In CEOs we trust: When religion matters in cross-border acquisitions. The case of a multifaith country


  • Kwok Diana W. P.
  • Meschi Pierre-Xavier
  • Bertrand Olivier


  • Cross-border acquisitions
  • Interpersonal trust
  • Religion
  • Malaysia
  • Multifaith employee
  • Experimental methods

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This paper examines the emergence of trust by multifaith target-firm personnel in foreign acquirer CEOs during early post-acquisition integration, a decisive period for acquisition success, yet considerably under-researched. Combining self-categorization and similarity-attraction theories, we argue that religious similarity with the foreign acquirer’s CEO represents shared values to the personnel, from which trust in the CEO arises. Further, we scrutinize the moderating effects of the personnel’s religiosity and prior alliance success between the acquirer and target firm. We test our model using field-experimental data from 411 multifaith Malaysian personnel. The findings show that personnel-leader trust occurs more readily with religious similarity than religious dissimilarity, and that the personnel’s religiosity strengthens this relationship. However, a successful prior alliance does not weaken the religious similarity–trust relationship. Our research encourages acquisition managers to consider religion, a factor beyond the traditional acquisition playbook, as a trust antecedent during early post-acquisition integration.

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