Capital structure of SMEs: a systematic literature review and bibliometric analysis

  • Published: 13 November 2019
  • Volume 70 , pages 535–565, ( 2020 )

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  • Satish Kumar   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Riya Sureka 1 &
  • Sisira Colombage 2  

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Capital structure is the outcome of market conditions, financial decisions taken by the firm, and credit rationing of fund providers. Research on the capital structure of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has gained momentum in recent years. The present study aims to identify key contributors, key areas, current dynamics, and suggests future research directions in the field of the capital structure of SMEs. This paper adopts a systematic literature review methodology along with bibliometric, network, and content analysis on a sample of 262 studies taken from the Web of Science database to examine the research activities that have taken place on this topic. Most influential papers are identified based on citations and PageRank, along with the most influential authors. The co-citation network is developed to see the intellectual structure of this research area. Applying bibliometric tools, four research clusters have been identified and content analysis performed on the papers identified in the clusters. It is found that the major research focus in this area is around theory testing—mainly, pecking order theory, trade-off theory, and agency theory. Determinants of capital structure, trade credit, corporate governance, and bankruptcy are also the prominent research topics in this field. Also, this study has identified the research gaps and has proposed five actionable research directions for the future.

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literature review of capital structure

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Kumar, S., Sureka, R. & Colombage, S. Capital structure of SMEs: a systematic literature review and bibliometric analysis. Manag Rev Q 70 , 535–565 (2020).

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Received : 03 July 2019

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International Journal of Managerial Finance

ISSN : 1743-9132

Article publication date: 3 April 2017

The purpose of this paper is to study the status of studies on capital structure determinants in the past 40 years. This paper highlights the major gaps in the literature on determinants of capital structure and also aims to raise specific questions for future research.


The prominence of research is assessed by studying the year of publication and region, level of economic development, firm size, data collection methods, data analysis techniques and theoretical models of capital structure from the selected papers. The review is based on 167 papers published from 1972 to 2013 in various peer-reviewed journals. The relationship of determinants of capital structure is analyzed with the help of meta-analysis.

Major findings show an increase of interest in research on determinants of capital structure of the firms located in emerging markets. However, it is observed that these regions are still under-examined which provides more scope for research both empirical and survey-based studies. Majority of research studies are conducted on large-sized firms by using secondary data and regression-based models for the analysis, whereas studies on small-sized firms are very meager. As majority of the research papers are written only at the organizational level, the impact of leverage on various industries is yet to be examined. The review highlights the major determinants of capital structure and their relationship with leverage. It also reveals the dominance of pecking order theory in explaining capital structure of firms theoretically as well as statistically.


The paper covers a considerable period of time (1972-2013). Among very few review papers on capital structure research, to the best of authors’ knowledge; this is the first review to identify what is missing in the literature on the determinants of capital structure while offering recommendations for future studies. It also synthesize the findings of empirical studies on determinants of capital structure statistically.

  • Literature review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Capital structure
  • Pecking order

Kumar, S. , Colombage, S. and Rao, P. (2017), "Research on capital structure determinants: a review and future directions", International Journal of Managerial Finance , Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 106-132.

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A Critical Literature Review of Capital Structure Theories

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2019, American Based Research Journal

Capital structure is a vital component of any business entity. The success and or failure of many business enterprises arise from their capital structures. Many financial institutions adopt different approaches regarding their capital structure arrangement. Some depend entirely on debt financing, others depend more on equity financing and others still mix the two approaches. The question has been which capital structure is the best for financial institutions? For those firms which prefer mixing the two approaches, what would be the best portion for the two approaches? This paper critically reviews the capital structure theories, which include Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller theorem, Trade-off theory of capital structure and taxes, Pecking order theory, The market timing theory and Agency cost theory. This paper suggests that any financial institution should carefully analyze its operations before making its capital structure decision

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The study begins with surveying the capital structure theories ranging from MM irrelevance to the latest theories. The survey mainly revolves around four recognized theories of capital structure; the trade-off theory, agency costs theory, pecking order theory, and market timing theory. However, the principal objectives of the study are to investigate the empirical evidences of relevant theories and identify the major determinants of capital structure. The survey takes place both in developed as well as developing countries. The results of survey unveil that each theory, in isolation, fails to gain consensus in explaining the capital structure phenomenon. Rather it seems that the theories, in most cases, are complimentary. Even though the two theories; trade-off and pecking order; have surely some supremacy over others, the recent performance of market timing theory puts other theories into challenge. Amid many determinants of capital structure, this study spots six determinants; pro...

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Abstract The beginning of the study of financing mix is after the Modigliani and Miller theorem and its unrealistic assumptions under which the source of finance does not impact the capital structure of the firm. Continuously after the M-M theorem new theories are developed. In this paper we are going to look at these alternative theories for sources of financing with a specific detail on the: Trade off theory and Pecking order theory. We provide evidence how this theories cope in practice of business. Keywords: Trade off, pecking order,capital structure

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The relevance of capital structure decision in the banking sector is documented in this paper. It contributes to existing literature in a review of previous empirical studies and fundamental theories of capital structure. The study underscored the factors influencing the choice of funding in connection with the market timing theories such as Pecking Order theory and the trade -of - theory. Our investigation suggest that, the choice of capital vary across sectors and industries on the basis of business risks, corporate governance, profitability, internal controls, and efficiency. The study observed that most empirical researchers universally endorsed asset structure, industry volatility, corporate taxes and firm growth as strong determinants of capital structure. The above issues may either improve the solvency position of a form or trigger major financial distress depending on the source of capital.

