A company's name is commonly considered to be a curial part of its image and reputation, just like the quality of its products or the quality of its services and it is also widely accepted that the corporate name is the cornerstone of a company's relationship with its customers. (McNamara, 1998). Changing a company's name is a major policy decision contemplated by many firms and actually implemented by some year. Such name changes are sometimes a result of mergers or acquisitions to better describe the new combined business, and sometimes an attempt to acquire a new image and corporate identity. However, the process of changing a corporate name is painstaking, risky, and costly, therefore, name changes will not be initiated unless expected benefits outweigh expected costs (Bosch, 1989). Thus, the stock price reaction surrounding a corporate name change can be regarded as the name change effects. However, some ambivalent evident has appeared in the few studies that have considered the effect of name change on firm value. Horsky and Swyngedouw (1987) find that name change announcements can generate positive stock return. Bosch (1988) and Karpoff(1994) maintain that the name change effects are significantly positive before the announcement days but become insignificant after the announcement. Paul (1997) finds the name change effects have a significant effect on the service industry firms. Similarly, Lee (2001) and Cooper (2001) find name change effects are large and significant positive for those firms which add ".com" into their name.
Bosch and Hirschey (1989) collect 392 firms who change names from 1979 to 1986 period in Wall Street Journal (WSJ). After concerning other concurrent event such as announcement of merger and acquisition, stock split, the final sample just includes 79 name change firms. The methodology used to examine the abnormal return around the announcement actually is the market model event study. The market portfolio is the CRSP value-weighted index and the parameters are estimated over a 180-day period beginning 200 days before the announcement date and ending 21 days before. After the test, they find that the cumulative average return (CAR) is 0.33% but insignificant for the whole event period (-10, +10). For 10 days before the name change announcement, the CAR is significantly positive with value of 2.3%, in contrast, for 10 days after the announcement, the CAR is significantly negative with -1.97%. Moreover, on the day of name change, the return of 0.53% is positive but insignificant. Then, the sample is further classified into 32 major and 47 minor name changes. "Major" name changes are whose new names are entirely different from the old, such as Varity Corp. versus Massey-Ferguson Ltd., and "minor" name changes would not completely affect company recognition, such as Lowen-stein M.Corp. versus M. Lowenstein&Sons Corp.
For major name changes, there is no significant effect; and Minor changes generate a significantly 0.75% positive return on the day of announcement, and also have a significantly 1.25% positive effect 5 days before the announcement. Therefore, they conclude that a positive market reaction to name change announcement is found for the overall sample but the effect is statistically weak and all firms negative valuation effects in the post-announcement period largely eliminate beneficial effects appeared during the announcement period. Karpoff and Rankine (1994) use a comparatively larger sample of 147 firms announced name change from 1979 to 1987 in WSJ. Compared with the previous study, they mention that the WJS is not always the first public disclosure of the plan to change the company's name. Therefore the sample is divided into 4 different categories. There are 88 firms for the name change was mentioned or proposed in a proxy statement before the WSJ announcement; 87 firms refer to no concurrent announcement in the event period; 59 firms for no mention of name change in a prior proxy statement and 36 firms for which the WJS press date is not preceded by a proxy statement announcement of the name change and have no other announcements during the event period.
The methodology here is also market model event study, differently; the parameters are estimated over a 200-day period beginning 31 days after the announcement date and ending 230 days after (+31, +230). The result is consistent with the Bosher (1989) and they find that the name change effect impark a significantly positive cumulative return of 4.8% for 30 days before the announcement, but has no significant effect for the post-announcement. The CAR for When the authors take a close look on the 36 firms which have no concurrent event, they find those firms can generate a significant positive return of 1.56% in the two-day (-1,0 ) announcement period but yield no effect after the announcement. Therefore, this study fails to support the hypothesis that name change announcements increase shareholder's wealth. Paul (1997) argue that the major problem for the previous studies is that none of them distinguished between the services and manufacturing industries. So their results may bias.
