Using the previously untapped Census Quarterly Financial Report (QFR) file, we explored the financial performance of a large unbiased sample of 209 leveraged buyouts (LBOs) and 48 going private transactions occurring between 1978 and 1989. Our principal findings are: First, we confirm previous work showing that LBOs substantially increase operating performance and reduce taxes. Second, we find that the operating performance gains are sustained for three years. However, there is a significant drop in performance in the fourth and fifth years. Performance in these years is not significantly above the pre- LBO level. Third, total debt to assets displays only a slight insignificant downward trend. Thus, high debt remains after the drop in performance. Fourth, we find evidence that the performance gains decline in the mid- to late 1980s, with the exception of 1989. Fifth, the data suggest that LBOs target typical firms. The only significant pre-LBO firm characteristic was lower bank debt relative to nonbank debt. Sixth, we identify a number of factors that differentiate LBO performance. Performance tends to be higher when pre-LBO performance is low and the firm is classified as a large R&D performer. Conversely, management buyouts and buyouts involving extensive restructuring did not outperform other buyouts. Finally, we observe a clear linkage between debt and performance, since nonleveraging going-private deals have significantly lower performance than LBOs.
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