Distance in International Business: Concept, Cost and Value: Volume 12

Cover of Distance in International Business: Concept, Cost and Value
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Table of contents

(25 chapters)

Prelims

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Abstract

In this chapter, I reflect on my research on expatriation and cross-cultural interactions over the past four decades. I have characterized it as voyages of self-discovery, as my research questions have been framed by my own experiences in growing up in a bicultural environment in Hong Kong and subsequent relocation to North America. My research findings have helped me understand the what, why, and how of my encounters and observations in the context of international assignments and cross-cultural encounters. The chapter then focuses on my 1981 publication that presented a contingency paradigm of selection and training that generated substantial interest in expatriation. While the contingency paradigm is essentially valid today, I outline four developments that have taken place since then – war for talent, greying of the labor force, rise of emerging markets, and need for global orientation – that necessitate new perspectives in understanding human resource management in the global context. I then allude to how I would rewrite my 1981 paper differently in light of these changes.

The Concept of Distance

Abstract

In this chapter I argue that the distance research in international business studies is at a turning point, not in terms of its popularity, nor the quantity of articles published, but rather, in terms of the types of issues that are explored. Past distance research has largely been conducted at the level of the firm and/or the market – that is, linking national-level measures of distance with specific firm behaviors and outcomes. However, the seminal paper by Shenkar (2001) represents a shift in focus that is only just beginning to gain traction. This shift involves stepping back and beginning to unpack the black box we call ‘distance’ by exploring the micro-level mechanisms involved. In essence, it is about digging deeper in multiple aspects, to understand when, why and how distance matters in the international business (IB) context. These are issues that until now have typically been neglected. A metaphor borrowed from the social psychology literature, known as Coleman’s Boat, is used as a vehicle to explain the key issues involved in this shift and the opportunities for future research.

Abstract

This chapter investigates the theoretical support for the distance metaphor that is widely used to capture the effects of institutional diversity in international business (IB) and management studies. It argues that neither new institutional economics (NIE) nor in neo-institutional sociology (NIS) offers support for a focus on the degree of dissimilarity. Rather, both literatures emphasize dis-commonality as a problem for cooperation. In the NIE argument, common enforcement mechanisms are needed to reduce transaction costs. In the NIS argument, effective communication and cooperation is limited to meaning-giving structures common to all parties. In neither perspective, the degree of difference in structures that are not common is relevant. We propose an alternative metaphor, institutional overlap, to capture the effects of institutional diversity on IB transactions. We argue that such a concept differs from institutional distance in being agency-centered, sensitive to intra-country variation, non-additive, and driving the thickness rather than the costs of transactions.

Abstract

Our study explores the performance implications of deviations in managers’ perceptions of “cultural distance” – one of the most important concepts in International Business research – when expanding into foreign markets. Despite much research on “cultural distance,” few researchers have paid attention to the effect of deviations in managers’ perceptions of cultural distance on firm performance. This is important since managers formulate strategies for responding to the environment based on their perceptions of the firm’s environment. These perceptions, however, do not always coincide with actual environmental characteristics. Therefore, formulating strategies based on inaccurate data may result in erroneous forecasts, missed opportunities and, ultimately, business failure. We explore this empirically by comparing managers’ perceptions of cultural distance to export markets of Swedish SMEs to cultural distance measures based on secondary data and relate deviations of perceptions to the performance of these SMEs. Our results show that the larger the deviations of managers’ perceptions of cultural differences from “actual differences” as expressed in Hofstede scores on cultural dimensions, the lower the performance expressed in firms’ sales. The implications of the study are discussed.

Abstract

Institutions and culture as well as their distance between home and host countries matter for international business activities. Yet, the exact nature of this influence is still not fully understood. In this chapter, we develop the concept of institutional and cultural compatibility and propose empirical measures of both to contribute to our understanding in this regard. We argue that the institutional and cultural profiles of home and host countries can create synergies that facilitate bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) flows (that is being compatible) even if they are characterized by high distances. We apply our measures of compatibility to a sample of bilateral FDI flows between 127 host and 122 home countries over 12 years.

Abstract

The possibility of institutional distance exerting an asymmetric effect on the entry strategies of multinational enterprises (MNEs) has attracted recent scholarly attention. In this context, we re-examine the relationship described by Hernandez and Nieto (2015) on the effect of the direction of regulatory institutional distance on MNEs’ choice of entry mode in host countries. We extend this research by (1) focussing on the context of emerging markets and (2) accounting for a greater variety of MNEs as well as institutions by including both large and small firms, and a larger set of home and host countries. In contrast to Hernandez and Nieto’s study, we find that, in the context of emerging markets, institutionally distant MNEs are more likely to choose the full-ownership mode when they originate from an institutionally stronger country in comparison to the host (emerging) country, and they are more likely to choose the joint-ownership mode when they originate from an institutionally weaker country. We discuss our findings with respect to Hernandez and Nieto’s study, which explores this relationship more generally (i.e. beyond emerging-market contexts), however in the context of small and medium enterprises.

