Intellectual capital and firm performance: the moderating effect of auditor characteristics

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Purpose: This study aims to examine the impact of intellectual capital (IC) and its three components (human, structural and relational capital) on corporation performance in the Chinese transportation industry. In addition, this study also investigates auditor characteristics (both Big-N and non-Big-N auditors) as a moderating role to examine the relationship between IC and corporate performance. Design/methodology/approach: The data include 398 firm-year observations of transportation companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchange from 2011 to 2020. Value-added intellectual coefficient (VAIC) model and its modified version (MVAIC) are applied to measure IC efficiency. Finally, the fixed effects regression analysis is used to mitigate the endogeneity issue. To investigate the moderating effect of auditor characteristics, the authors divide the samples based on the clients audited by Big-4 and non-Big-4 firms. Findings: This study reveals that IC can enhance firm performance in China’s transportation sector. Overall, findings indicate that on the whole, IC has a positive and significant impact on corporation profitability and productivity. Human capital and physical and financial assets (capital employed) play highly important roles, but structural capital has no significant impact. The authors also found that auditor characteristics play an important moderating role in the connection between IC and corporate performance. For example, the positive association between IC and corporate performance is more pronounced when Big-4 auditors audit client firms. At the same time, the authors found a negative relationship between IC and firm performance when non-Big-4 auditors audit client firms. Practical implications: Managers must understand that several components of IC have a total effect on corporate financial performance. Therefore, managers can dedicate more resources to such components based on the performance outcomes to emphasize their business strategies. Originality/value: This study is the first empirical analysis of the impact of IC and its components on corporation performance in the transportation sector in China, an emerging market. Previous studies mainly focus on developed countries’ high technology and financial industries sectors but the impact of IC in transportation industry largely remains unknown. Thus, the present findings contribute to IC literature by revealing several underlying mechanisms by which the components of IC help achieve good firm performance.

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Asian Review of Accounting

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