Hybrid ownership structures and cross-border acquisition completion of emerging market firms: An institutional and signalling theory perspective
Over the last decade, cross-border acquisitions (CBAs) have emerged as one of the most significant engines through which emerging market firms (EMFs) carry out foreign investments. Yet, emerging market acquirers (EMAs) terminate a significant percentage of initiated CBAs before completion. Compared to the 18 percent termination rate of CBAs involving acquirers from developed economies (DEs), CBAs by EMAs have a 33 percent termination rate. Scholars attribute the higher CBA termination by EMAs to the dual hurdle of 'liability of origin' and 'liability of foreignness' arising from direct government involvement and institutional voids in emerging economies. Although extant research provides in-depth insights into why EMAs have higher CBA termination rates than developed economies acquirers, they fall short in exploring how EMAs can navigate these challenges. Hence, in this study, I aim to investigate ownership based solutions to the institutional challenges affecting the CBA completion of EMAs.
A striking phenomenon in the foreign investment of EMFs is that a firm's ownership matters. Pioneering ownership-based studies reveal that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private-owned enterprises (POEs) experience distinct interactions with home and host countries leading to diverse foreign investment challenges and strategies. Government regulatory discretion combined with capital market imperfection in emerging markets means that SOEs are privileged in accessing government support. In contrast, POEs lack direct government support and seek to establish and leverage political ties to survive. This need for sustained firm government relationships and the gradual pro-market reforms in many emerging economies catalyse hybrid ownership structures among EMFs where state and private owners coexist in one organization. However, this emergence of hybrid ownership structures and their implications for EMFs' foreign investment activities are under-investigated in the international business domain.
Building on the new institutional theory and the signalling theory, I argue that hybrid ownership structures can act as signals through which external stakeholders evaluate and confer legitimacy on EMAs during the CBA process. My conceptualization emphasizes the mixture of unique resources brought into hybrid organizations by both SOEs and POEs. Accordingly, I assert that as hybrid organizations incorporate elements prescribed by both SOEs and POEs, they are likely to project at least partial appropriateness to a broader set of institutional referents. As a result, hybrid ownership structures confer legitimacy-enhancing benefits, resource-enhancing benefits, and operational autonomy benefits that position EMAs to simultaneously navigate the home and host institutional challenges in CBAs ultimately increasing the completion likelihood. In addition to proposing a direct effect of hybrid ownership on CBA completion, I develop novel varieties of hybrid ownership structures that categorize variations in the internal configurations of hybrid organizations as typology, degree, and nature of hybridization. I carry out further investigation on how the hybrid ownership effect might vary with these varieties of hybrid ownership structures. Subsequently, I identify top executives' political connection, target industry political sensitivity, and host country regulatory quality as contingences to the effect of hybrid ownership on CBA completion of EMAs.
Analysing a dataset of 838 CBAs by Chinese firms between the years 2008 to 2017, the results from this study demonstrate that acquirers with hybrid ownership structures are more likely to complete CBAs than nonhybrid acquirers. Moreover, while the hybridization effect varied with the degree of hybridization, the results did not provide conclusive evidence for the nature of hybridization. The result also reveals that top executives' political connection and the host country regulatory quality present differing interactions with the hybrid ownership effect relative to the hybrid organization's typology. With these findings, I contribute to the literature on EMFs' CBA completion by demonstrating that hybrid ownership structures benefit from their different owners' resources to overcome challenges in CBAs. I also contribute to the conceptualization and implication of hybrid ownership for EMFs strategic outcomes. I find that the benefits of hybrid ownership differed with the controlling shareholder's identity and the degree of hybridization in a hybrid organization. Furthermore, by examining the boundary conditions of top executives' political connection, target industry political sensitivity, and host regulatory quality, I provide insights into how intra-organizational attributes and external factors shape the significance of ownershipstructures in EMFs foreign investment.