The Cost of Cultural and Psychic Distance

Abstract

In this study, we analyze the general effect of acquirers’ ownership strategy on the survival in foreign acquisitions. Furthermore, we attempt to address five potential moderating effects: international, regional, target country experience, cultural distance, as well as host country development. The developed hypotheses are tested on a sample of 1,345 acquisitions made by 174 Finnish firms in 59 countries during 1980–2005. The results indicate that in general WOS increases the probability of survival of foreign acquired units. We further find that the impact of WOS on the survival of foreign acquired units is contingent upon cultural distance and host country development but not on the experience of buying firms.

Abstract

In this chapter we test a conceptual model to shed light on the psychic distance (PD) hazards in cross-border acquisitions’ (CBAs’) performance. Only a few studies have sought to examine the impact of national-level dimensions on CBAs’ performance, such as cultural distance or PD, with non-conclusive and contradictory results. Event study methodology is used to scrutinize the impact of the five key dimensions of psychic distance stimuli (PDS) on the stock market performance of the US acquirer firms and 26 countries involved in the CBA. Our results support that PD, as a whole, has a negative impact on CBAs’ performance although only in the short term there is a statistically significant negative impact, whereas in the long term no effect is statistically significant. Analyzing the different dimensions of PDS, only differences in language, education, and political systems are significant. This chapter is the first to empirically examine the PD hazards on CBAs by breaking down the PDS and test the effect of each dimension on CBAs´ performance. The findings of this study may be useful for managers of firms that wish to undertake CBAs as it denotes important dimensions which hinder post-deal performance.

Abstract

In spite of technological advances and the removal or reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade, international buyer–supplier relationships often struggle. In this conceptual chapter, we examine how purchase intentions are influenced by the effects of the psychic distance between the countries where the buyer and the supplier reside. We look into the causal mechanism through which the psychic distance between the buyer and the supplier influences the extent to which the two will enter a business relationship. Two causal pathways are proposed, a more emotional pathway, through organizational identification, as predicted by the psychological distance theory, and a more rational pathway, through trust and expected relationship quality, as predicted by internationalization theory.

The Cost of Institutional Distance

Abstract

Outward foreign direct investment (FDI) from emerging economies, in particular from China and India, is on the rise. As a result, the international expansion of emerging-market multinational enterprises (MNEs) is attracting growing attention among scholars. However, existing research comparing the location patterns of Chinese and Indian MNEs is still scant. In order to fill this gap, we aim to analyze the impact of political risk and cultural distance on the location choice of Chinese and Indian MNEs. Drawing on an institutional approach, we propose several hypotheses regarding the influence of political risk and cultural distance on location decisions. We test our hypotheses using a sample of FDIs carried out by Chinese and Indian MNEs. Our findings suggest that the behavior of Chinese MNEs is less conventional than that of their Indian counterparts when facing institutional obstacles in host countries. Previous papers dealing with location decisions of China’s and India’s outward FDI did not specifically address the impact of political risk and cultural distance. This comparative study provides new empirical evidence on the influence of these traditional host country institutional factors.

Abstract

We build on the resource-based view and extend entry mode research by focusing on firms’ intention to transfer different resources from the parent firm to its overseas subsidiary. In line with our hypotheses, we find that parent firms that plan to transfer high levels of intangible resources to their foreign subsidiaries tend to choose wholly owned subsidiaries, while firms that intend to transfer high levels of tangible resources tend to choose international joint ventures. Moreover, we find that these relationships are moderated by institutional distance. We test our hypotheses using unique primary data from a sample of 128 foreign subsidiaries in the People’s Republic of China. Our results have important theoretical implications for international business strategy research as they develop further existing entry-mode theories.

Abstract

In this chapter, we aim to shed more light on the role of formal institutional distance in firms’ foreign entry mode choices by accounting for the direction of that distance. Specifically, we distinguish between foreign entries where the host country is institutionally less developed than the investing firm’s home country (negative institutional distance) and those where the host country’s institutions are comparatively more developed (positive institutional distance), and explore whether these different types of entries are implemented through different equity-based modes. We take an information economics perspective to develop hypotheses on the effects of positive and negative formal institutional distance on firms’ choices between greenfields and acquisitions, and between full and partial ownership of greenfield and acquired subsidiaries. We test our hypotheses on a sample of 1,070 foreign entries made by 796 emerging market multinationals originating from 14 countries. Controlling for the host country’s formal institutional quality and other factors, we find that negative institutional distance increases the likelihood that a foreign entry takes the form of a greenfield investment rather than an acquisition and that positive institutional distance decreases that likelihood. We also find that negative institutional distance increases the chances that firms choose greenfield joint ventures over wholly owned greenfields and full over partial acquisitions. Finally, we find that positive institutional distance does not affect firms’ ownership stake choices, neither for greenfields nor for acquisitions. Overall, these findings argue for a nuanced, contingency view of the role of formal institutional distance in foreign entry mode choices. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to use information economics to construct a holistic picture of firms’ equity-based entry mode choices, taking into account both establishment and ownership modes.

