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Foreign entry, cultural barriers, and learning

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This paper examines the longevity of foreign entries. Hypotheses are developed on the mode (start-ups vs. acquisitions) and ownership structure (wholly owned vs. joint ventures) in relation to cultural distance. The hypotheses are tested within a framework of organizational learning, using data on 225 entries that 13 Dutch firms carried out from 1966 onwards. Results show that the presence of cultural barriers punctuates an organization's learning. Cultural distance is a prominent factor in foreign entry whenever this involves another firm, requiring the firm to engage in ‘double layered acculturation.’ We also identify locational ‘paths of learning.’ The longevity of acquisitions is positively influenced by prior entries of the firm in the same country. Similarly, the longevity of foreign entries, in which the firm has a majority stake, improves whenever the expanding firm engaged in prior entries in the same country and in other countries in the same cultural block.

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