Money & Finance

Finance and growth in China and India: Have firms benefited from capital-market expansion?

  • Blog Post Date 08 August, 2014
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Financial sectors in India and China are fast expanding. This column presents a new dataset on the capital-raising activity and performance of publicly listed firms in the two countries. It suggests that at least a part of the fast growth in India and China seems to come from firms that are able to raise funds from capital markets. However, benefits are restricted to the largest firms.

India and China are hard to ignore. Over the past 20 years, they have risen as global economic powers, at a very fast pace. By 2012, India has become the tenth-largest world economy (based on nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) and China the second. Together, they account for about 36% of world population.

Their financial systems have also developed rapidly and have become much deeper according to several broad-based standard measures, although they still lag behind in many respects. For example, stock-market capitalisation increased from 22% and 4% of GDP in 1992 to 95% and 80% of GDP in 2010 in India and China respectively. By 2010, 4,987 and 2,063 firms were listed in India’s and China’s stock markets respectively. Their financial systems have not only expanded, but also transitioned from a mostly bank-based model to one where capital markets have gained importance. Equity and bond markets have expanded from an average of 57% and 11% of the financial system in 1990-1994 to an average of 65% and 53% in 2005-2010 in India and China respectively (Eichengreen and Luengnaruemitchai 2006, Neftci and Menager-Xu 2007, Chan et al. 2007, Shah et al. 2008, Patnaik and Shah 2011).

But how much has this overall expansion in capital markets implied a more widespread use of those markets? Has it allowed different types of firms to obtain financing, invest, and grow? Do the cases of India and China show that the policies to promote capital-market development might be conducive to growth? If so, how inclusive is this growth? Is it associated with some convergence in firm size, with smaller firms benefitting the most? Or are India and China cases of growth without finance, where companies grow using their own resources?

New stylised facts

To study these questions, we assemble a unique and comprehensive data set on domestic and international capital-raising activity and performance of publicly listed firms in China and India (Didier and Schmukler 2013). In particular, we match transaction-level information on equity and bond issues with annual firm-level balance sheet information. Our matched data cover 4,305 firms in India and 2,458 firms in China between 2003 and 2011.

This new dataset allows us to document important stylised facts:

  • The expansion of financing to the private sector in India and China has been much more subdued than the aggregate numbers of financial depth suggest. Although capital-raising activity in equity and bond markets expanded substantially in 2005-2010, it remained small as a percentage of GDP.
  • Importantly, this expansion was not associated with widespread use of capital markets by firms. For example, the number of Indian firms using equity markets to raise capital per year decreased from 528 to 152 between 1995-1999 and 2005-2010, out of about 5,000 listed firms.
  • Not only have few firms made recurrent use of equity and bond markets, even fewer firms have captured the bulk of the capital market financing. For example, the top ten firms in China and India captured between 43 and 62% of the amount raised in 2005–2010.
  • Thus, capital markets have not been a significant source of financing across firms. This contrasts with the perception in the literature that equity markets in these countries, and particularly in India, are relatively well-developed.
  • Firms that use equity or bond markets are very different – and behave differently – than those that do not do so. While non-issuing firms in both India and China grew at about the same rate as the overall economy, issuing firms grew twice as fast in 2004-2011. Also, firms that raise capital through equity or bonds are typically larger than non-issuing firms initially and become even larger after raising capital.
  • Firms grow faster the year before and the year in which they raise capital.
  • The evidence on firm size and growth has important implications for the firm-size distribution of listed firms – there is no convergence in firm size; if anything, the distributions seem to diverge.

Contribution of the results

These results are relevant to many discussions in economics:

  • First, a large number of studies argue that financial development is positively associated with overall economic growth (Levine 2005, Beck et al. 2013). Most of this finance and growth literature focuses on the size of the financial systems by analysing aggregate measures. Our results suggest that, to the extent that capital-market financing spurs growth, it does it through few firms and through an expansion of their investments. These results also show the mechanics that connect finance and the corporate sector.
  • Second, India and China have generated significant interest because they do not appear to fit the predictions of the law, finance, and growth literature, according to which more developed legal and financial systems spur growth (Allen et al. 2005, 2012; Yao and Yueh 2009). China is the most cited counter-example to this literature because it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and it is not clear which sources of financing propel the fast growth of its private sector. Our findings provide evidence on the positive association between the use of capital markets and firm performance.
  • Third, other work studies Gibrat’s law, which states that firm size and growth are independent and that the firm size distribution is stable over time. This view has been challenged over time. Although the growth of large firms seems independent of their size, including smaller firms in the analysis typically introduces a negative relation between growth and firm size. Moreover, the distribution of young firms is tilted to the right (most of the mass is on small firms) and the asymmetry tends to diminish monotonically as firms age and become larger (Cabral and Mata 2003, Angelini and Generale 2008).

