Business Groups in Emerging Markets: Paragons or Parasites?
Diversified business (or corporate) groups, consisting of legally independent firms operating in multiple markets, are ubiquitous in emerging markets and even in some developed economies. The study of groups, a hybrid organizational form between firm and market, is of relevance to industrial organization, corporate finance, development, economic growth and other domains of economic inquiry. This survey begins with stylized facts on groups around the world, and proceeds to a critical review the existing literature, which has focused almost entirely on groups as diversified entities and on conflicts between controlling and minority shareholders. Other schools of thought on the political economy of corporate groups, on groups and monopoly power, and on groups as networks are discussed next. We then proceed to promising, yet virtually unexplored, alternative lenses for viewing groups, for example, as quasi venture-capitalists or as family-based structures. The analysis points out important biases in the literature including the avoidance of a serious discussion of the origins of business groups, and the unfounded assumption that rent-seeking is the only feasible political economy equilibrium in an interaction between groups and the government. We note that the empirical tendency to use recent data implies that the vast majority of studies exploit cross-sectional variation; the absence of (long) time-series data ensures that some conceptually important issues, such as how groups shape the environment in which they operate, receive relatively little attention. Lastly, we outline an agenda for future research.
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