The emergence of large shareholders in mass privatized firms: Evidence from Poland and the Czech Republic.
Mass privatization offers a particularly suitable framework to study the change in ownership concentration as the extent of change is unusual for a stable market economy. Focusing on two different mass privatization schemes in two transition economies, Poland and the Czech Republic, we find that despite important differences in the design of the two programmes and despite different quality of legal and regulatory framework, ownership structure in the two countries has rapidly evolved and the emerging ownership patterns are remarkably similar. This suggests that private benefits of control are large and the quality of investor protection regime is low in both countries. However, looking at the relationship between the change in ownership concentration and firm performance, we find an interesting difference between the two countries: in the Czech Republic the increase in ownership concentration seems to be less likely in poorly performing firms while in Poland the quality of past performance does not affect investors' willingness to increase their holdings. This effect may be interpreted in the light of the theory stressing the importance of the quality of investors' protection. It could be argued that if Czech investors are more risk averse and more concerned with diversification this is largely due to the weakness of the legal protection they face.
ownership concentration, mass privatisation, corporate governance, transition
Focusing on two different mass privatization schemes in two transition economies, Poland and the Czech Republic, we show that the ownership structure in the two countries has rapidly evolved since the initial distribution of property rights Ownership concentration has significantly increased and we can observe an important reallocation of ownership claims between different groups of shareholders. This evidence goes against the main argument of the critics of mass privatization concerned with the dispersed ownership structure these programs were supposed to generate. The fact that the degree of ownership concentration is similar in Poland and in the Czech Republic suggests that private benefits of control are large in both countries. However, when we consider the determinants of ownership concentration we find an interesting difference: in the Czech Republic the increase in ownership concentration is less likely in poorly performing firms while in Poland the quality of past performance does not affect investors' willingness to increase their holdings. This contrasting effect may be interpreted in the light of the theory stressing the importance of the quality of the legal system for investors' behaviour: Poland is usually praised for high standards of its regulation while the Czech Republic, especially in the early and mid-1990s, has been blamed for its weaknesses. So, although direct comparison of ownership concentration in the two countries does not provide confirmation of the main prediction of "law matters" theory, we find indirect evidence in its favour.
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