After the financial crisis, Finland’s exports have lagged behind Sweden’s exports. This study analyzes how firms with different financial strength respond to demand shocks in their export markets. We utilize unique administrative datasets of Swedish and Finnish firms matched with national customs data over a period of 15 years, which allows us to analyze the effects of several macroeconomic shocks affecting export product demand and performance of exporting firms. We find that financially stronger export firms are better positioned during both positive and negative demand shocks, suffering less from the negative shocks, benefiting more from the positive shocks.
While our results suggest that Swedish and Finnish firms tend to respond similarly to different export demand shocks, there are some salient differences in their survival strategies. While the financially stronger Swedish firms expanded their product lines and market areas, the Finnish firms did not make such adjustments during the 2007–2014 period of negative export demand shocks. The differences in the survival strategies could provide one explanation why the growth of Finnish exports has diverged from the Swedish exports since the financial crisis.