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Emerging multinational corporations: a prominent player in the global economy

28 June 2016
Author: Mustafa Sakr
Publication Type: Policy Brief

A process of going multinational could tangibly improve competences of corporations and governments of emerging markets, particularly those based in Africa. As such, they are expected to be in favour of initiating and boosting the global orientation of domestic firms. This is to be done through adopting what is labeled as outward foreign direct (OFDI) promotion policies. Drafting the right combination of such policies is likely to be informed by not only the key attributes of homeland based multinational corporations (MNCs), but also aspects of similarity and difference between them and their potential foreign rivals, coming from both emerging and developed economies. As such, it is expected to be of the utmost importance, for the policy maker, to unveil the key salient attributes of emerging markets based multinational corporations (EMNCs) and how they are really different from those based in developed markets (DMNCs).

Overall, UNCTAD statistics clearly reveal that EMNCs have remarkably expanded their global presence. From 1994 to 2011, top EMNCs had managed to increase their foreign assets, sales and employment, 52, 55 and 8 fold respectively. Moreover, recent decades have also seen a dramatic growth in the OFDI of emerging markets. Accordingly, a significant shift away from developed markets towards emerging markets is recorded in the global landscape of OFDI. BRICS countries take the lead when it comes to EMNCs. By contrary, dramatic deterioration is seen in the role of emerging African economies based MNCs relative to their emerging peers.

Top EMNCs are found to display a leapfrogging internationalisation process, which is proven to grow faster than that of the top DMNCs. Yet, the top DMNCs are found to be more engaged with the global market than their emerging peers, as reflected by various indicators, including among others, foreign to total assets, sales and employment ratios of both groups. Available statistics approve the significant prevalence of governmental ownership of top EMNCs, compared to DMNCs.

When it comes to the industry breakdown, energy represents the most important sector for both top EMNCs and DMNCs, but with tangibly different relevance. While dominating the top non-financial industry structure of EMNCs (47 percent), only 29.4 percent of the top DMNCs operate in the energy domain. Equally important to underline the fact that  hi-tech industries are found to be prominent in the industry structure of the top DMNCs (40 percent) while being almost negligible in the corresponding industry structure of the top EMNCs.

Developing markets are registered to be the top destination of OFDI coming from emerging markets, as they receive 54 percent of total overseas’ investment by these countries. However, the relevance of developed markets is increasing at a growing pace. Developed markets based MNCs show preference to invest in developed rather than in emerging markets. This may indicate that the geographical preference of foreign expansions is likely to be influenced by the factors of geographical proximity and business environment similarity between home and host countries, irrespective of whether the MNCs are from emerging or developed countries.

The preferred entry mode for EMNCs differs across the destinations receiving their foreign activities. Greenfield investment is often preferred over mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in developing markets, and vice versa in developed markets. Greenfield investment accounts for 72 percent of investment by emerging markets based MNCs in developing markets. To the contrary, this group of firms tends to expand their investments in developed markets predominately through M&As, which accounts for 85 percent of such investment. Unlike EMNCs, foreign expansion by DMNCs is likely to occur through greenfield investment, irrespective of whether their investment destination is a developing or developed country.

Series title: Research Brief 73
1 June 2016
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