Abstract

We investigate the effect of distance – political, economic, cultural and spatial, on developed-economy multinational enterprises’ (MNEs’) ownership decisions in cross-border (CB) acquisitions. We start with the premise that distance discourages full and majority ownership in CB acquisitions, and further investigate the moderating role of distance-reducing factors. We examine how the relationship between distance and acquisition ownership decision is moderated by firm-specific characteristics, such as firm size, general international experience, and specific host country experience. Our data sample consists of 1,041 CB acquisitions under taken by Finnish MNEs in 58 countries during the time period 1990–2010. We find substantial support for all our hypotheses and conclude that the negative effects of distance on CB acquisition equity stake are positively moderated by the three firm-specific resources but their individual importance is conditional on the host country type (developed or emerging).

The Value of Distance

Abstract

Multinational corporations (MNCs) have increasingly sourced knowledge across borders, and foreign subsidiaries operations have played a critical role in MNC international knowledge sourcing strategies. The growing responsibility of foreign subsidiaries has paralleled an interest on the geography of this phenomenon by international business and international management scholars. In this chapter, we review this research. In addition, based on recent research in economics and management drawing on economic geography and innovation studies, we highlight possible avenues of research to enrich our understanding of the geographical aspects of international knowledge sourcing. In particular, we suggest three lines of research opportunities. A first opportunity relates to the explicit consideration of distance and border effects. A further research opportunity arises from investigating the geographical distance of heterogeneous host country knowledge sources from the foreign subsidiary. A final research opportunity we discuss is about the contribution of heterogeneous host country knowledge sources to the variety of knowledge developed by the foreign subsidiary.

Abstract

How does distance influence the type of corporate social responsibility (CSR) implementation strategy the subsidiaries of a multinational enterprise (MNE) adopt? In this chapter, I argue that the relationship between distance and CSR relies on the subsidiaries’ relative need for internal versus external legitimacy. I propose that, on average, subsidiaries that are more distant from the MNE’s home country pay more attention to the demands of their local stakeholders compared to those of their headquarters because they want to acquire local legitimacy. I propose that this local prioritization will broaden the set of practices that distant subsidiaries implement on a certain CSR issue as they try to satisfy a larger set of stakeholders but reduce the extent to which they implement each of them. Furthermore, I expect that dependence on the parent MNE should limit the effect of distance on local prioritization, and therefore reduce the overall negative relationship between distance and CSR implementation level and focus. And finally, in case of high local stakeholders’ consensus, the overall negative relationship between distance and CSR implementation level and focus should again be assuaged. Thus, by looking at the subsidiaries’ simultaneous need for internal and external legitimacy and introducing the moderating effects of dependence on the parent and consensus among local stakeholders, this chapter nurtures the current discussions on the impact of distance on CSR implementation in MNEs.

Abstract

Demographic faultlines (i.e., potential subgroup splits based on demographic attributes) have been argued to have effects over and above those of diversity. Yet, faultlines, much like diversity, do not seem to have positive or negative effects on performance per se, but to be affected by contextual variables as well as intermediate outcomes, such as relationship conflict. Relationship conflicts, a major threat to teamwork, are particularly likely to arise between subgroups. Thus, with the objective to shed some light on why and how exactly faultlines impact group outcome, we investigate the effect of faultline strength and distance on performance through relationship conflict as well as the effect of faultline strength on performance via relationship conflict, contingent on the level of faultline distance. To test our hypotheses we used data gathered in a laboratory setting with 267 graduate students. Results provide strong support for the extension of the faultline model.

Abstract

Prior research has tended to view cross-country distance as an obstacle. Yet, differences across countries are a key reason for firms to internationalize. To address this discrepancy, this paper puts forward a unifying framework which (1) synthesizes and delineates the different types of cross-country distance, (2) provides a logic for analyzing cross-level influences of distance on internationalization decisions, and (3) highlights the opportunities brought about by distance. The paper argues that firms are more likely to be able to realize these opportunities when they have internationally experienced managers and diverse, well-functioning top management teams at the helm. The paper also highlights the complex influences of distance, calling for the use of cognitive and behavioral research methodologies to further our understanding of the role of distance in internationalization. An illustrative example of Vodafone Group PLC is included.

