Stock Repurchases - A Fashion in the Corporate Wardrobe? : A Quantitative Study of Institutional Isomorphism within the Swedish Industrial Sector

University essay from Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet; Umeå universitet/Handelshögskolan vid Umeå universitet


In May 2000 share repurchases were legalized in Sweden, with the purpose to provide companies with an efficient and flexible way to distribute capital. To buy back shares gives companies several benefits which are discussed in our study. The lack of academic research about this topic for Swedish companies gave us an incentive to provide knowledge specifically for this market. When companies announce a share repurchase program they are subject to uncertainty about the society’s reaction and economic consequences. Individuals within a well established organizational field deal rationally with uncertainty by adjusting to their institutional environment. The institutional environment can be defined as an abstract structure of regulations and behavioral norms that guide human’s decisions. This often leads to homogeneity in companies’ culture, structure and output. We ask the question if companies are realizing repurchase programs in a similar way over time, and if share repurchases have been developed as a more common used financial instrument since 2000. Our second question is if companies that decide to buy back shares pursue this under similar economic conditions as a result from becoming homogeneous.

The purpose of this study is to describe how institutional pressures in form of coercive, normative and mimetic isomorphism have affected companies’ decision to repurchase shares. We want to explain if there is an upward going trend of share repurchases, a standardized way to repurchase over time and if this decision can be determined by similarities in certain financial indicators of a company’s economic situation. To answer our purpose we used a quantitative research strategy with a deductive approach. The collected data was analyzed in a logistic regression analysis and by interpretations of descriptive statistics. We decided to examine for mimetic isomorphism public companies listed within the industrial sector on Stockholm Stock Exchange from the years 2000-2006. For the test of coercive and normative isomorphism with a logistic regression analysis we had to limit ourselves to investigate the years 2001-2003.

In reality the three institutional pressures are working simultaneously and should together lead to a common perception about share repurchases among companies. For our testing we separated institutional isomorphism based on our theoretical preconceptions. This allowed us to analyze each individual institutional pressure and how they interact together. We defined mimetic isomorphism as companies adjusting their repurchase behavior to other companies within the industrial sector. Our result has not shown any indications of such a behavior concerning time, amount or frequency of the buybacks. Testing if certain financial indicators such as excess cash, liquidity, solvency, dividends, volatile operative income, prior year return, growth opportunities, companies’ size, ownership concentration, institutional and individual shareholders could explain stock repurchase activity gave us the possibility to evaluate coercive and normative isomorphism. But the question how institutional isomorphism affects companies’ repurchase decisions still remains unanswered. We have not found any certain financial indicator which motivates companies’ decision to buy back their own shares. The decision might therefore be carried out under very different economic conditions and with different objectives. In the industrial sector and generally in the whole Swedish market only a relatively low proportion of companies buy back shares. The stated findings for the Swedish market imply a need for further investigations over a longer time horizon and for a larger population. Further investigations in this topic which has the potential to provide recent insight into the stock repurchase decision for Swedish companies would enhance and verify our statements.

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