Efficiency gains vs. government contacts in China

We document the market response to an unexpected announcement of proposed sales of government-owned shares in China. In contrast to the "privatization premium" found in earlier work, we find a negative effect of government ownership on returns at the announcement date and a symmetric positive effect in response to the announced cancellation of the government sell-off [Empasis DC]. [...] the positive effects on profits of political ties through government ownership outweigh the potential efficiency costs of government shareholdings.

Companies with former government officials in management have positive abnormal returns, suggesting that personal ties can substitute for the benefits of government ownership. The "privatization discount" is higher for firms located in Special Economic Zones, where local government discretionary authority is highest.

From a new NBER paper describing what happens when the 'grabbing' and 'helping' hands of the Chinese state meet the invisible hand of the market.