Abstract

In an increasingly competitive global market, firms try to conquer a special place in customers’ minds and – when possible – in their hearts and spirits in order to succeed. Hence, through a competitive strategy based on differentiation, companies tend to focus their efforts in creating the right value proposition for consumers. They also establish upstream and/or downstream partnerships based on win–win relationships for the parties that constitute their value chain. The particular characteristics of ethnic products influence these strategies and the brand crossover. How can the ethnic-national identity of a product be employed successfully – regarding its liabilities and assets – in international sales? This case study1 focuses on Nata Pura, a rather young Portuguese firm that has built its internationalization strategy based on exporting a traditional product pastel de nata using innovative solutions, which include the development of partnerships to produce and promote this as an organic pastry made with high-quality-adapted ingredients. Earlier, the traditional product was mainly sold and distributed within Portuguese Diaspora. Nata Pura company markets and distributes the re-invented product, originally a traditional Portuguese food product, and bridges cultural and administrative distances by combining the traditional with global tendencies and tastes.

Alternative Lenses for IB Research

Abstract

Cultural and geographical distances create friction in multinational enterprises (MNEs), friction that indigenous firms do not experience in the same manner. This friction or liabilities of distance is conceptualized as governance costs in this chapter. Unfortunately, governance costs seem to be a rather equivocal concept, although it is one of the building blocks of internalization theory, and the raison d’être of the idea that certain kind of transactions have to be internalized to overcome the most prohibitive consequences of business activities across cultural and geographical distances. By going back to an award-winning paper, published in IBR in 2009, we put forward some nuances and reflections upon theory and findings presented in that paper, as well as upon implications and behavior of governance costs. The reason for this endeavor is grounded in the idea that theories must be challenged, empirical finding, just as well. Building upon survey data from 159 Norwegian MNEs, we explore and test six hypotheses by structural equation modeling (SEM). The results indicate that information fallacies seem to be the main driver of monitoring – and bargaining costs in the relationship between MNE HQs and their foreign subsidiaries, and thereby also the indirect driver of the observed negative effects of monitoring and bargaining on subsidiary performance. On the other hand, trust shaped by bonding activities seems to be an important factor in reducing bargaining costs and improving subsidiary performance.

Abstract

The aim of this study is to explore how springboard subsidiaries affect the psychic distance between the headquarters (HQ) of multinational companies (MNCs) and a distant target region. The study applies a single case study methodology to analyse a springboard subsidiary located in Spain that helps its German HQ to pursue opportunities in a psychically distant Latin American region. The findings suggest that springboard subsidiaries help MNCs to reduce the perceived psychic distance between their HQ and a target region due to (1) their intermediate psychic proximity in both directions (i.e. to the HQ and the target region) and (2) their location outside the target region, which makes them somewhat ‘impartial’ and not involved in intra-regional conflicts; the study also shows that the sum of psychic distance stimuli between HQ’s home country –springboard subsidiary’s country and springboard subsidiary’s – Latin American countries is actually smaller than the direct psychic distance between HQ’s home country and Latin American countries. No previous studies have explored the effect of springboard subsidiaries on psychic distance.

Abstract

The aim of the study is to investigate the effect of cultural distance on the reputation transferability from a made in Italy target firm to a foreign acquirer by analyzing local country consumers. The work compares two foreign acquiring firms a Chinese firm (large cultural distance to Italy) and a Spanish firm (small cultural distance to Italy). The findings show that Italian consumers have more negative attitudes toward the acquired firm and lower intentions to repurchase its products if the acquirer has large cultural distance rather than it has small cultural distance. Furthermore, the study aims at verifying that the case of small cultural distance fosters the reputation transferability more than the opposite case of large cultural distance. The work may be of value and interest because little has been studied dealing with the acquisition process in relation to market-based performance, particularly analyzing the consumer behavior toward a post-acquisition target.

Abstract

This study examines the effect of domestic alliances on firms’ foreign divestment decisions. We argue that foreign subsidiaries face a higher risk of being divested when firms form new alliances with other firms in their home country. Alliances at home involve resources and may divert attention away from international operations. Also, opportunities emerging from entering into new relationships with other firms domestically may lead firms to reconfigure their value chain activities and resources across locations, thereby increasing the probability of foreign divestment. Using data from the electronic and electrical equipment industries in the USA over the period 2001–2008, we empirically investigate the link between domestic alliances and foreign divestment. We find that increases in domestic interfirm collaboration indeed significantly affect firms’ propensity to divest foreign operations.

Index

Pages 539-548
Content available
Cover of Distance in International Business: Concept, Cost and Value
DOI
10.1108/S1745-8862201712
Publication date
2017-11-23
Book series
Progress in International Business Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78743-719-7
eISBN
978-1-78743-718-0
Book series ISSN
1745-8862