IZA DP No. 15458: Help in a Foreign Land: Internationalized Banks and Firms’ Export
The lack of information is a relevant obstacle to the export activity of small and medium enterprises. This paper analyzes whether banks can support firms’ export by reducing informational asymmetries about foreign markets. We exploit a large sample of Italian firms for which we merge custom data with information on their lender banks. We identify a shock exogenous to firms’ export decisions by relying on preexisting lending relationships and exploiting the acquisition of a firm’s domestic bank by an internationalized banking group. Our results show that, after the acquisition, firms have a significantly higher probability of starting export in countries where the consolidated bank has a foreign branch, which proxies for the amount of information accumulated that can be shared with client firms. Conversely, the effect on the intensive margins of previously-exporting companies is largely insignificant. We interpret these findings as evidence of information spillovers that mainly reduce firms’ fixed entry costs in a foreign market. The analysis also shows that other channels, such as bank credit availability or trade-finance supply, are unlikely to drive our results.