two.

Spurred by Modigliani and Miller’s (1958, 1961 and 1963) arguments, that in an ideal world without taxes a firm’s value is independent of its debt-equity mix, economists have sought conditions under which the financial structure of the firm would matter. Economic and financial theories suggest that several factors influence the debt-equity mix such as differential taxation of income from different sources, informational asymmetries, bankruptcy cost/risks, issues of control and dilution and the agency problem (see Hart, 2001).

Thus, in line with the above, the question now is? Do corporate financing decisions affect firm’s value? How much do they add and what factor(s) contribute to this effect? An enormous research effort, both theoretical and empirical has been devoted towards sensible answers to these questions since the works of Modigliani and Miller (1953, 1961, and 1963). Several foreign and local scholars have theoretically and empirically studied the impact of the firm’s financial mix on the value of the firm from different perspective (see, Jensen and Meckling, 1976; Jensen, 1986; Fama and Miller, 1972; Myers, 1977; Miller and Scholes, 1978; Elton and Gruber, 1970; among others).

In fact, Elton and Gruber (1970) studied the link between taxes, financing decisions and firm value and found that personal taxes make dividend less valuable that capital gain and stock prices fall by less than the full amount of the dividend on ex-dividend days. Fama and Miller’s (1972) study on the financial structure of the firm was on leverage and they argue that leverage (debt finance) can increase the incentive of the stockholders to make risky investment that shift wealth from bondholders but do not maximize the combined wealth of security holders, thus, value is not created. Jensen and Meckling (1976) evaluating financial structure from the agency cost model submit that higher leverage allow managers to hold a larger part of its common stock thereby reducing agency problem by closely aligning the interest of the managers and other stockholders, thus asserting that since the interest of stockholders are protected, value is created. In another paper by Jensen (1986), he said leverage (debt finance) used by the firm enhances value by forcing the firm to pay out resources that might otherwise be wasted on bad investment by managers......

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