New Policy Challenges for European Multinationals: Volume 7

Cover of New Policy Challenges for European Multinationals

Table of contents

(24 chapters)

Rob van Tulder is Professor of International Business-Society Management at the Rotterdam School of Management/Erasmus University Rotterdam. He holds a PhD degree (cum laude) in social sciences from the University of Amsterdam. He has been visiting professor at a number of universities and consultant to international organisations (such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union), multinational enterprises, non-governmental organisations and ministries around the world. He is co-founder of the department of Business-Society Management, one of the leading departments in the world studying and teaching about the contribution of business and society. He founded the SCOPE databank project, which in collaboration with UNCTAD compiles the listings of the world's largest multinational enterprises from developed and developing countries. Every year this list is published and referred as ‘UNCTAD/Erasmus University databank’. Dr. van Tulder is co-founder of the Expert Centre on Sustainable Business and Development Cooperation and rotating chair of the Department of Business-Society Management. Rob is presently also academic director of the Partnerships Resource Centre (, which studies the cross-sector partnerships between firms, NGOs and government for sustainable development. The Resource Centre itself is organised as a partnership among business schools, multinational enterprises, governments and NGOs.

Over the past few decades, European multinational enterprises (MNEs) have been faced with a rapidly changing and difficult-to-predict international policy environment. Waves of privatisation, liberalisation and deregulation have alternated with periods of reregulation and institutional volatility. The proclaimed era of ‘globalisation’ turned out to be more regional than many of its protagonists anticipated (Rugman & Verbeke, 2004). Nevertheless, the ‘home advantage’ of many companies has come under increased pressure, and even their relationships with traditionally supportive, non-market domestic stakeholders such as governments, trade-unions and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been affected. In addition, the ‘host advantage’ sought by European MNEs in many developing countries has also become increasingly challenged, especially by new generations of emerging market MNEs. Part of the explanation for the success of these new entrants has been their privileged relationships with non-market actors in their domestic policy environment. Five international policy changes have accompanied these developments (Fig. 1).

Purpose – This chapter explores the rationale for foreign companies to have a political strategy and how these companies are politically active in a small, open and regionally integrated economy. The reasons why companies are engaged in corporate political activities are tied to the rationales for corporate political actions but are also interrelated with the question of how effective is the selected corporate political approach in the institutional environment of a host country. The approach of political corporate activities is based on the relational and transactional approaches.

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter is largely exploratory and focuses on a non-American political context. The evidence is coming from the foreign firms operating in the chemical sector of a small, open and regionally integrated economy, the Netherlands, which is part of the larger economic entity the European Union (EU). In-depth interviews were conducted with general managers of foreign-owned firms because they could provide most insight into the political strategies of their subsidiary. The data collected through the interviews were analysed using content analysis, by using four entities of analysis: analysis on words, sentences, fragments or themes.

Findings – Empirical evidence shows a strong transactional predisposition among the political activities of foreign firms as a result of the red tape bureaucratic Dutch system. On a standalone basis, the small foreign firms did not consider that they have the power to influence political decision making in any way. The majority of firms are member of an industry association. These associations interact with political decision makers in the Netherlands on behalf of these firms.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter takes a foreign firm-specific level of analysis on corporate political strategies approach in a host institutional environment, which is generally more researched at multinational enterprises level. The Netherlands, with a small, open and regionally integrated economy, represents a totally different setting than the pluralist country, in particular the American one, and therefore, the existing American based literature on political strategies will be less representative for this corporatist country. The design choice and the effect of the approach of political strategies implemented by the foreign firms are affected by the specific host institutional environment.

Purpose – This chapter examines the extent to which public support for internationalization can be considered as a determinant of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Design/methodology/approach – The chapter examines the traditional determinants of FDI and the capability-building argument; and augments this by testing a set of public support measures as complement of the firm's internal needs, using a probit model.

Findings – The chapter shows that a special theory is clearly required to explain the particular circumstances of the use of public support for internationalization activities. However, the received theory relying on capability-building argument performs well.

Practical implications – The importance of specific characteristics related to competencies and the use of certain types of public support that improve competencies lead us to consider that public support matters for capability-building. Despite this issue, the analysis of the FDI determinants can be explained by standard theory. However, the impact of public policies on FDI suggests new models capable of capturing the behaviour of foreign direct investors in presence of public incentives.

Originality/value – This research provides useful information to understand the role of intrinsic characteristics of the firms and how they bridge their internal gaps with external support in carrying out demanding activities. External support provides a good test of the general theory of FDI, and a special theory nested within this gives a great deal of insight into current issues of FDI in the link between the home-country government and the firm's needs. This study goes beyond the traditional analysis of the effects of public support on exports. It uses a uniquely rich data set to evaluate the importance of public support as FDI determinant.

