Intangible flow theory, operating intangibility and other economic characteristics of firms

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2012
Thesis identifier
  • T13277
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Intangible flow theory explains that flows of economic material elements, such as cash or physical goods, are consummated by embedded human related intangible flows, such as services flows, work flows, information flows, knowledge flows or communicational flows, which have properties precluding them to be considered assets or capital. Therefore, mathematical/quantitative research methods are necessary but insufficient to study economy and society. The theory uses the precision approach to capture tangibility (and its opposite), which enables defining cash flows occurred in an identifiable period as tangible flows. To demonstrate intangible flow dynamics, the thesis suggests that corporations may partially organize themselves according to operating needs associated with the tangibility of product (output) flows used to generate material cash flows through sales to customers. For example, firms producing cars or planes might be required to have distinct economic characteristics to firms selling pure services or software. The thesis reviews interdisciplinary literature about products and their characteristics, and introduces the concept of operating intangibility based upon intangible flow theory. This concept assists the problem of classifying corporations according to their product flows' intangibility. For approximately identifying a firm's level of operating intangibility, the methodological framework looks into the absence of its opposite, which can be identified with a certain degree of precision through the accounting proportion that costs of physical goods sold and depreciations of tangible property, equipment and facilities have in total operating expenses. The empirical findings exhibit that a firm's operating intangibility tends to be reflected in several other economic characteristics: size, investment profile, profitability, market valuation, or capital structure. Furthermore, the results show that the level of operating intangibility framework exempts us from the need of assuming that firms registered in the same industry are either homogeneous or sell homogeneous products, because it can be used to classify firms within an industry, or industries themselves. The empirical analysis was conducted on a very large international sample of listed firms containing 15 country sub-samples from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, USA, and UK.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2012
Former identifier
  • 948368