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Investments in Recessions

Finance and Strategy

ISBN: 978-1-78350-493-0, eISBN: 978-1-78350-494-7

Publication date: 19 September 2014


The relevance of finance for strategy is probably never greater than during a recession. We argue that the strategy literature has been virtually silent on the issue of recessions, and that this constitutes a regrettable sin of omission. Recessions are also periods when the commonly held view of financial markets in the strategy literature – efficient, and therefore strategically irrelevant – is particularly misplaced. A key route to rectify this omission is to focus on how recessions affect investment behavior, and thereby firms’ stocks of assets and capabilities which ultimately will affect competitive outcomes. In the present chapter, we aim to contribute by analyzing how two key aspects of recessions, demand reductions and reductions in credit availability, affect three different types of investments: physical capital, R&D and innovation, and human- and organizational capital. We synthesize and conceptualize insights from finance- and macroeconomics about how recessions affect different types of investments and find that recessions not only affect the level of investment, but also the composition of investments. Some of these effects are quite counterintuitive. For example, investments in R&D are both more and less sensitive to credit constraints than physical capital is, depending on available internal finance. Investments in human capital grow as demand falls, and both R&D and human capital investments show important nonlinearities with respect to changes in demand.




We thank an anonymous AiSM reviewer, Belén Villalonga, Peter G. Klein, and participants at the Academy of Management Meeting, Orlando 2013 for providing helpful comments. We also thank the research project “Crisis, Restructuring and Growth” at NHH Norwegian School of Economics for financial support. The usual caveats apply.


Knudsen, E.S. and Lien, L.B. (2014), "Investments in Recessions", Finance and Strategy (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 31), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 3-36.



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