Who cut the ribbon? A quantitative analysis of formal opening ceremonies of new plants of multinational corporations in Russia
This paper reports on a study of formal opening ceremonies of new plants of multinational corporations in Russia. We argue that such ceremonies have profound symbolic meanings, namely “managing anxiety” and “signaling commitment,” as well as practical importance, particularly when top executives of corporate parents meet with top officials from the host countries at such ceremonies. The database embraces the entire population of public opening ceremonies of new plants of western multinational corporations (MNCs) in Russia from 2012 to 2016. The analysis revealed that, in 2016, the unwillingness of both corporate CEOs and local governors to participate in plant opening ceremonies began to increase. More than one-third of plant opening ceremonies in 2016 were “low-profile ceremonies” ignored by top officials from corporate parents and local authorities from host the country. The absence of corporate executives can indicate top corporate executives’ decreased commitment to new industrial projects in Russia. The growing absence of local governors is attributed to the smaller size of newly opened plants and the impact of sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and European Union following the inclusion of Crimea into Russia in 2014. A spectacular increase in the share of “low-profile opening ceremonies” evidenced in the data can also signal that a significant number of MNCs in Russia are adopting “low-profile” strategies when CEOs do not wish to be associated with projects with unclear timing of positive cash flow and increasing difficulties of value appropriation. This paper also indicates a promising direction for further studies—a replication study that should embrace public opening ceremonies of new plants of foreign MNCs in China, India, and Brazil—large countries with solid populations of foreign-owned manufacturing plants.