Using bank mergers and acquisitions to understand lending relationships
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- Discussion papers (FOR) 
We study how firm-bank lending relationships affect firms' access to and terms of credit. We use bank mergers and acquisitions (M&As) as exogenous events that affect lending relationships. Bank M&As lead to organisational changes at the involved banks, which may reduce the amount of soft information encompassed in the firm-bank relationship. Using a unique Norwegian dataset, which combines information on companies' bank accounts, annual accounts, bankruptcies, and bank M&As for the years 1997-2009, we find that domestic bank mergers increase interest rate margins by 0.24 percentage points for opaque small and medium sized firms, relative to less opaque firms. Since, due to information asymmetries, opaque firms are typically more dependent on bank lending relationships, our results indicate that these relationships are advantageous for such borrowers, and the destruction of a relationship during the merger process has adverse effects for the firm. Conversely, the results are not consistent with a lock-in effect due to an information monopoly by the relationship lender that on average increases a firm's borrowing costs over its life cycle. The results are robust to the inclusion of variables that control for effects of market competition.