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive review of the literature on the importance of taxes as a determinant of FDI attraction.

Approach – The chapter presents the fundamental elements of the conceptual background that explain how and under which circumstances taxation may be a significant factor underlying FDI decisions. Then it proceeds with an extensive review of the qualitative and quantitative literature on the topic. Finally, it draws several relevant conclusions on the main patterns that can be extracted from the evolution of the literature on this field.

Findings – In this chapter we arrive at three major findings concerning the effect of taxes on FDI, and we uncover one interesting puzzle worthy of further research.

First, from the literature review it becomes clear that both FDI and taxes are concepts covering heterogeneous phenomena, and therefore to compare studies, results or to make judgments on the relationship between taxes and FDI, the working definitions of FDI and taxes that are being used needs to be clearly established and understood.

Second, based on the review of the qualitative literature, it becomes clear that while taxes are an important aspect of FDI decisions among managers, they are probably not the main driver of the decision. Moreover, taxes may only play a ‘marginal’ role compared with other determinants of FDI.

Third, looking carefully at the quantitative literature as a whole, there is not a straight answer that permits to unequivocally say that lower taxes increase FDI attraction.

Finally, a puzzle emerges from the tension between what policy makers believe and what the studies show. The review in this chapter puts in evidence that while policy makers believe lowering taxes increases the attractiveness of their territories vis-à-vis FDI, the facts show that taxes appear only to play a marginal role compared with other determinants of FDI. So, why do policy makers put so much faith on tax policies as an FDI attraction tool?

Value – The value of this chapter is threefold. It presents a very complete and up to date review of the literature concerning the impact of taxation on FDI decisions, it analyses the literature's apparently disparate results and groups them into three clear emerging conclusions, and uncovers an interesting public policy puzzle.

Purpose – This chapter investigates the effect of capital requirement regulations, both national and those issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, on banks’ interest rate margins between loans and deposits. Higher capital requirements lead to higher margins, as banks pass this additional cost to consumers.

Methodology – To estimate this effect, we use yearly data from a cross section of countries and fixed/random effects regressions. Our results exhibit a stronger statistical significance when we focus on a cross section of 20 transition economies from Central and Eastern Europe between 2000 and 2008.

Findings – Once we include institutional factors, as well as banking system and macroeconomic-related variables, we are able to explain more than 60% of the variation in interest margin across countries. We find that the banking capital to asset ratio positively and significantly impact the margin: we estimate that a 1 percentage point increase in capital requirements leads to a 20 basis point increase in the interest rate margin. The banking system liberalization index has a strong and significant impact on margin, with a higher degree of liberalization bringing about lower margins. The impact of a one-step increase (1/3 on a scale of 1 to 4) is a reduction in the margin by 1.25 percentage points. Other variables that influence the margin are real interest and inflation, both with a positive sign.

Implications/value of chapter – National banking authorities should not impose higher capital requirements than those recommended by the Basel Committee, as this would increase local borrowing costs. Romania's 15% capital requirements (vs. 10% required by Basel rules) have increased the interest rate margin by at least 1.5 percentage points.

Purpose – The purpose of this contribution is to clarify some of the institutional approaches in international business research and to identify opportunities to extend research on the role of institutions in international business.

Design/methodology/approach – Building on Douglas North's (1990) analogy of institutions as the rules of the game, we illustrate some of the differences between different institutional approaches in international business (IB) through a discussion of the rules and institutions surrounding the world of association football. We then briefly revisit the recent review by Hotho and Pedersen (2012) and compare and contrast three dominant institutional approaches in international business: new institutional economics, new organizational institutionalism and comparative institutionalism.

Findings – Our discussion illustrates that different institutional approaches address and explain different facets of international firm behaviour. The ways in which institutions matter for international business are therefore greatly dependent on how institutions are conceptualized and measured.

Originality/value – We highlight two recent developments in the literature on institutions which we believe offer important implications and opportunities for international business research. The first development is a move towards less deterministic approach to institutions. The second development is the recognition of institutional plurality and complexity, in the sense that organizations are often exposed to multiple logics with potentially contradictory prescriptions. These notions, we believe, offer important opportunities to advance our understanding of the relations between institutions and multinational enterprises (MNEs).

Purpose – This chapter considers the question whether firms can contribute to poverty alleviation through engaging in ‘inclusive business’, thereby linking the macro concept of ‘inclusive growth’ to the micro concept of ‘inclusive business’. A key element in this approach is how to take so-called cross-sector partnerships into account. Partnerships are one way of bundling non-market resources in the internationalisation strategies of multinational enterprises (MNEs).

