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  • P-ISSN 1738-656X

한국개발연구. Vol. 30, No. 1, June 2008, pp. 1-31

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Impacts of Increasing Volatility of Profitability on Investment Behavior

Kyung-Mook LIM

Author & Article History

Manuscript .


Various opinions have been suggested to explain the slump in equipment investment, such as increased government regulations, shareholder-oriented management by expanded foreign equity investment, response against M&A threats, conservative investment trends seen after a series of bankruptcy of large conglomerates (amidst crumbling myth of "Too Big to Fail"), and financial restructuring. Some also argued that the increased uncertainty in business environment is mainly responsible for conservative management, though there are few domestic studies made regarding the situation. But, in other countries, including the U.S., studies have shown that more volatility is seen now surrounding stock prices, profitability, and sales growth rate reflecting business performance. Also, there are other studies showing such expanded volatility have led to conservative management by businesses. In this regard, this study reviews the volatility conditions of business performance of Korean companies based on profitability, and then attempts to analyze the impact on investment brought on by increased volatility. Each company’s profitability volatility used here is from the standard deviation of companies for the past five years. As a profitability indicator, the ROA (= operating profit/total asset) is used. According to the analysis, profitability volatility has remarkably increased from the mid 3% in 1994 to low 5% in 2005. Profitability volatility of the Korean companies has expanded to a great extent since the financial crisis. The crisis might have served to raise the volatility in the macroeconomic conditions. If increased volatility observed during the economic crisis had gradually declined after the crisis, the situation could be interpreted as a temporary phenomenon, not to be too concerned over. But, this was not the case for Korea. The volatility level, after the crisis, has not dropped back to its pre-crisis level. Hence, in the Korea’s case, high volatility cannot be explained by the impact of financial crisis. Not only that, the fact that such expansion is seen in every industrial sector indicates that this phenomenon cannot be explained by the composition change of industries alone. An undergoing study shows that with a rapid spread of globalization, industries fiercely competing with China experience more volatility. Such increased volatility tends to contract investment, and since the crisis the impact of volatility on investment has slightly increased. It is noteworthy that this study only includes a part of ‘uncertainty’ that could be measured statistically. For instance, the profitability volatility indicator used in this study is unable to reflect all the effects that the tacit reduction of protection by the government or regulations might have made. So, the result here also indicates that other ‘uncertain’ factors not mentioned in this study may have served to contract investment sentiment. It would be impossible for policies to completely remove uncertainties measured by profitability volatility, but at least it is necessary to put effort to reduce the macroeconomic volatility in the future economic management. Stabilized macroeconomic management may not be enough to diminish all volatility that occurs within each company, but it would make a meaningful contribution in encouraging investment.


불확실성(Uncertainty), 투자(Investment), 변동성(Volatility)

JEL Code

D21, E22, G31

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