The growth companies puzzle: Can growth opportunities measures predict firm growth?

Jo Danbolt, I. R C Hirst, Eddie Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    While numerous empirical studies include proxies for growth opportunities in their analyses, there is limited evidence as to the validity of the various growth proxies used. Based on a sample of 1942 firm-years for listed UK companies over the 1990-2004 period, we assess the performance of eight growth opportunities measures. Our results show that while all the growth measures show some ability to predict growth in company sales, total assets, or equity, there are substantial differences between the various models. In particular, Tobin's Q performs poorly while dividend-based measures generally perform best. However, none of the measures has any success in predicting earnings per share growth, even when controlling for mean reversion and other time-series patterns in earnings.We term this the 'growth companies puzzle'. Growth companies do grow, but they do not grow in the key dimension (earnings) theory predicts. Whether the failure of 'growth companies' to deliver superior earnings growth is attributable to increased competition, poor investments, or behavioural biases, it is still a puzzle why growth companies on average fail to deliver superior earnings growth. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-25
    Number of pages25
    JournalEuropean Journal of Finance
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


    • Firm growth
    • Growth opportunities
    • Growth proxies


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