Subsidiary Divestment: The Role of Multinational Flexibility

Research paper by Sangcheol Song

Indexed on: 23 Jan '14Published on: 23 Jan '14Published in: Management International Review


We take the multinational flexibility perspective and examine the conditions under which multinational corporations’ (MNCs’) foreign manufacturing subsidiaries in labor-intensive industries are not divested from their host country markets under the influence of their host country’s rising labor costs. We examine in this paper the effects of intra-firm product shifts within the same MNC network on foreign subsidiary divestment. We utilize a panel of data of Korean MNCs’ foreign subsidiaries in labor intensive industries and employ a Cox proportional hazard rate model as an event history analysis methodology on STATA 10. We find that intra-firm product shifts within the same MNC network reduce the probability of subsidiaries exposed to rising labor costs in their host countries being divested earlier. We also find that greater cross-country labor cost differentials and more country options in the same MNC network are helpful in facilitating intra-firm product shifts and lowering divestiture rates of the subsidiaries. Contrastingly, we find from control variables that weaker performing, smaller, and stand-alone subsidiaries, in riskier countries, facing currency appreciation, and increasing labor costs are more likely to divest. We conclude from our findings that MNCs are able to enhance multinational flexibility by using intra-firm trade connections among affiliated firms in flexible responses to cross-border cost and value differentials.