Design/methodology/approach – This chapter is largely exploratory and primarily aimed at validating a general taxonomy of inclusive business. The creation of a multi-level taxonomy of business models of MNEs towards inclusive business takes into account the role of cross-sector partnership portfolios. The taxonomy makes it possible to come to a first comparison of the strategies of MNEs across national and cultural boundaries, distinguish some patterns and discuss determinants of strategies in which partnerships play a role in the inclusive growth strategies of MNEs.

Findings – A first application of this taxonomy on the business and partnership models adopted by the first 100 Global Fortune companies shows that in general firms still adopt very reactive strategies when integrating inclusive business strategies in their cross-sector partnership portfolios.

Originality/value of chapter – This chapter takes a company-specific level of analysis for the relationship between Foreign Direct Investment and development, which is habitually researched at the macro level of analysis. It documents business models as well as the related cross-sector partnerships. Cross-sector partnership portfolios of companies are not yet researched at any systematic level. They form the meso-level link between micro-level business models and macro-level national development strategies.

Purpose – This chapter discusses the possibilities and difficulties in the development of pragmatic solutions to address human rights issues in global value chains in line with the existing institutional framework.

Design/methodology/approach – A conceptual chapter examining the development and impact of a new public–private governance institution, namely the protect–respect–remedy framework developed under the auspices of the UN.

Findings – The concept of due diligence that is central to the UN framework has been incorporated into other codes by the OECD and the IFC, and offers a promising way of defining the human rights responsibilities of MNEs. At the same time, the information required for an effective due diligence analysis is difficult to gather, and requires extensive cooperation with nonmarket partners.

Originality/value – The chapter combines perspectives from international business and legal studies to achieve a better understanding of the development and implications of a new governance instrument concerning the human rights obligations of MNEs.

Purpose – By means of this case study, we aim to learn from failure and provide an explanatory approach why the promising prospects in a developing country could not be exploited and strategic actions failed.

Design/methodology/approach – Based on literature within the areas of uncertainty, entrepreneurial activity and political strategy, we provide an event-based case analysis and develop an explanatory model as to why the foreign direct investment (FDI) failed.

Findings – Results provide insights on the effectiveness of political strategies and point to the relevance of entrepreneurial overconfidence as a diminishing cognitive process leading to a misinterpretation of both internal and external conditions.

Originality/value – The exploratory study provides in-depth insights on a failed business and presents an explanatory approach for the business’ collapse.

Purpose – This chapter analyzes the relation between normative and cultural-cognitive institutional distance and the international entry forms of SMEs. We also examine the interaction effect of each of these distances and the regulatory development of the destination on entry mode choice.

Methodology/approach – This chapter deals with a multilevel analysis of a database of European SMEs containing information on different locations and three entry forms: exports; collaborative modes and direct investment.

Findings – The results indicate that greater levels of normative distance increase the likelihood of using collaborative forms in SMEs. Similarly, the findings also show that the preference for collaborative forms grows as the cultural-cognitive distance increases. In both cases, the study finds a positive moderating effect of regulative institutions on these relations.

Originality/value of chapter – The chapter contributes to the literature by separately considering informal institutional dimensions such as normative and cultural-cognitive distances, as well as examining how the regulatory development of the destination may moderate these relations. Additionally, the study sheds light in the development of the literature on SMEs, both by using the institutional theory to explain the internationalization of these firms and providing a more complete picture of their entry modes.

Purpose – To analyse the contribution of firm structure (size, clustering and foreign ownership) and strategy (subsector specialization) to the financial performance Return On Assets [ROA] of almost 10,000 European textile-clothing firms.

Methodology/approach – A panel regression analysis is conducted for five European countries that are representative of a Southern European model of clustered Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) specialized in low-value-added products (Spain, Italy and Portugal) and of a Northern European model of large vertically integrated firms specialized in high-value-added products (France and Germany) in 2002–2009.

Findings – The Northern European model has generated better financial performance than the Southern European model due to the joint role of its structure (large size) and strategy (specialization). Nevertheless, we find a positive effect of clustering in the Southern European model.

Research limitations – Clusters were defined at the NUTS II level instead of the NUTS III level. The coefficient of specialization was calculated for the pre-liberalization average.

Practical implications – Explaining the different levels of competitiveness shown by the same territorial organizational model in an industry.

Originality/value of the chapter – Work that has studied the behaviour of the firms within this territory-industry relationship is still scarce. Given that the viability of clusters and of European manufacturing have been put into question, our work evidences that the efficacy of the decisions related to the firm's structure and strategy needs to be tested jointly so that the way in which the firm addresses environmental changes can be appraised.

