Essays on Accounting and Incentives in Chinese Equity Markets

  • Yin Zhu

Student thesis: Phd


In this thesis, I exploit accounting issues in the Chinese context with a particular focus on the role of government. The thesis consists of three empirical essays, examining how the state coordinates among the state-owned enterprises in executive compensation (essay 1), how the government regulates the dividend payouts of listed firms (essay 2) and how the delisting regulation influences the accounting choices of listed firms (essay 3).The first essay examines relative performance evaluation (RPE) in China. Previous studies of RPE for executive compensations in Western developed markets have produced mixed findings. This is partly because the dispersion of share ownership in Western capital markets does not closely correspond with the single-principal/multi-agent theoretical setting assumed by Holmstrom (1982). In this study, I exploit the existence of a large number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China to examine RPE in a setting closer to the theoretical assumption. I find that SOEs are more likely to use RPE for executive compensation than non-SOEs. This is consistent with better cross-firm coordination in executive contracting among SOEs under a common "state" principal than among non-SOEs with dispersed principals similar to Western firms. Furthermore, I find a more pronounced RPE effect among SOEs that are larger or have poorer past performance. This implies that the state principal has greater incentives to monitor strategically important firms or those in distress. The second essay examines the market reaction to and earnings management choices around changes in the regulations requiring a higher minimum dividend payout in China to shed new light on the determinants of dividend payout policy. I find that the market reaction is more positive for firms that paid less than the new required minimum payout than for those that paid more than the new required minimum, consistent with agency cost explanations of dividend payout. In addition, I find that low dividend payers exhibit a greater tendency to manage their earnings downwards to comply with the earnings-based threshold, and investors can "see through" such earnings management behaviors. My findings support the view of DeAngelo, DeAngelo and Skinner (2009) that agency costs of free cash flow retention are an important part of the dividend payout story.The third essay explores the earnings-based delisting rule in China that provides particularly strong motivation to manage earnings above the loss/profit threshold. I identify two groups of firms that successfully avoid being ST-ed, i.e. firms with a one-year loss before returning to profit, and firms with consecutive small profits. I provide a comprehensive examination of earnings management in terms of accruals management, real earnings management and non-operating income, to investigate whether Chinese firms manage earnings either to avoid reporting a loss or to avoid reporting two consecutive losses. Though there are mixed results sensitive to the research design for earnings management pattern in the two groups of firms, this study provides insights into earnings management induced by a government regulation.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMartin Walker (Supervisor) & Edward Lee (Supervisor)


  • event study
  • dividend payout
  • agency cost
  • Chinese state-owned enterprises
  • Chinese accounting
  • relative performance evaluation
  • equity markets
  • earnings management
  • executive compensation
  • delisting regulation

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