An Assignment Theory of Foreign Direct Investment
NBER Working Paper No. 11003
We develop an assignment theory to analyze the volume and composition of foreign direct investment (FDI). Firms conduct FDI by either engaging in greenfield investment or in cross-border acquisitions. Cross-border acquisitions involve firms trading heterogeneous corporate assets to exploit complementarities, while greenfield FDI involves building a new plant in the foreign market. In equilibrium, greenfield FDI and cross-border acquisitions co-exist, but the composition of FDI between these modes varies with firm and country characteristics. Firms engaging in greenfield investment are systematically more efficient than those engaging in cross-border acquisitions. Furthermore, most FDI takes the form of cross-border acquisitions when factor price differences between countries are small, while greenfield investment plays a more important role for FDI from high-wage into low-wage countries. These results capture important features of the data.
Published: Volker Nocke & Stephen Yeaple, 2008. "An Assignment Theory of Foreign Direct Investment," Review of Economic Studies, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 75(2), pages 529-557, 04.