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Liability of Middleness Revisited: The Advantages for Mid-Sized Competitors in Renewable Natural Resource Industries

  • Alfonso Cruz (a1), Tomas Reyes (a1) and Roberto Vassolo (a1)

Abstract

Size is an important antecedent of firm survival, and several studies theoretically sustain and empirically support a ‘liability of middleness’. Indeed, it is widely believed that companies should act strategically to either become large or remain small and occupy a niche position, because mid-sized firms face the strongest market selection pressures. This study challenges that logic in renewable natural resource industries. Measuring size as product-line scale and firm-level portfolio breadth, we argue that in industries characterized by cost competition, the lack of product differentiation, large capital investments, and sharp price oscillation, scale and breadth have a curvilinear effect on survival that favors mid-sized firms rather than penalizing them. An empirical analysis of the US pulp and paper (P&P) industry over the period 1970–2000 strongly supports our arguments. This study is particularly relevant for emerging economies, in which natural resource industries represent an important portion of the total economic activity.

规模是影响企业生存的重要条件,几项研究从理论上论证“中等规模弱势”,并在实证上支持了这一现象。事实上,人们普遍相信公司应该有策略地做大或者保持小的规模从而占据利基市场,因为中等规模的公司面临的市场选择压力最大。本研究站在可再生自然资源产业上挑战这个逻辑。由于企业大小可以衡量产品线的规模和公司的产品宽度,我们认为,在具有成本竞争、产品缺少区分、资本投资巨大以及价格变动剧烈等特征的产业,规模和宽度对于企业的生存具有曲线效应,即有利于中等规模的公司而非惩罚它们。对美国纸浆和纸张行业1970–2000数据的分析强烈地支持了我们的论点。本研究与新兴经济体特别有关,因为在新兴经济体中自然资源产业是整个经济活动中的重要部分。

Размер является важной предпосылкой для выживания компании, и некоторые исследования теоретически утверждают и эмпирически подтверждают “бремя середнячка”. Действительно, широко распространено мнение о том, что компании должны сделать стратегический выбор, чтобы либо стать крупными, либо оставаться мелкими и занимать нишевые позиции, поскольку компании среднего размера сталкиваются с сильнейшим давлением на рынке. Данное исследование ставит под сомнение эту логику в отрасли возобновляемых природных ресурсов. Определяя размер компании как масштаб производства и широту ассортимента, мы утверждаем, что в отраслях, которые характеризуются конкуренцией за счет низких затрат, отсутствием дифференциации продукции, крупными капиталовложениями и резкими ценовыми колебаниями, масштаб и широта производства оказывают обратное влияние на выживание, что ставит компании среднего размера в более выгодное положение, а не наоборот. Эмпирический анализ целлюлозно-бумажной промышленности в США за период 1970–2000 годов полностью подтверждает наши предположения. Это исследование особенно актуально для стран с развивающейся экономикой, в которых отрасли, связанные с переработкой природных ресурсов, являются важной частью общей экономической активности.

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Corresponding author

Corresponding author: Roberto Vassolo (rvassolo@iae.edu.ar)

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Accepted by: Deputy Editor Gerald A. McDermott

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