Does acquirer cash level predict post-acquisition returns?

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This paper investigates whether an acquirer's pre-announcement cash level can predict post-acquisition returns. Harford (1999, Journal of Finance, 54, 1969-1997) shows that some cash-rich acquirers have lower announcement period returns than other acquirers, suggesting the market partially anticipates poor future performance. This paper shows that the acquirer's cash level is also strongly and negatively predictive of post-acquisition returns, indicating that the announcement response is incomplete. Post-acquisition return on net operating assets (RNOA) is significantly decreasing in acquirer cash, suggesting that the market responds to subsequent poor operating performance as it is reported. Overall, these results are consistent with the market's inattention to a less prominent accounting signal (acquirer cash) but attentiveness to a more prominent accounting signal (RNOA), as proposed by Hirshleifer and Teoh (2003, Journal of Accounting Economics, 36, 337-386).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-511
Number of pages33
JournalReview of Accounting Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Acquisitions
  • Cash accumulation
  • Market efficiency
  • Post-acquisition returns


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