Banks, Distances and Financing Constraints for Firms
The wave of bank mergers and acquisitions experienced in European and U.S. credit markets during the Nineties has deeply changed the geography of banking industry. While the number of bank branches has increased in almost every country, reducing the operational distance between banks and borrowers, bank decisional centres and strategic functions have been concentrated in only a few places within each nation, increasing the functional distance between banks and local communities. In this paper, we carry out a multivariate analysis to assess the correlation of functional and operational distances with local borrowers' financing constraints. We apply our analysis on Italian data at the local market level defined as provinces. Our findings consistently show that increased functional distance makes financing constraints more binding, it being positively associated with the probability of firms being rationed, investment-cash flow sensitivity, and the ratio of credit lines utilized by borrowers to credit lines make available by banks. These adverse effects are particularly evident for small firms and for firms located in southern Italian provinces. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the negative impact on financing constraints following the actual increased functional distance over the period 1996-2003 has substantially offset (and sometimes exceeded) the beneficial effects of the increased diffusion of bank branches occurring during the same period.
financing constraints, funtional distance, local banking system, operational proximity
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