Alliances and Internal Capital Markets

27 July 2009 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

| Peter Klein |

An interesting contribution to the literature on internal capital markets from David Robinson, “Strategic Alliances and the Boundaries of the Firm,” appeared recently in the Review of Financial Studies (now the third-ranked journal in finance behind the JF and JFE):

Strategic alliances are long-term contracts between legally distinct organizations that provide for sharing the costs and benefits of a mutually beneficial activity. In this paper, I develop and test a model that helps explain why firms sometimes prefer alliances over internally organized projects. I introduce managerial effort into a model of internal capital markets and show how strategic alliances help overcome incentive problems that arise when headquarters cannot pre-commit to particular capital allocations. The model generates a number of implications, which I test using a large sample of alliance transactions in conjunction with Compustat data.

The model builds on Williamson’s concept of forbearance, the idea that courts will enforce contracts between distinct legal entities but will not intervene in intra-firm disputes. The idea is that moving project with particular characteristics — Robinson calls them “longshots” — from a subunit of a diversified firm to an alliance partner allows the firm’s management to make a credible commitment not to expropriate value from the project manager ex post. Empirical evidence shows that projects with longshot characteristics, measured in various ways using Compustat segment data, are indeed more likely to undertaken by alliance partners. A nice paper with a good mix of theory and evidence.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Strategic Management, Theory of the Firm.

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