The question of whether ownership matters remains an important one in corporate financial policy. The types of owners of the means of production in an economy and the extent to which ownership is concentrated or diffused are important issues for an economy because they may have important effects on the leadership and control of such firms. Such effects influence the economy at macro level. The work by Berle and Means (1932:47) was based on firms owned by many shareholders with small ownership stakes, which were run by professional managers who had little or no ownership, leading to questions of ownership and corporate performance. Important decisions have to be made in firms regarding capital structure and performance. Although the literature covers the effects of concentration and types of ownerships on capital structure and corporate performance, the results are mixed. Theoretical studies explain factors that affect leverage and corporate performance but empirical studies provide inconclusive results. The questions pertaining to the effects of ownership concentration on leverage and corporate performance persist, with different institutional settings contributing to the lack of generalisable results. Inconclusive results are also attributed to the different statistical methods employed and the time periods of such studies. Few studies combine several ownership types and ownership concentration to analyse their effects on capital structure and corporate performance, especially in developing countries. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of ownership on capital structure and corporate performance in South Africa.
Ownership in this study was subdivided into ownership concentration and ownership type. The Herfindahl index was the measure of ownership concentration at the top one, two, three, five and 10 shareholding levels and the types of ownerships consisted of institutional investors, families, government, management, foreigners, companies, Public Investment Corporation, black people and other shareholders. Dependent variables in the relationship with capital structure were long-term debt, short-term debt and total debt ratios based on market value and book value, and the leverage factor. Corporate performance was measured by return on assets, return on equity, Tobin�s Q, economic value-added and market value-added as the dependent variables. Capital structure and other theories were used to examine the relationship between ownership and capital structure and results from previous studies were also used to investigate the relationship between ownership and corporate performance. To achieve these objectives, the research used an unbalanced panel of data from 205 non-financial companies listed for an 11-year period from 2004 to 2014 and the fixed effects and the generalised method of moments models to analyse the data.
The study found that ownership concentration, ownership by the Public Investment Corporation and black people had negative effects on capital structure. An implication for ownership concentration is that as it increased, the shareholders preferred to use less debt, perhaps meaning that they did not consider it important to take advantage of the monitoring capability associated to debt. Similar reasoning could be attributed to the Public Investment Corporation although an aversion to risk could also be a possible explanation. Due to the way black shareholdings have traditionally been funded in South Africa, such shareholders could shun debt.
Ownership by institutions, families, directors, companies and foreigners had positive effects on capital structure. These results implied that some shareholders, such as institutional investors, companies and foreign investors could prefer to use debt in monitoring management. Findings for managerial ownership and capital structure could imply that these types of shareholders used debt to avoid diluting their shareholdings due to their limited wealth. The effect of government ownership on capital structure was mixed.
Foreign ownership and ownership by other shareholders had positive effects on corporate performance. The implications of these findings are that foreign investors monitor and provide skills and technology to their investee firms, thereby increasing the performance of these firms. Ownership by management, institutions, black shareholders and the Public Investment Corporation had negative effects on corporate performance. These findings could imply managerial entrenchment, lack of monitoring by the Public Investment Corporation and institutional investors or low levels of shareholdings to enable them to commit resources to investee firms and inadequate experience on the part of black shareholders.