He has some explanatory, such as firms in the manufacturing sector produce tangible products such as clothes, cars, computers etc. Therefore, a corporate name change signaling means a change in the direction of the firm and the quality of its products can be verified by examining the product, in contrast, the offering of service producers cannot easily achieve such verifications. Based on this, the sample only includes 28 firms from 1980 to 1990 in the service industry and the firms which changed their name because of mergers and acquisitions are excluded. Unlike the previous studies which use the market model event study approach, this study uses the trend analysis method. They focus on the trend of price per earnings ratio (P/E) because it is a good indication of the desirability of the firm's share and eliminates possible size effects. They obtain P/E for five years before and after the name change for each firm and align all the events in time-order. The hypothesis is that if corporate name change signaling is effective, then post-event P/E ratios will be on average higher than pre-event P/E ratios. Finally, the trend analyses show that, on average, post-event P/E ratios are significantly higher than the pre-event P/E ratios. Therefore, corporate name change has a positive effect on firm in the services industry.
Cooper, Dimitrov and Rau (2001) examine the effect of one particular form of corporate name change which firms add ".com" to their names. Concerning the concurrent announcement, the sample includes 95 publicly traded companies on the NYSE, AMEX, Nasdaq, and the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) that changed their names between June1, 1998, and July 31, 1999. The new name has to be either a dotcom name (such as, Wareforce.com), a dotnet name (Docplus.net Corporation) or has to include the world Internet in it (e.g., Internet Solutions for Business Inc.) the sample is further classified into 4 different groups: (1) Pure internet companies, which do all their business on the internet; (2) Companies that have some prior involvement with the internet and change their name to better reflect this involvement; (3) Companies that change their focus from non-internet related business to internet-related; (4) Companies whose core business is not internet-related. Besides using the similar event study approach which parameters are estimated over a 151 days period from 30 days before the announcement and 120 days after, the author also use price-matched control group of firms to calculate the abnormal returns.
That is, choosing 95 firms which did not change their names during the time period and also their price is the closest to the dotcom sample firms. Inconsistent with the previous studies, the results show that over a five-day period (-2, +2), all firms earn a strongly statistically significant abnormal return of 53%. Moreover, the name change effects of internet-related firms are the biggest which is significantly positive with 105% and the name change have the greatest long-horizon (+1, +120) effect for non-internet related firms with the value of 243%. Over the entire period from (-30, +30), all firms earn a significant return of 89% and there is also no significant reduction on CARs from day (+1, +120). Inconsistent with Bosch (1989) and Karpoff( 1994) who find a small initial positive stock price reaction to name changes is reversed within a few trading days after the announcement date. The finding suggest that firms change their name to a dotcom can experience a permanent value increase.
The authors mention that maybe this is due to mania-investors seem to be eager to be connected with the Internet at all costs and this hypothesis is supported by the fact that the non-internet related firms experience the greatest long-horizon returns for the name change effects. Three years after, Cooper, Khorana, Osobov and Rau (2004) examine the stock price reactions to Internet related name changes which are ".com" additions and deletions in a market downturn. A sample of 183 firms that add a dot.com and 67 firms that delete a dot.com is collected from NYSE, Amex, Nasdaq, and the OTC between Jan 1, 1998 and Aug 31, 2001. The sample is divided into period of "hot" versus "cold" markets which use an empirical proxy "Amex Inter@@citve Index" to measure. To be conservative, they use three different data which are Feb 1, 2000, Sep 1, 2000 and Apr 1, 2001 as the cutoff date. In order to test whether the price reaction is related to the type of name change, the sample is further separated into two types of name changes. "Minor" name changes refer to a firm merely adds to or deletes a dot.com from its name and "Major" name changes refer to a firm not only adds to or deletes dot.com from its name but also changes its name altogether. Using the same method as the previous one, the authors find no significant marker reaction towards to the "hot" Internet period (Pre-Feb, 2000) for dot.com deletions.
