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Firms with what organisational patterns are more likely to acquire existing firms? In what stage of internationalisation is acquisition more likely? Such research should not assume that such decisions are always rational. It may be that irrational factors are important at times. For example, it might be that the rush to acquire businesses in Europe prior to 1992 and to acquire companies in Asia in the mid-1990s reflected a bandwagon effect with firms developing strategies to legitimise their investments after the decision has been made (McDougall, et al., 2004). Research might also give attention to a broader range of entry modes beyond exporting, licensing and FDI. Strategic alliances with local or other foreign firms may involve no transfer of funds. Alliances are another entry mode option which deliver similar strategic advantages to joint ventures but have received little attention in the literature beyond those firms whose home country is either the U.S. Or Japan (Moen, 1999). Studies of structure and coordination of MNCs have been characterised by cross-sectoral approaches and findings expressed in static models (McNaughton & Bell, 2000). How and why do control and coordination mechanisms change over time and how do these changes interplay with strategic actions? Have Australian firms altered their international organisational structures over time? If so, have they followed the U.S. pattern incorporating international divisions, the European pattern that does so to a lesser degree, some other pattern, or none at all?
Classic Internationalization Theories
Reference to internationalisation theories suggests that the degree of internationalisation might be seen from three perspectives: performance (what goes on overseas, Coviello & Jones, 2004) structural (what resources are overseas, Moen, (1999) and attitudinal (what is top management's international orientation, (Freear, et al., 2004). From this approach it follows that trade theory and the theory of FDI may be considered within the same theoretical context (Wetzel, 2005). This is further confirmed by the new approach that emphasises firm-level sources of comparative advantage and international competitiveness. Thus, in addition to the more conventional explanations based on industry -- and country-level factor endowments, the inter-firm gaps in technological capabilities, and the duration and effectiveness of the learning process may determine a competitive edge internationally.
Moreover, these intermediate forms of internationalisation cannot be regarded as second best entrepreneurial choices, but actual first best options depending on the specific firm's and market's characteristics. In this perspective, the choice of the preferred 'stage' of internationalisation takes in a 'strategic' dimension (Aspelund & Moen, 2001). However, the 'strategic' choice of international expansion of a Small and Medium-size Enterprise (SME) is crucially different from that of a large corporation. This reflects the different capabilities to influence and cope with a complex external environment characterised by asymmetric information, different risk propensities, and different opportunities to exploit economies of scale and scope. Sometimes these capabilities are available in-house, but often they need to be purchased from outside. It is well-known that a large corporation is often capable of internalising these capabilities (Wetzel, 2005). In contrast, a SME will have to rely on real and financial services purchased from the market, and these services will be more varied and complex the more 'developed' the 'stage' of internationalisation. For these reasons, and due to the high transaction costs involved in the process, ceteris paribus, SMEs are expected to confine their activities to the simpler stages of internationalisation (Mason & Harrison, 1999).
Born Global Firms and Managerial Aspects of the Classic Internationalization Theory
Although corporate managements were coming under pressure to globalize and move from reorganizing to restructuring by the opening of world markets and by Japanese Born Global firms competition, the final push came in the late 1990s via change in financial and capital markets. The first tidings became manifest in the 1980s in the U.S. with the junk bond financed development of the market for corporate control and the rise of the hostile takeover (Freear, et al., 2004). The raiders and takeover artists and leveraged buy-out (LBO) firms were quite unsentimental about keeping underperforming activities inside firms just because they had always been there, or waiting for internal corporate reorganizations to produce - perhaps, maybe someday - results. Especially in Born Global firms, the 'sword of debt' forced quick disposals and sales of under- performing assets and of the people who managed and worked in them (Erikson & Sorheim, 2005). Unsurprisingly, entrenched managers in many large firms were bitterly opposed to the continuation of this vigorous threat to their empires, their discretionary powers, and their pocketbooks - sheer company size having long since come to correlate better with top-management compensation and social prestige than profitability or returns to shareholders.