Our findings suggest that even among publicly listed firms, which consist of the largest firms, there is some variation - firms that use capital market financing are larger to begin with and grow faster than non-users. In fact, our results indicate that there is no convergence in firm size. Moreover, a misallocation of capital in India and China (Hsieh and Klenow 2009) might have kept large, highly productive firms artificially small, which might explain why they are the ones that grow the most when financing becomes available.

Policy implications

The findings suggest that finance matters, but in more nuanced ways than previously thought. Even though the financial markets in India and China are not yet fully developed, the firms that are able to raise capital do seem to benefit from it, particularly in their overall expansion. In other words, at least part of the high growth in these countries seems to come from the firms that are able to raise new funds from the markets.

Moreover, the findings suggest that even large, publicly listed firms (that arguably have access to formal markets) appear to be partly financially constrained. The results of differentiated performance between users and non-users of capital market financing suggest that firms that issue securities respond when they receive external capital. That firms perform differently and expand when they raise capital also suggests that they had investment opportunities to begin with that they could not realise. While we show that capital-raising activity is related to changes in firm dynamics, we do not analyse to what extent the effects are driven by the supply side (the capital market side) or the demand side (the firm side). Doing so requires further research.

In recent decades, many emerging economies have undertaken large efforts to increase the scope and depth of their capital markets and to liberalise their financial sectors as a way to complete and increase the provision of financial services. But expanding capital markets might tend to directly benefit the largest firms – those able to reach some minimum threshold size for issuance. More widespread direct and indirect effects are more difficult to elucidate.

For the broader set of emerging economies, these findings suggest that even in fast-growing India and China with plenty of growth opportunities, receiving large inflows of foreign capital, and with thousands of firms listed in the stock market, only a few firms have directly absorbed the capital market activity. This could suggest that it might be difficult for a broad set of corporations from smaller and slower-growing countries to benefit from capital-market development.

A version of this column has appeared on VoxEU.

Further Reading

  • Allen F, R Chakrabarti, S De, J Qian, and M Qian (2012), “Financing firms in India”, Journal of Financial Intermediation 21(3), 409-445.
  • Allen F, J Qian and M Qian (2005), “Law, finance, and economic growth in China”, Journal of Financial Economics 77(1), 57-116.
  • Angelini, P, Generale, A (2008). “On the evolution of firm size distributions”, The American Economic Review 98(1), 426-438.
  • Beck T, H Degryse and C Kneer (2013), ‘Is more finance better? Disentangling intermediation and size effects of financial systems’,, 8 April.
  • Cabral L and J Mata (2003), “On the evolution of the firm size distribution: facts and theory”, The American Economic Review 93(4), 1075-1090.
  • Chan, K, H G Fung and QW Liu (2007), ‘China’s Capital Markets: Challenges from WTO Membership’, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.
  • Didier, Tatiana and Sergio Schmukler (2013), “The Financing and Growth of Firms in China and India: Evidence from Capital Markets”, Journal of International Money and Finance, 39, 111-137.
  • Eichengreen, B and P Luengnaruemitchai (2006), ‘Why doesn’t Asia have bigger bond markets?’ in Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Asian Bond Markets: Issues and Prospects.
  • Hsieh, CT and P Klenow (2009), “Misallocation and manufacturing TFP in China and India”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 124(4), 1403-1448.
  • Levine, R (2005), ‘Finance and growth: theory and evidence’ in Aghion, P, Durlauf, S (eds.), Handbook of Economic Growth, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Neftci, S N and M Y Menager-Xu (2007), China’s Financial Markets: An Insider’s Guide to How the Markets Work, Elsevier Academic Press, London.
  • Patnaik, I, Shah, A (2011), ’Reforming the Indian financial system’, NIPFP, Working Paper, 2011-80.
  • Shah, A, Thomas, S, Gorham, M (2008), India’s Financial Markets: An Insider’s Guide to How the Markets Work, Elsevier, Oxford.
  • Yao, Y, Yueh, L (2009), “Law, finance, and economic growth in China: an introduction”, World Development 37(4), 753-762.
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