Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 621–638

Legitimacy and multi-level institutional environments: implications for foreign subsidiary ownership structure


DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400283

Cite this article as:
Chan, C. & Makino, S. J Int Bus Stud (2007) 38: 621. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400283


In this study, we examine from an institutional perspective the legitimacy rationale behind the choice of subsidiary ownership structure among multinational corporations (MNCs). We suggest that, when under a strong pressure to conform at the host country and local industry levels of their institutional environment, MNCs are likely to take a lower ownership stake in exchange for external legitimacy in the host country or local industry that their foreign subsidiaries are entering. We also suggest that MNCs are likely to take a higher ownership stake in response to strong internal pressure to sustain their internal legitimacy at the corporate level of their institutional environment. We also propose that MNCs are more likely to exchange ownership for legitimacy in local industries than in host countries, and in local markets with a high level of political instability than in those with a low level of political instability. These propositions are generally supported by our analysis of 4451 subsidiaries established by 898 Japanese MNCs that operated in 39 countries across 52 industries (two-digit SIC) between 1988 and 1999.


legitimacy foreign subsidiary ownership structure multinational corporations 

Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business, University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of ManagementChinese University of Hong KongShatinHong Kong

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