Over the past two decades or so, repurchases have become an appealing method for disbursing cash to shareholders compared to the traditional dividends. Managerial perception as well as empirical evidence suggests that repurchases are inherently more flexible than dividends, which may account for their increasing popularity. The rigidity of dividends and the apparent flexibility of share repurchases could impact firm investments. Firms may forego profitable investment opportunities to maintain their dividend levels, while repurchases could be easily scaled back to fund profitable investment projects without fear of an adverse market reaction. We test the flexibility hypothesis of repurchases by regressing capital expenditures on repurchases and dividends in addition to other control variables. Consistent with our hypotheses, we find an inverse relationship between capital expenditures and repurchases but an insignificant relationship with dividends. Further, we find that the flexibility associated with repurchases is especially evident for firms that are financially constrained, and during the recent financial crisis period when external capital constraints were severe. Finally, we find that flexibility of repurchases with respect to capital expenditures is stronger in the more recent time period during which regulatory changes made repurchases more attractive as a mechanism to disburse cash back to shareholders.
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