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Keywords:

  • local externalities;
  • agglomeration economies;
  • ownership choice;
  • foreign acquisitions;
  • multinational enterprises

Abstract

This article assesses the influence of spatial heterogeneity on the entry mode by multinational enterprises (MNEs) in foreign markets. Focusing on acquisitions, we claim that the location of the target firm influences the MNE's ownership choice. MNEs normally execute partial acquisitions to reduce their liability of foreignness and to preserve their target's inherent competencies, particularly in highly innovative and internationally competitive sectors. However, this phenomenon occurs less frequently if target firms are located in areas that are characterized by relevant externalities, such as core cities and industrial districts. In particular, core cities allow foreign MNEs to access a variety of information and knowledge as well as other externalities that are associated with international interconnectedness; industrial districts provide MNEs with easier access to industry-specific agglomeration economies (a local pool of skilled labor, local input-output linkages, and local knowledge spillovers). These locations provide substitutes for different aspects of the target firm's competences, thus reducing an MNE's need to maintain a local partner. Empirical evidence from foreign acquisitions of local manufacturing firms that occurred in Italy during the 2001–10 period confirms these expectations.