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The Performance Logic of International Diversification

Multinational Enterprises, Markets and Institutional Diversity

ISBN: 978-1-78441-422-1, eISBN: 978-1-78441-421-4

Publication date: 25 October 2014



This study sheds light on the complex relationship between international diversification and firm performance and explores whether future performance expectations seem to drive managerial decisions related to internationalization issues.


We conducted in-depth investigation of five firms. This qualitative approach is allegedly better equipped to uncover the peculiarities of specific internationalization decisions by individual companies and the performance consequences derived from modifications in the degree of international diversification, which might go unnoticed in large-sample statistical analyses.


In line with Hennart’s (2007, 2011) and Verbeke and Brugman’s (2009) theoretical arguments, our findings indicate that no universal relationship should be expected between international diversification and firm performance. Rather, the performance consequences of internationalization-related decisions depend on the particular combinations of a firm’s characteristics and environment contingencies. Given managerial discretion, internationalization decisions would not be randomly made, but rather would be endogenous, and, as such, the relationship between multinationality and performance can only be understood if one takes a contingent approach. Additionally, internationalization decisions seem to be taken within a context of uncertainty regarding the future, which suggests that managers seem to approach internationalization with a long-term perspective and may in fact be “buying real options.”

Research limitations/implications

This study examined only five cases and they all relate to a particular type of firm: all are headquartered in a large emerging market with good domestic growth prospects, and each either is the leader or stands among the largest in its industry in the domestic market. While this relative homogeneity in the selection of the cases minimizes confounding factors, it suggests that findings may be specific to this particular (firm and market) context.

Practical implications

Managers should be aware that decisions that modify the international configuration of a firm might have distinct implications across different firms, given the particular (firm, industry, and environment) contingencies. Therefore, no universal normative orientation should be expected between international diversification and performance.


Although it is often implicitly assumed that managers make (informed) decisions with the objective of improving their firms’ (long-run) performance, there has been little discussion as to whether managers have detailed information about the expected performance implications arising from decisions that change the degree of international diversification of their firm and whether such decisions are driven by expected performance outcomes.




The first author gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from FAPERJ (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro – Foundation for Research Support of the State of Rio de Janeiro), per grant APQ1 nr. E-26/111.410/2011.


Carneiro, J., Amaral, V., Pacheco, H., Moraes, S. and Figueira da Silva, G. (2014), "The Performance Logic of International Diversification", Multinational Enterprises, Markets and Institutional Diversity (Progress in International Business Research, Vol. 9), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 443-475.



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