Journal of World Business
A Special Issue on
“Cycles and Waves of Internationalisation: Determinants and Consequences of De-Internationalization and Re-Internationalization”
Submissions open July 1, 2021; submissions due July 31, 2021

Guest Editors:
Mario Kafouros, University of Manchester, UK
Tamer Cavusgil, Georgia State University, USA
Timothy Devinney, University of Manchester, UK
Panagiotis Ganotakis, University of Liverpool, UK
James H Love, University of Leeds, UK

Supervising Editor:
Stav Fainshmidt, Florida International University, US

Special Issue Overview
International business scholars have examined various aspects of the process through which large MNEs but also small entrepreneurial firms internationalize. Although the vast majority of studies concentrate on how and why firms expand their foreign operations or under what conditions they perform well in home and foreign markets (Richard et al., 2009; Kafouros and Aliyev, 2016; Liesch et al., 2007; Lu at al., 2018), the literature has largely ignored the fact that firms’ internationalization is rarely a simple forward-moving process. Rather, it often involves various cycles and waves of internationalization that may include a reduction in the intensity or scope of international activities or even a complete withdrawal from foreign markets. These phases of de-internationalization can be followed by a subsequent increase in international activities or by re-entering international markets (Chen et al., 2019; Surdu et al., 2018). The limited focus on the cycles and waves of firms’ internationalization is also reflected in prior theories, including the sequential approach to internationalization or the international new venture theory (Johanson and Vahlne, 2009; Oviatt and McDougall, 1994), that implicitly assume that internationalization is a non-reversible process (Bernini et al., 2016). Nevertheless, a better understanding of international business rests not only on studying internationalization, but also de-internationalization and re-internationalization (Berry, 2013; Mohr et al., 2018; Soule et al., 2014).

The aim of this special issue is to advance IB theory and empirical knowledge about the determinants and consequences of cycles and waves of firm internationalization including different forms of de-internationalization and re-internationalization. Contributions about such determinants and consequences are encouraged to include different levels of analysis, including the firm, market, industry and state actors.

Regardless of the mode of entry adopted (e.g., exporting, Joint Ventures, WOS), firms can increase or decrease their presence in foreign markets, exit and even re-enter markets at a later point in time (D’ Angelo et al., 2020; Gaur et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2017; Welch and Welch, 2009). Therefore, firms do not merely adopt a mere linear approach to internationalization. Instead, they often choose to fluctuate their foreign market involvement (Vissak and Francioni, 2013). Although such waves and cycles and various forms of de and re-internationalization occur very frequently, the reasons behind the reduction (and subsequent increase) in international operations but also the consequences of different forms of de- and re-internationalization have not been examined to the extent that they ought to (Bernini et al., 2016).

For instance, although MNEs make long-term commitments in foreign markets through FDI (e.g., by acquiring or setting up new subsidiaries; Wang et al., 2012), divestment of such foreign assets occurs at half the rate of investments (Chung et al., 2013). Yet, the majority of recent work has been carried out in the area of FDI and only limited work has looked at the determinants or consequences of different types of divestments (Berry, 2013; Dachs et al., 2019; Konara and Ganotakis, 2020; Lee et al., 2019; Mohr et al., 2020; Rodrigues and Dieleman, 2018). For example, when it comes to the retention of foreign subsidiaries, recent studies have highlighted the important role played by the innovative capabilities that subsidiaries possess (Konara and Ganotakis, 2020), the scope and uniqueness of a subsidiary’s mandate portfolio (Lee et al., 2019) and that of foreign market characteristics (Berry , 2013). Other studies have examined the backshoring of manufacturing activities and how this is influenced by the adoption of new production technologies (Cachs et al., 2019) or how governmental control can reduce the international operations of multinational state hybrids (Rodrigues and Dieleman, 2018). Finally, a few studies have examined how the negotiating process between seller and buyer under different industry conditions can influence the outcome of a divestment taking place (Fuad and Gaur, 2019).

Despite of those important contributions, we still have an incomplete understanding of the range of internal, external and institutional factors that affect different forms of divestment and, importantly, how the interaction between those factors influences de- and re-internationalization. The importance of studying not only the determinants but also the consequences of de- and re-internationalization is evident from recent international disintegration events, such as Brexit, that have led to a number of foreign MNEs exiting or considering exit from the UK, with possible adverse effects not only on employment but also on knowledge transfer and economic competitiveness (Andersson et al., 2016; Cumming and Zahra, 2016; Kafouros et al., 2018; Sampson, 2017).

