Firm size and unrelated diversification. An empirical test on the ‘survivalist hypothesis’
The aim of this paper is to empirically verify the hypothesis of a U shaped relation between size and unrelated diversification. Specifically we test the so called “survivalist hypothesis” according to which unrelated diversification is observed not only in large firms but also in small firms as a result of poor performance in the initial business. We empirically test this hypothesis using a representative sample of Italian business groups. The empirical results confirm the presence of a U shaped relation between size and unrelated diversification. Small groups are more diversified than medium-sized groups. We think that this is an interesting result, since according to traditional theories of diversification (resource based view and agency view) we should expect a linear and positive relation between size and unrelated diversification. The second novelty of the paper is that of considering the group rather than the single legal entity as unit of analysis. This is specifically appropriate in this case as unrelated diversification is often carried out by setting-up or acquiring new companies.
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