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Beatrice Ravanetti

31 October 2022
Since the term was first coined in studies on the 1990s Japanese crisis, the concept of zombification has been investigated and revived repeatedly when concerns arise about credit misallocation and stagnating productivity growth in an economy. The starting point for these studies nearly always involves trying to identify the so-called ‘zombie’ firms. This has led in the past years to a proliferation of different definitions and identification methodologies. We survey the most prominent definitions, discussing advantages and limitations of each. We also undertake a comparison of methodologies on a common dataset for euro area firms from 2004-2019, with the exercise revealing limited overlap and low comparability in the firms identified by several prominent studies. In response, we introduce a formalisation of zombie-classifications which helps to make order in the growing number of variations and identification methodologies. Moreover, this formalisation also helps extending the concept of binary identification to that of fuzzy zombie-identification. In particular, we introduce a general procedure to turn arbitrary binary classifications into fuzzy ones showing it successfully increases consistency between zombie definitions.
JEL Code
L25 : Industrial Organization→Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior→Firm Performance: Size, Diversification, and Scope
D22 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
D24 : Microeconomics→Production and Organizations→Production, Cost, Capital, Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity, Capacity
C55 : Mathematical and Quantitative Methods→Econometric Modeling→Modeling with Large Data Sets?
O40 : Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth→Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity→General
18 May 2021
Financial Stability Review Issue 1, 2021
Policy measures aimed at supporting corporates and the economy through the coronavirus pandemic may have supported not just otherwise viable firms, but also unprofitable but still operating firms – often referred to as “zombies”. This has in turn raised questions about an increased risk of zombification in the euro area economy, which could constrain the post-pandemic recovery. Firm-level, loan-level and supervisory data for euro area companies suggest that zombie firms may have temporarily benefited from loan schemes and accommodative credit conditions – but likely only to a modest degree. These firms may face tighter eligibility criteria for schemes and more recognition of credit risk in debt and loan pricing in the future. Tackling the risk of zombification more fundamentally requires the consideration of suggested reforms to insolvency frameworks and better infrastructure for banks to manage non-performing loans.
JEL Code
E51 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Money Supply, Credit, Money Multipliers
G21 : Financial Economics→Financial Institutions and Services→Banks, Depository Institutions, Micro Finance Institutions, Mortgages
G32 : Financial Economics→Corporate Finance and Governance→Financing Policy, Financial Risk and Risk Management, Capital and Ownership Structure, Value of Firms, Goodwill
G38 : Financial Economics→Corporate Finance and Governance→Government Policy and Regulation
L25 : Industrial Organization→Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior→Firm Performance: Size, Diversification, and Scope