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  4. Capital Structure Study: A Systematic Review and Bibliometric Analysis

    Capital Structure Study: A Systematic Review and Bibliometric Analysis - Anjali Sisodia, G. C. Maheshwari, 2022 Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective Impact Factor: 2.8 5-Year Impact Factor: 2.0 JOURNAL HOMEPAGE SUBMIT PAPER Restricted access Research article First published online December 13, 2022

  5. A meta-analysis: capital structure and firm performance

    Capital structure Firm performance Meta-analysis Moderators Citation Dao, B.T.T. and Ta, T.D.N. (2020), "A meta-analysis: capital structure and firm performance", Journal of Economics and Development, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 111-129. Publisher : Emerald Publishing Limited

  6. (PDF) Capital structure determinants: A literature review

    Pandey and Singh (2015) review the literature of capital structure determinants and find size, growth, tangibility, profitability, business risk, non-debt tax shield, age, dividend pay-out...

  7. Capital structure of SMEs: a systematic literature review and

    Capital structure is the combination of financing forms (retained earnings, long-term debt, and equity) used by a firm to finance its overall operations and assets. Capital structure has a bearing on the value of both large and small firms.

  8. Application of capital structure theories: a systematic review

    The present study aims to analyse the literature on capital structure theories for the last 21 years to identify the existing gaps and themes for prospective researchers in this domain. Design/methodology/approach

  9. A Critical Literature Review of Capital Structure Theories

    This paper critically reviews the capital structure theories, which include Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller theorem, Trade-off theory of capital structure and taxes, Pecking order theory, The market timing theory and Agency cost theory.

  10. Literature Review of Capital Structure Theory and Influencing Factors

    ... Firm value is influenced by various factors. Modigliani and Miller conducted a groundbreaking study on the theory of capital structure, and proposed that the company capital structure...

  11. Research on capital structure determinants: a review and future

    ISSN: 1743-9132 Article publication date: 3 April 2017 Permissions Downloads 10647 Abstract Purpose The purpose of this paper is to study the status of studies on capital structure determinants in the past 40 years.

  12. Adjustment speed of capital structure: A literature survey of empirical

    The literature search involves using the keywords 'adjustment speed' and 'capital structure dynamics' with the time filter being from 2001 to 2021. Based on the reading of article abstracts, if determinants of SOA heterogeneity are highlighted as the focus of an empirical study, it is included in our literature survey.

  13. [PDF] Literature Review of Capital Structure Theory and Influencing

    Literature Review of Capital Structure Theory and Influencing Factors Lanwendi Zhao Published 9 October 2018 Economics, Business Modern Economy Modigliani and Miller [1] conducted a pioneering study on the theory of capital structure.


    from a structured literature review of recent research of 30 studies on the impact of capital structure (CS) on financial performance (FP). The University of Queensland, Australia (2020), a world top 50 University (, 2020), has given a framework for carrying a literature review. It has outlined the process as under

  15. Determinants of Capital Structure: a Literature Review

    Determinants of the adjustment speed of capital structure. Tesfaye T. Lemma M. Negash. Economics, Business. 2014. Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of institutional, macroeconomic, industry, and firm characteristics on the adjustment speed of corporate capital structure within the….

  16. Capital Structure Theories: A Comprehensive Review

    In this article the authors review almost all the preliminary and fundamental capital structure theories. Evidently, capital structure is still an unsettled puzzle and scholars are...

  17. Impact of Capital Structure on Corporate Value—Review of Literature

    1. Introduction There are a number of sources for financing business activity, both in the context of one's own and external financing. In the literature on the subject, there is no full agreement as to the definition of the concept of capital structure. Usually, attention is focused on the ratio of equity to debt in this context.

  18. The Effect of Capital Structure on Profitability: An Empirical Panel

    Modigliani and Miller ( 1958) demonstrated the irrelevance of capital structure in deciding firm value, although the assumption is valuable only in perfect market conditions, where all investors have free access to market information, and there are zero transaction costs and no tax difference between dividends and capital gains.

  19. A Critical Literature Review of Capital Structure Theories

    This theoretical review of capital structure provides a synthesis of the theory utilised in capital structure literature. This theoretical review explains two categories of theories that examine the optimum capital structure of a firm. Functional market theories, which propose firms conduct share transaction without being used transaction costs ...

  20. Determinants of Capital Structure: A Literature Review

    Capital structure decisions are significant financial decisions of the corporate firms as they influence the return as well as the risk of equity shareholders. A vast volume of work has empirically investigated the capital structure decisions in India and abroad. In recent years, the subject of corporate financial practices has also attracted much attention in the view of new challenges of ...

  21. A Systematic Review of Literature and Comprehensive ...

    Keywords: capital structure; determinants; literature review; bibliometric map; clusters. Introduction The issue of capital structure is an essential part of every business entity operating in the market. The capital structure is the structure of resources that an enterprise uses to finance its asset structure.

  22. 6. Write the review

    Organize your review according to the following structure: Abstract (it might help to write this section last!) Provide a concise overview of your primary thesis and the studies you explore in your review. Introduction. Present the subject of your review; Outline the key points you will address in the review; Use your thesis to frame your paper