They used all available means to succeed in turning the law into an instrument to protect corporate incumbents. Yet the Maginot Lines they threw up barely halted capital market pressures for efficiency and share- holder value. In spite of the roadblocks of poison pills, shark-repellents, and raider-deterrent laws, the takeovers, carve-ups, and external restructurings continued through the 1990s. Ironically, much of the cause for the continuing pressure on management to become ever more efficiency oriented was due to the interests of people rarely identified with those of management as a class: teachers, public employees, and unionized workers. For it was they who were the beneficiaries of new fiduciaries with acronyms like CALPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System) and CALSTERS (California State Teachers Retirement System) which were about to apply concentrated pressure on corporate managers, first in the U.S. then around the world, to focus on shareholder interests above all (Erikson & Sorheim, 2005).
The last quarter of the 20th century saw the rise of 'fiduciary capitalism' in the U.S. And a return to concentrated share ownership after a half-century interval. However, MacMillan, et al. (2005), 'This time, share ownership is consolidated not in the hands of wealthy individuals like Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie, but in the hands of wealthy institutions. In particular, public and private pension funds now hold a size- able portion of the outstanding equity of the largest U.S. firms. These fiduciary institutions have both the incentive and the ability to throw their weight around in the corporate boardroom that widely dispersed individual investors don't and can't.'
Born Global Firms and Fiscal Problems
Having come to possess fiduciary ownership of almost 60% of the 1,000 largest U.S. corporations by 1997, these institutional investors have increasingly used 'voice' as well as 'exit' in dealing with underperforming companies. They have transformed the principal-agent relationship between shareholders and corporate managements. The pressure of the fiduciary capitalism in the U.S. then began to spread amongst Born Global firms. Financial markets, and especially equity markets, were not globally integrated 30, even 15, years ago. Even many developed countries then had currency and other controls that severely inhibited cross-border stock investments and other financial flows (Harrison & Mason, 2002). Not until the late 1980s did U.S. pension and mutual funds began to do more than dip a toe into the waters of international equity investing. But by the mid-1990s U.S. institutional investors had a large enough share ownership in non-U.S. firms to begin to follow on with the same sort of pressure and influence on managements they had come to exercise on domestic firms. And they were not alone. Funded pension plans, the rise of mutual funds in Europe and elsewhere as a part of pension reform aimed at shoring up soon-to-be-insolvent government retirement programs have brought, and are increasingly bringing, an institutional shareholder culture to even the non-Anglo-Saxon world. Born Global firms corporate managements contemplating product-cum-geographical diversification strategies and structures are now operating between the scissor blades of globalization. On one side are increasingly competitive international goods markets; on the other there are the ever more interlinked, ever more institutionalized, and financial markets (Landstrom, 2004).
The implication is clear: discretionary managerial options for allocating resources by the visible hand of organizational design have been greatly narrowed. Cross-border competition increasingly limits the amount of time and money that managements can burn trying out complex structures, and buttressing them with information systems, culture-building exercises, management training, and organizational development meetings (Harrison & Mason, 2002). Institutional investors, when not harassing managers in presentations and conferences with warnings not to use free cash flow for value- destroying acquisitions, impose 'conglomerate discounts' on firms that attempt to resist the assertion that investors can build their own diversified portfolios and do not need managements to do it for them.
Geo-Political Analysis of Born Global Firms in Relation with Classic Internationalization Theories
Much of the recent literature provides clear evidence of rapid and dedicated internationalisation by born global firms. Typically, these are smaller entrepreneurial firms that internationalise from inception, or start to shortly thereafter (Bell, et al., 2003). Many-product, many-nation strategies, and the matrix, grid, or even many-product divisions and SBUs - all organizational structures once thought to support those strategies - are a people and time-intensive luxury no longer permitted by the markets (Aspelund & Moen, 2001). I think it was…[continue]
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