As with FDI and divestment, firms that use non-equity methods of internationalization, such as exporting, do not always maintain a constant presence abroad. Rather they tend to either completely exit foreign markets without re-entering, or exit and later re-enter the same or different markets (Chen et al., 2019; Love and Ganotakis, 2013). The process of exit and re-entry can be repeated a number of times over a certain time period (Bernini et al., 2016; Love and Manez, 2019). The importance of uncovering the reasons behind exiting export markets and subsequent re-entry but also the effects of those activities on a number of firm level outcomes, is emphasized by the imminent and possible prolonged global financial crisis and reduced global demand (Bamiatzi et al., 2016; Konara and Ganotakis, 2020) resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, its importance is also highlighted from recent trade protectionism trends, resulting in an increase in the prices of intermediate and final products as well as changes to firms’ supply chain networks (Amiti et al., 2019).

Exploring the reasons behind re-internationalization is as important as investigating the determinants of de-internationalization. By re-entering foreign markets, firms can salvage prior tangible and intangible sunk costs, capture emerging opportunities as well as new or cheaper resources and hence improve future performance (Chen et al., 2019). However, re-internationalization is a more complex process (Javalgi et al., 2011) than initial market entry because the decision will be influenced by the type of experience gained during the exit (but also the time-out) period (Bernini et al., 2016; Surdu et al., 2019). Such experience can be the result of critical events, or it can be the outcome of a willing strategic decision (Vissak and Francioni, 2013). In the former case, this might mean that firms will hesitate to re-enter markets despite the existence of new untapped opportunities (Javalgi et al., 2011). It is important therefore not only to examine what enables or constrains firms from re-entering foreign markets, but also to methodologically and conceptually distinguish between the reasons that led to exiting and take those into account when re-entry is examined.

Finally, even if firms maintain their presence in foreign markets, they do not always increase their commitment in those markets as the stage process to internationalization would suggest. However, they can also decrease their presence, either by reducing the level of sales or by changing the mode of internationalization into a less resource intensive one (D’Angelo et al., 2020; Surdu et al., 2019). Nevertheless, we still have a rather incomplete understanding of the effects that such changes have on the short- and long-term performance of firms.

Objectives of this Special Issue

  *   To increase understanding of the various cycles and waves of internationalization and, more specifically, why firms engage in various forms of de-internationalization and re-internationalization.
  *   To identify the determinants and consequences of de-internationalization and re-internationalization using different levels of analysis – such as the firm, market, industry and state level.
  *   To account for, and ideally incorporate, de-internationalization and re-internationalization in existing IB theory where appropriate and as a basis for new theoretical perspectives where needed.
  *   To increase understanding of the relationship between de-internationalization and re-internationalization.

  *   To understand how the various forms of de-internationalization (e.g., complete and partial exit from markets, reduction in sales intensity, change in mode of entry) depend on the initial market entry mode and how understanding this can advance theorization in IB.

Illustrative Topics
Exemplary research questions within the intended scope of this Special Issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  *   What internal to the firm (e.g., resources, capabilities) but also external factors (e.g., institutional and market related changes) contribute towards de-internationalization and re-internationalization depending on the foreign mode of entry that a firm has adopted?

  *   How do internal and external factors interact to increase or decrease the likelihood of de-internationalization and re-internationalization?
  *   What is the role of different forms of foreign experiential knowledge (e.g., marketing, business, institutional) in the de-internationalization process?
  *   What is the effect of de-internationalization at different firm-level outcomes such as performance and innovation?
  *   How does de-internationalization affect different aspects of firm performance depending on whether the exit was forced (as a result of a critical incident) or was part of a proactive strategic decision?
  *   What decision making process do acquiring and divesting parties follow to deal with issues linked to uncertainty, information asymmetry/costs and the disclosure of technological knowledge and intangible assets under different industry conditions?
  *   How do host and home country institutions and governmental intervention or control influence the de- and re-internationalization activities of MNEs?
  *   How do firms gain more from the adoption of new production technologies during the backshoring process?
  *   How is the way that a firm exited a market and the experience thereby gained linked with the likelihood of re-entry and the mode that will be used in order to re-enter that market or a different one?
  *   What kind of internal changes do firms need to carry out in order to re-start international operations once those have been stopped?
  *   How do firms allocate and restructure internal and external resources to increase the likelihood that they will re-enter export markets and perform well?
  *   Do firms that exited and then re-entered foreign markets achieve higher levels of performance in relation to newly entrants?

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