Purpose – In this paper we analyze the relationship between economic convergence with the European Union (EU) and foreign direct investment flows to five EU countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Hungary) in the period 2001–2010, in order to determine if the process of economic convergence with the EU level influences FDI inflows in these economies. The paper covers an important research question and reveals empirical findings for the new EU member states.

Methodology – This paper uses a quantitative analysis based on a convergence index creation, and also an exploratory data analysis in order to determine how economic convergence with the EU level influences FDI inflows. The economic convergence index is made up of two equal parts, more exactly a real convergence index and a structural convergence index, and is computed by comparison with the EU average.

Findings – The study does not provide us with a clear answer to our question regarding the influence of the convergence process on the level of FDI attracted by a country. We report a tight relationship between convergence index and FDI inflows in Bulgaria, but quite divergent evolutions of the two variables in the case of Hungary. For the other three countries the indicators fluctuate a lot.

Originality – The main contribution of the paper is represented by additional empirical evidence on economic convergence and FDI inflows for the new EU member states. The empirical research in this area is at an early stage and even though the existing stage does not provide us with accurate conclusions, the theme remains important for the business environment.

Another important contribution of the study consists of creating an economic convergence index that is composed by both real and structural indexes and that offers valuable information regarding the economic evolution of the new EU member states.

Purpose – The main aim of this chapter is to identify the factors that motivate outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from Turkey to EU countries, looking into the problem at the firm level with a marketing focus, trying to understand whether or not there are any Turkey-specific prevailing marketing-related drivers.

Design/methodology/approach – With a distinction between developed and emerging/developing countries and their MNCs’ role in world trade and FDI, the literature review focuses on micro-view motives, particularly marketing-related ones, rather than macro-view motives which are mostly studied in the literature. Based on the literature review, the importance of Turkish MNCs and their increasing role in the world trade is briefly summarized.

Looking into the problem at the firm level with a marketing focus, a series of in-depth interviews with top executives were conducted as an exploratory study in order to explore and understand the role of marketing-related motives in Outward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI) decisions of Turkish MNCs. For this purpose, 10 in-depth interviews with 13 top executives were conducted with tailor-made questionnaires.

Findings – The analysis of interviews revealed some different OFDI drivers and motivations for the Turkish MNCs compared to the factors mentioned in the literature, as well as iterating some common motives with the OFDI literature. Parallel to the FDI literature, it is observed that the Turkish MNCs mainly started their internationalization attempts by taking somewhat less risky and smaller steps.

As a result of qualitative research, the support is provided for the theoretical perspective that micro variables are more important than macro variables for Emerging Multinationals (EMNCs), particularly for Turkish MNCs; therefore, some Turkey-specific motives were also identified.

Originality/value of chapter – Although there is a consensus in recent literature on the most persistent group of motives influencing OFDI activities of EMNCs in developed countries, the underlying marketing-related objectives which are crucial to sustain competitive advantage have not been analysed and investigated sufficiently. This study is an attempt to fill this gap by identifying the most persistent marketing-related motives and give important insights about country-specific ones encouraging Turkish EMNCs to carry out OFDI in EU.

Purpose – The paper addresses the MNCs’ sensitivity to corruption which varies across economic sectors depending on the interaction between sectoral characteristics and home-country formal institutions’ strength.

Design/methodology/approach – A theoretical framework is proposed based on the economic sector and host-country's institutional factors. The framework is empirically tested using 245 cross-border FDI valuations. Given that the energy sector is representative of high levels of industry concentration and government involvement – the sectoral characteristics considered to be moderating the relationship between corruption and FDI – the focus of the paper is on the energy sector. The study also tests the moderating effect of corruption distance.

Findings – The results indicate a lack of evidence that MNCs are deterred by corruption when investing in the energy sector of emerging and developing economies.

Research limitations/implications – The study provides a starting-point for further research of how economic sector characteristics can moderate the relationship between corruption and FDI. A key practical implication is that international anti-corruption measures are likely to be insufficient for some economic sectors.

Originality/value – The paper has proven to be of interest to the US State Department for studying the effectiveness of the international foreign bribery laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The framework can assist in identifying economic sectors likely to be resistant to comply with the foreign bribery laws when conditions of weak host-country formal institutions are present. The study challenges and complements the prevailing theory that host-country corruption has a negative effect on inward FDI.

Purpose – We survey the export propensity of firms during the period of economic recession. Our aim is to complement existing literature, by considering the influence of home-country characteristics (corruption, bureaucracy, current financial situation, competition intensity) as predictors of firms’ export decisions.

