When companies decide upon a strategy to achieve and sustain growth, they can choose between different options to reach this goal. If external growth is chosen, alliances and acquisitions are typically considered alternative governance structures that involve cooperative efforts on the inter-organizational level. Despite this similarity, each of the two governance types has its own strengths and weaknesses: alliances are based on contracts and offer the firm a substantial level of flexibility while acquisitions are ownership-based and imply a higher degree of commitment but also control. In the course of the governance decision, tradeoffs have to be made between flexibility and control. The challenge managers have to decide, which of the two governance modes suits a specific situation best and will achieve superior results for the company.
Prior research shows that a company’s history in inter-organizational governance influences its future governance choices. Firms that have cooperated in an alliance in the past make different governance choices than firms who lack this experience. In general, companies tend to choose governance modes they are already familiar with for future transactions. In addition, whether the partner firms know each other and have worked together before also influences the choice between alliances and acquisitions.
This book lays its focus on situations, where companies have allied in the past and are now deciding upon the appropriate governance form for yet another cooperation. Situations where no alliance experience exists and governance choices other than alliances and acquisitions are not considered here. For academics as well as practitioners, it is then of major interest to identify exactly how knowing the target firm from past alliances affects the decision between alliances and acquisitions. However, prior research on the influence of partner-specific alliance experience on governance choice yields mixed results. While it has been proven repeatedly that prior alliance experience with a partner influences the governance choice decision, research has reached a dead end concerning the direction of this effect.
The purpose of this research is to contribute to the conversation concerning the effect of partner-specific alliance experience on the choice between alliances and acquisitions and help to close the literature gap by investigating the exact circumstances under which each effects prevails. Financial capacity, market uncertainty and rivalry are chosen as promising moderating variables that are expected to interact with the effect of prior ties and foster the choice for an alliance or an acquisition in a particular situation.