In contrast, the cumulative return over the whole period (-30, +30) is significant positive with 64% after Feb, 2000. Moreover, the effect of major changes is significantly greater than the minor changes. When using a cutoff date of Sep 1, 2000, the CAR goes up to 70.2% and continues to increase to 77.5% when using the date of April, 2001. Finally, they also find the results for dot.com additions obtained by the previous study also hold in an out-of-sample period. To be more persific, the CAR for all dot.com additions from Jan, 1998 to Aug, 1999 is significantly positive with 118.6% and the major name changes have greater effect than the minor name changes on the stock price. In the boom period (Pre-Feb, 2000), the effect of dot.com additions is significantly positive with 101.8% but have no significant impact in the bust period (Post-Feb, 2000). Therefore, firms that change their name to a dot.com name in the internet boom period and delete the dot.com from their name in the internet slump period can generate large gains in shareholder wealth.
Almost all the above studies are using market model event study to measure the abnormal return. As Fama, Fisher, Jensen and Roll (1969) who first used the event study methodology to estimate the effect of the announcement of a stock split on stock prices, this methodology was widely used as an effective approach to measure the abnormal return over the event period when the value of information announced. Some implications can be drawn from the above studies. Firms can generate a significantly positive return before the announcements of name changes. Bosch (1989) and Karpoff (1994) state that the market reaction to name change announcement is positive but statistically weak as all firms negative valuation effects in the post-announcement period largely eliminate beneficial effects appeared during the announcement period.
The WSJ does not publish all the news, and sometimes the news is out in other forms before it is published, so there may have a limitation in the study of Bosch (1989) as he just uses WSJ to define the event date, therefore the results maybe bias. Although Karpoff(1994) fits this limitation, he finds the same results. Even though event date uncertainty will be a problem, the event study design is still effective. Testing accumulated excess returns over a slightly longer period allows a research to detect events without precisely examine the timing of the event. (Glenn,1990) The market may react positively just for some particular name changes in some industry. Inconsistent with Bosch (1989) and Karpoff(1994), Paul (1997) finds a significantly positive name change effect on the stock market. Cooper (2001) finds firms can experience significantly great long-horizon returns for the name change effects which add ".com" to their old names.
Some irrational investor behavior may exist in the stock market and some manager may take advantage of this irrationality to time corporate events such as name changes. During "Internet Fever", when investors take internet as important to how business will be managed in the future and firms also want to be identified with the internet, so ".com" suffix can identifies a firm with the internet, sending a clear and unambiguous signal to shareholders and the general investing public. Since internet firms may be perceived as having great potential about long-run growth and profitability, investor may be more likely invest in the firms with the announcement of ".com" name changes and this will contribute to an increase in stock prices and trading activity. Based on the result of Cooper (2001), Stock prices of all internet firms may be irrationally high and name change effects bring a significantly positive return of 118.6%. After testing that the non-internet related firms experience the greatest long-horizon returns for the name change effects, the behavior of Investors' buying and selling activity toward firms which change their names may reflects that investors are irrationally influenced by cosmetic effects.
It is difficult to believe that investors get no information about stock holdings over the event time period. Also, Cooper (2004) examines the different stock reactions towards ".com" deletions and additions in internet boom and slump period. Firms that change their name to a dot.com name in the internet boom period and delete the dot.com from their name in the internet slump period both can generate large gains in shareholder wealth. In the sample, firms which add ".com" to their names occur mostly in the internet boom period and delete ".com" to their old names occur mostly in the internet slump period. It seems that firms are all obviously too eager to be detected as an Internet company while dot.com market valuations were increasing fast, but not willing to be connected with the Internet sector once it became perceived as slump. According to this, we may surmise that smart managers rationally take advantage of investors' irrational behavior and do in fact try to time corporate events to make full use of both positive and negative investor opinions.
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