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Internationalization and Performance: findings from a set of Italian SMEs


  • Majocchi Antonio

    (Department of Economics, University of Insubria, Italy)

  • Zucchella Antonella

    (Department of Economics, University of Insubria, Italy)


The relationship between Internationalization and performance is a challenging topic for the agenda of researchers across the world, due to the complexity of the variables involved, to the difficulties in construct building and, last but not least, to the controversial results arising from the different studies that have been conducted on the matter in recent decades. This is particularly true in the case of SMEs, which represent a field still to be explored from this point view. The fundamental hypothesis that has driven the present work is that the growing level of market integration has generated a framework of international competition for economic actors which has to be considered as the actual natural environment both for international and for domestic firms.As a consequence, being international is no more than a natural status for the enterprise, in the sense that firms which have not engaged yet in international markets are also part of a competitive international environment that influences strategic decisions and contributes to shaping business models and performances accordingly. This concept applies immediately to those regions where the integration process has gone further and deeper, for example the European Union area, where the domestic market for economic actors has gradually evolved from the former national base to a European one. The empirical study, based on 220 Italian firms, performance - measured by profitability ratios - is not determined by the degree of internationalization in terms of classical export intensity and numberof international agreements, but depends mainly on the ability of firms to gain access to specific markets such as the American one. Moreover, SMEs which have grown in foreign markets through FDI show a lower profitability, showing the existence of a "liability of foreignness" effect at the beginning of their international growth. Howeverthis negative effect can be reduced when SMEs have already developed international competences and knowledge through an intense export activity.

Suggested Citation

  • Majocchi Antonio & Zucchella Antonella, 2001. "Internationalization and Performance: findings from a set of Italian SMEs," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf0110, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.
  • Handle: RePEc:ins:quaeco:qf0110

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    2. Trinh, Long, 2015. "Dynamics of innovation and internationalization among Vietnamese SMEs," MPRA Paper 68308, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 26 Nov 2015.
    3. Trinh, Long Q., 2016. "Dynamics of Innovation and Internationalization among Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises in Viet Nam," ADBI Working Papers 580, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    4. Jean-Marie Nkongolo-Bakenda & Robert Anderson & Jack Ito & Garnet Garven, 2010. "Structural and competitive determinants of globally oriented small- and medium-sized enterprises: An empirical analysis," Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 55-86, March.
    5. Kawtar Dkhissi, 2014. "Impact des accords de libre échange sur la propension et l'intensité des exportations des entreprises au Maroc," Post-Print hal-01335587, HAL.
    6. Hessels, Jolanda & Parker, Simon C., 2013. "Constraints, internationalization and growth: A cross-country analysis of European SMEs," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 137-148.
    7. repec:spr:manint:v:51:y:2011:i:5:d:10.1007_s11575-011-0093-0 is not listed on IDEAS
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    11. Matanda, Margaret Jekanyika & Freeman, Susan, 2009. "Effect of perceived environmental uncertainty on exporter-importer inter-organisational relationships and export performance improvement," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 89-107, February.
    12. Alfredo D’Angelo, 2012. "Innovation and export performance: a study of Italian high-tech SMEs," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 16(3), pages 393-423, August.
    13. Elena-Mãdãlina VÃTÃMÃNESCU & Florina-Magdalena PÎNZARU & Andreia-Gabriela ANDREI & Vlad-Andrei ALEXANDRU, 2014. "Going international versus going global. The Case of the European Steel Pipe SMES," REVISTA DE MANAGEMENT COMPARAT INTERNATIONAL/REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL COMPARATIVE MANAGEMENT, Faculty of Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 15(3), pages 360-379, July.
    14. George Halkos & Nickolaos Tzeremes, 2010. "The effect of foreign ownership on SMEs performance: An efficiency analysis perspective," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 34(2), pages 167-180, October.
    15. Massimo Cortili & Alessia Pisoni & Alberto Onetti, 2012. "The internationalization of Italian firms in India: some empirical evidences," Economics and Quantitative Methods qf1202, Department of Economics, University of Insubria.
    16. Berrill, Jenny & Kearney, Colm, 2010. "Firm-level internationalisation and the home bias puzzle," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 235-256, July.
    17. Indujeeva Peiris & Michèle Akoorie & Paresha Sinha, 2012. "International entrepreneurship: A critical analysis of studies in the past two decades and future directions for research," Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 279-324, December.
    18. Majocchi, Antonio & Bacchiocchi, Emanuele & Mayrhofer, Ulrike, 2005. "Firm size, business experience and export intensity in SMEs: A longitudinal approach to complex relationships," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 719-738, December.
    19. Ivan De Noni & Roberta Apa, 2015. "The moderating effect of exploitative and exploratory learning on internationalisation–performance relationship in SMEs," Journal of International Entrepreneurship, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 96-117, June.
    20. Anne HAMPTON & James ROWELL, 2013. "An Evolution in Research Practice for Investigating International Business Relationships," Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy Journal, College of Management, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, vol. 1(2), pages 161-177, August.


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