In this paper, we empirically examine the relationship between the external financial statement audit and the method of payment across a sample of Belgian mergers and acquisitions between listed and private firms over the period 1997–2009. We investigate whether a Big N audit (at the target level) reduces the need for a contingent payment resulting from information asymmetry about the target's value. In addition, we analyze whether a Big N audit (at the bidder level) limits incentives for bidders to exploit private information about their own value. Using multivariate ordered probit and binary regression models, we determine that contingent payments are less common when the target is audited by a Big N auditor after controlling for several other deal and firm characteristics. Furthermore, we find that the incentive to use stock payments in periods of stock market overvaluation is lower for acquirers with a Big N auditor. Finally, target shareholders are more likely to accept a contingent offer if the acquirer's financial statements are certified by a Big N auditor.

JEL Classifications: G34; M4.

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