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This paper examines if a firm's alliances affect the persistence of its financial performance. The literature suggests two conflicting views concerning this effect. In particular, access to resources and innovation and the risk of imitation from alliances can have different impacts on performance. In our empirical analysis, based on a panel of 509 firms covering the years 1992 to 2002, return on assets was regressed on the number of alliances and other control variables using hierarchical linear modeling. Results support the positive view of alliances as mechanisms to sustain competitive advantage and escape from competitive disadvantage through access to external, valuable resources held by other firms. Alliances also help firms to constantly innovate and buffer themselves from external shocks that erode existing advantages. Our results, however, may be specific to the period and the institutional context under consideration and we do not distinguish between types, purposes and "strength" of alliances. We contribute to the debate about profit persistence by examining one particular factor that has been neglected in the literature: the extent to which firms engage in alliances with other actors. From a managerial perspective, our study shows that alliances can be used as an effective tool to support superior performance or avoid lock-in into inferior performance.
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