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Optimal Firm Size and the Growth of Conglomerate and Single-Industry Firms


  • Gordon M Phillips
  • Vojislav Maksimovic


We develop a profit-maximizing neoclassical model of optimal firm size and growth across different industries based on differences in industry fundamentals and firm productivity. The model predicts how conglomerate firms will allocate resources across divisions over the business cycle and how their responses to industry shocks will differ from those of single-segment firms. We test our model and find that growth of conglomerate and single-segment firms is related to fundamental industry factors and individual firm-segment productivity suggested by our simple neoclassical theory. Conglomerates grow less in a particular segment if their other segments are more productive and if their other segments experience a larger positve demand shock. We find that the growth rates of peripheral segments are very sensitive to relative productivity an that conglomerate sharply cut the growth of unproductive peripheral segments. We do find some evidence consistent with agency problems for conglomerate firms that are broken up. However, the majority of conglomerate firms exhibit growth across business segments that is consistent with optimal behavior.

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  • Gordon M Phillips & Vojislav Maksimovic, 1998. "Optimal Firm Size and the Growth of Conglomerate and Single-Industry Firms," Working Papers 98-14, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:98-14

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John Baldwin & Paul Gorecki, 1990. "Mergers and the Competitive Process," Working Papers 773, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    2. Zoltan J Acs & Catherine Armington, 1998. "Longitudinal Establishment And Enterprise Microdata (LEEM) Documentation," Working Papers 98-9, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    3. Sang V Nguyen & Robert H Mcguckin, 1993. "On Productivity and Plant Ownership Change: New Evidence From the LRD," Working Papers 93-15, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pavel Sevcik, 2015. "Financial Frictions, Internal Capital Markets, and the Organization of Production," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 505-522, July.
    2. Mitchell Berlin, 1999. "Jack of all trades? Product diversification in nonfinancial firms," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue May, pages 15-29.
    3. Boot, Arnoud W. A. & Schmeits, Anjolein, 2000. "Market Discipline and Incentive Problems in Conglomerate Firms with Applications to Banking," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 240-273, July.
    4. Felipe Balmaceda, 2002. "Corporate Diversification: Good for Some Bad for Others," Documentos de Trabajo 141, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.

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    CES; economic; research; micro; data; microdata; chief; economist;


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