Determinants of Cash Holdings in Multinational Corporation’s Foreign Subsidiaries: U.S. Subsidiaries in China
Forthcoming in Corporate Governance: An International Review
40 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 11, 2016
Manuscript Type: Empirical
Research Question/Issue: We examine determinants of cash holdings in Chinese subsidiaries of U.S. multinational corporations (MNCs), a setting where growth opportunities make cash holdings desirable for investment opportunities but also vulnerable to potential expropriation because of poor investor protection.
Research Findings/Insights: We show that headquarters accumulate larger cash holdings in foreign subsidiaries with locally registered patents and in foreign subsidiaries operating in the same industry as corporate headquarters. Further, foreign cash holdings are higher when these are safeguarded by a subsidiary board. Moreover, the effect of shared industry on subsidiary cash holdings is larger when a board is installed in the subsidiary. Finally, the positive relation between a subsidiary’s capability to innovate and to transfer knowledge and its level of cash holdings is stronger when the subsidiary is led by U.S. expatriate CEOs.
Theoretical/Academic Implications: Our results indicate that MNCs accumulate cash in foreign subsidiaries with innovation and knowledge transfer capabilities. Furthermore, and in line with agency theory, we find that MNCs safeguard foreign cash via the installment of subsidiary boards and expatriate CEOs. These findings suggest that the installment of monitoring devices are crucial in reducing the potential expropriation risk of foreign cash holdings.
Practitioner/Policy Implications: Our study highlights the importance of considering foreign subsidiaries’ positions in innovation and in knowledge transfer when MNCs make decisions on the levels of overseas cash holdings. It offers insights regarding the importance of subsidiary boards and expatriate CEOs in monitoring and controlling foreign subsidiaries.
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