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There's no Place like Home: The Profitability Gap between Headquarters and their Foreign Subsidiaries

  • Matthias Dischinger
  • Nadine Riedel

Using a large data set of European firms, this paper provides evidence that operations at multinational headquarters are significantly more profitable than operations at their foreign subsidiaries. The effect turns out to be robust and quantitatively large. Our findings suggest that the profitability gap is partly driven by agency costs which arise if value–driving functions are managed by a subsidiary that is geographically separated from the headquarters management. In line with falling communication and travel costs over the last decade, the profitability gap is shown to decline over time. Apart from that, our results indicate that a higher competitiveness of multinational firms in their home markets also contributes to the profitability gap. We discuss various implications of our findings.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2866.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2866
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  1. Clausing, Kimberly A., 2003. "Tax-motivated transfer pricing and US intrafirm trade prices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 2207-2223, September.
  2. Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer, 1998. "Corporate Ownership Around the World," NBER Working Papers 6625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Dischinger, Matthias & Riedel, Nadine, 2011. "Corporate taxes and the location of intangible assets within multinational firms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 691-707.
  4. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni, Jr. & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2001. "Expansion Strategies of U.S. Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 8433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Zingales, Luigi, 2000. "In Search of New Foundations," CEPR Discussion Papers 2551, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  7. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2005. "Vertical Production Networks in Multinational Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 664-678, November.
  8. Johannes Becker & Clemens Fuest, 2007. "Quality versus Quantity – The Composition Effect of Corporate Taxation on Foreign Direct Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2126, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Jose Manuel Campa & Linda S. Goldberg, 1997. "The evolving external orientation of manufacturing: a profile of four countries," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Jul, pages 53-81.
  10. Budd, John W. & Konings, Jozef & Slaughter, Matthew J., 2002. "Wages and International Rent Sharing in Multinational Firms," IZA Discussion Papers 560, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. repec:oup:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:1:p:121-148 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Steven Brakman & Harry Garretsen (ed.), 2008. "Foreign Direct Investment and the Multinational Enterprise," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262026457, June.
  13. Hummels, David & Ishii, Jun & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 75-96, June.
  14. Harry Huizinga & Luc Laeven, 2006. "International profit shifting within multinationals: a multi-country perspective," European Economy - Economic Papers 260, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  15. Michael P Devereux, 2007. "The Impact of Taxation on the Location of Capital, Firms and Profit: a Survey of Empirical Evidence," Working Papers 0702, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
  16. Caroline Freund & Diana Weinhold, 2002. "The Internet and International Trade in Services," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 236-240, May.
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