Methodology – Combining diverse theoretical perspectives, we argue that firms’ export strategy can be reasonably modelled by integrating elements from the environmental determinism theory and the resource-based view of the firm. Research evidence on the factors impacting on export decisions is based on a sample of 136 (local and foreign) firms operating in Greece. A logistic regression model was run with export propensity being the dependent variable.

Findings – Our results indicate that not only firm-level variables (technological competencies and country of origin) are significant determinants of exporting, but considerable attention should also be placed on specific characteristics of the domestic environment. In particular, bureaucracy and the current financial situation seem to influence the managers’ decision to export.

Originality/value – This paper contributes to the field by highlighting the impact of the domestic factors on export propensity, which have been neglected among the micro-level export studies. Further, we present evidence for export propensity in an ‘intermediate-level’ EU peripheral economy during the current economic era.

Implications – Given that this study is based on a country hard hit by the economic recession, it provides useful implications for managers and policy makers.

Purpose – This paper contributes to the discussion of the effects of the global financial and economic crisis of 2008–2009 (GFEC) on strategies of multinational companies (MNC) in the unique regional context of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

Methodology/approach – The considerations are based on secondary data and accessible studies dealing with corporate responses to the recent economic downturn.

Findings – The author argues that the business model which guided the expansion into CEE still remains valid. The huge market potential did not disappear and the advantages stemming from a skilled workforce and favourable resource situation were not eliminated by the crisis. What markedly changed is the perception of risk of doing business in CEE. As a consequence, foreign investors follow a more cautious and selective approach in their regional strategy. Regional players will try to stay in CEE and benefit from the exit of weaker competitors. Multi-tier brand strategies and affordability initiatives will gain in importance.

Research limitations/implications – As this is a discussion paper further research is necessary to validate the propositions.

Practical implications – An external shock such as the recent crisis forces management to conduct a comprehensive review of the pillars of their strategy. This paper offers a guideline for review of a regional strategy.

Originality/value of paper – The paper provides a comprehensive review of the business model for CEE in the light of the recent global crisis and highlights probable strategic responses of foreign MNCs.

Purpose – Researchers rarely touch on the phenomenon of crisis in the relationship itself combined with relationship conflict caused by turbulence in the relationship environment – specifically for emerging markets. The aim of this study is to develop a theoretical view for studying how firms manage business relationships when facing crises caused both by involved parties and by contextual factors.

Design/methodology/approach – Based on a business network perspective, the paper develops a relationship view stressing trust/distrust, commitment/de-commitment and uncertainty/knowledge as central explanatory relationship elements. The paper employs longitudinal case study method and discusses how the relationship between the Swedish firm Ericsson and Telefónica in Argentina for the period of 1998–2004. The process view is composed of three phases: the start-up phase, a phase of crisis and instability and finally a phase of restoration.

Findings/originality – With the assumption of extensiveness in relationship development and high risk in falling from conflict into critical problems in emerging markets, the paper has elaborated new theoretical and empirical thoughts. The study gains further strength from the fact that the number and intensity of crises is increasing because of the escalation in global interdependency. It contributes further knowledge on strategy decisions like exit, wait and see, take the risk and advance affecting the firms’ business relationship.

Purpose – While previous studies have highlighted opportunities, this chapter sheds light on the negative effects of globalization that mature European multinational enterprises (MNEs) encounter.

Design/methodology/approach – We develop an extended network perspective to argue that globalization has resulted in several network-related threats for mature European MNEs.

Findings – European MNEs encounter three types of negative effects. First, globalization has caused local problems to increasingly spill over to other parts of MNE networks. Second, globalization has bred or strengthened countervailing powers, such as emerging-market MNEs, supranational governmental bodies, and international non-governmental organizations, which have eroded the power of mature European MNEs by entering their networks. Third, while globalization has caused the economic networks of MNEs to expand, it has made critical production factors scarcer since the availability of labour, land and natural resources has not increased accordingly. We conclude that globalization acts as a double-edged sword, which has not only offered opportunities for mature European MNEs but has also led them to experience important new and intensified threats.

Social implications – Earlier studies have shown that globalization can have positive effects for MNEs and negative effects for the sovereignty of nation states, domestic employment and the natural environment. The findings of the present study imply that globalization can also backfire on mature MNEs, thereby undermining their competitive position or even jeopardizing their continuity.

Originality/value – The negative effects of globalization for MNEs have remained understudied. Our contribution is to systematically analyze the neglected yet important ‘dark side of globalization’ that mature European MNEs encounter.

Cover of New Policy Challenges for European Multinationals
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Progress in International Business Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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