When Do Analysts Add Value? Evidence from Corporate Spinoffs
Executive Summary — The impact of financial analysts on capital market efficiency has been much debated in academia and in practice. A large body of academic research finds that analysts act as important information intermediaries who contribute to the overall efficiency of capital markets. Other research, however, has identified contexts in which the value of analyst coverage may be relatively more limited, such as when analysts face possible conflicts of interest, or when the company or situation they are presented with is especially complex. Still other research questions the informativeness of analyst recommendations in light of regulatory changes. In this paper, HBS doctoral graduate Emilie Rose Feldman and professors Stuart C. Gilson and BelÚn Villalonga examine 1,793 analyst reports written at the time of corporate spinoffs to determine how much value analysts create as information intermediaries in this setting. Spinoffs provide an interesting context for this purpose because the degree of information asymmetry between corporate insiders and investors is especially high. The paper is one of the first to provide very fine-grained detail on the quantity and types of analyses included in analyst reports. Key concepts include:
- Analysts pay relatively little attention in their reports to the subsidiaries that will be spun off, even though subsidiaries generally account for an economically significant share of firms' operations before the spinoff.
- The complexity associated with forecasting earnings and stock prices in the context of corporate spinoffs, combined with analysts' apparent disregard for subsidiaries in their analysis of corporate spinoffs, seem to limit analysts' ability to add value as information intermediaries in this setting.
- The potential for analysts to add value in this situation is especially high because while the new entities created by the spinoff have no stock price history—similar to an IPO—analysts may have been following the businesses of the parent and subsidiary for an extended time, giving them a comparative advantage in forecasting both entities' future financial performance.
We investigate the information content and forecast accuracy of 1,793 analyst reports written around 62 spinoffs—a setting in which analysts' ability to inform investors is potentially very high. We find that analysts pay little attention to subsidiaries about to be spun off even though these subsidiaries constitute a significant part of the parent company operations. Moreover, while the level of detail in analyst research about parent companies is significantly related to EPS and price forecast accuracy, the same is not true for the subsidiaries. We establish that this "forgotten child" phenomenon is linked to a "neglected parent" effect, whereby inaccuracy in subsidiary earnings forecasts is associated with inaccuracy in parent estimates. We conclude by showing that spinoffs may be a particularly complex setting for analysts to evaluate relative to other forms of corporate restructuring, such as IPOs, mergers, or bankruptcies, providing one potential explanation for our findings. 51 pages