Researchers have shown that information technology (IT) investments matter a lot in the bond market albeit at a different level than the stock market.
IT investments are strategically important for the stock market as they influence revenue and profit growth of firms. New research by found that bond markets value IT investments differently than stock markets according to the strategic roles of IT in industries and the types of risks they create.
Researchers found that credit rating agencies and bond investors favor IT investments in industries where IT is used mostly to automate business process and to facilitate richer information flows, as opposed to industries where IT transforms products, services and business models. One reason for this may be that although IT investments create higher future cash flows, these cash flows are especially volatile in transform industries — creating a downside risk in such industries for bondholders.
A key insight from the study is that IT investments are both associated with a firm’s operational performance and related to financing costs such as costs of debt.
Because bondholders view IT investments in transform industries as riskier than in other industries, firms should use bond markets strategically differently depending on which industries they operate in. Firms in transform industries may be able to lower their borrowing costs by sharing more information about IT investments with bond investors to alleviate their concerns about the risks of such investments.
Likewise, firms in other industries may be able to lower their borrowing costs by making disclosures to bondholders that highlight the low risks and stable cash flows associated with their IT investments.
The findings are important as firms invest more in various emerging digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing and Internet of Things.
Investments in such technologies will provide huge growth potential but at the same time may pose serious risks in implementing them. Thus, understanding how such investments are viewed by shareholders and bondholders will be crucial for firms to get their digital stories right.