Foreign Ownership in the UK

I’ve pondered this question for a while now, and it’s apparent I cannot really wrap my brains around it, so here it goes.

Most of the worlds states have companies which serve the national interest, or are funded by governments and therefore given prominence in a particular market, like for example Fiat in Italy, or Renault in France, and BMW in Germany, Gazprom in Russia, US auto manufacturers, yet in the UK, most of this is wholly owned by foreign companies, and it seems the UK doesn’t have its own version of this, why?

In light of the Kraft company furore in regards to its purchase of Cadbury, what benefit does the UK derive from allowing any foreign company to just come here and buy all these traditionally British companies?

Now I’m aware it’s the politicians fault for allowing such legislation to let them do this, but I’m just wondering seriously, what benefits do we get other than tax revenues?

Let me ask you this? What detriment is there to allowing it to happen? What’s the downside?
Also, US Auto Makers doesn’t qualify under this statement “[…] companies which serve the national interest, or are funded by governments and therefore given prominence in a particular market […]”

Domestic Automakers are private entities, despite having been bailed out by the government.

Mmmm. You have quite a pot-pourri of firms there mate. Some are in fact quite private (or in the case of BMW, has governmental ties at the regional/provincial level that are not evidently part of a National effort).

It seems to me you’re asking why the UK isn’t pursing a National Champions policy like the French. Because we’re smarter than that. 1970s were proof enough.

If we’re smarter than that, why are we driving French German and American cars?
I guess well you know I have some pride in the issue, I’m not against foreign ownership, but ya know I can’t really identify any British companies which the average joe will recognise.

I’m not against it, but it would be hard for the government to coordinate strategy say if we wanted to re orientate and encourage an export lead growth in manufacturing if foreign owned companies would have to allow (purely an example) competition to enter their market.

I always thought too that if you have a domestic Car or generally a manufacturing industry, you’re able to more effectively innovate and create things.

Well, UK made cars sucked, that’s why. German cars are better. American as well. Can’t explain French cars or Italian cars, though.


(But come on, Lloyd’s LSE, Rolls Royce plc (the aeronautics group, not the cars), etc)

Does the UK have competitive advantage in industry?

in the early 20th century. That says fuck all about now though. I’d rather see innovation in renewable energy or … biosciences. Anyway, forward looking not looking at industrialisation of the 19th century. Already done, friend, that was the 1970s strategy. Drove the UK right off a cliff.

American cars sucked too, but as I remember, they still have a car industry.

I said the average Joe. And yeah it is a pride thing because you know? I want to see British companies being at the forefront and being on a par of American and Chinese companies. Yes, I want to see that I don’t see anything wrong in that.

I don’t know, we sold off most of manufacturing capabilities.

Why are you taking this so personally? Christ. Anyway, I don’t see how having an industry which made hybrids or electric cars conflicts with your ‘vision’ :rolleyes:

Again, what advantage does the UK derive from having foreign owned companies pretty much running most of the major industries British companies used to own?

They have a huge domestic market which could afford to shrink 50% share… UK doesn’t.

China and USA are huge. UK isn’t. Such is life.

But what’s “unaverage Joe” about RR plc? You mean you want the UK to have champions in something you buy directly?

That’s just bloody nonsense as policy.

What’s wrong in it is that it makes no sense economically or business-wise, and almost certainly will fail after pissing away badly needed capital.


?? I’m not.

If UK has competitive advantage there, great. But if the rational for the strategy is that some lout in the pub can identify with it, it’s nonsense.

They’re better at it.

France and Germany certainly didn’t when faced with foreign competitiors.

France and Germany and even Italy are not huge countries, yet they have good car industries, such is life?

Rolls Royce is a defence contractor, not an industry for the average consumer.

Why’s it bloody nonsense? It doesn’t have to be workers of the world unite nationalisation, I want to know why the UK cannot rebuild its manufacturing capabilities and be able to compete with other industries around the world with government investment. South Korea has Daewoo and Hyundai, why the hell can’t we have something similar?

I’m not talking about renationalisation of manufacturing or chavez-esque redistribution of wealth, I want to know why it was ok for us to sell off most of our manufacturing capabilities and car industry where as other European countries haven’t and didn’t, and what benefits do we derive from doing this and them not doing it.

Germany has been able to effectively export to the developing world and therefore avoid major problems with the recession. Most of its industries are German owned. If we could of done the same if we had invested our resources effectively into that part of our economy, in fact the government has declared that one of its intentions. However, since most of it was sold off or demolished in the 1980’s it’s going to have to start over again rather than building on what we had.

Could of fooled me, you seem rather aggravated and arrogant in your responses.

Strawman, I’m not saying the UK build up it’s industries in regards to lowbrow populism, I want to know why is it ok for us to sell off large amounts of manufacturing capability, and in other countries like Germany and France and the US, don’t.

Maybe, but they don’t have the same regulations in their countries do they?

Firstly those companies in foreign parts aren’t funded by government, with the exception of the American car makers (I think a bail out counts as “funded by government”, disagree if you like). In fact those in the EU would be forbidden under European law from receiving an unfair advantage from their government.

Secondly, what tax revenues? These businesses exist anyway, they employ people anyway, the only effect on tax revenues will be the offshoring of profits, and therefore less tax revenue. Even that might not happen.

Thirdly, our rich people are treacherous dogs with nothing in mind but self-interest, and the goverment serves them rather than the national interest. This is not necessarily as much the case in foreign parts.

Fourthly, this country’s record on government supported industries isn’t that good, whereas Renault and company are rather commercially successful. Those few companies still in receipt of government handouts in this country, such as British Aerospace and the banking industry, are reliant on government handouts and will probably remain so.

You want reasons, look no further than the City and the high interest, strong pound policy.

  1. The Germans have always kept up quality. German cars have excellent reputations. Excepting Volkswagen, they don’t compete on price either. IE: They beat the competition. So… the point of your response here escapes.

  2. France has its ex-colonial empire market which has served to help the French recover.

See above. Italy is a bloody basket-case with Fiat sucking lifeblood out of the ratepayers. I’d rather see no car industry than be Italy. Bloody hell.

They also are a leading player in the private market (aircraft, turbines, etc), not just defence (and in any case since their home market in defence is pretty bloody small, they need to be nimble.

Because it’s emotions not rational analysis.

Doesn’t fucking matter if the average Joe in the pub knows it exists, it matters if its competitive.

If you want to be Italy, start voting for hard left side of Labour. Otherwise, we study Germany.

But the car industry is an industry where has massive excess capacity and the UK would be daft - really utterly daft - to go back to that for… God alone knows what reasons, other than irrational nostalgia to make the besotted pub crowd feel better.

Whatever, I am uninterested in simple minded ownership nationalism. Who owns the companies doesn’t much matter.

Well you’re the one talking about the average Joe.

So far if it walks like a Populist Duck, Quacks like a Populist Duck, then it is one.

If that was the case please explain why Renault hasn’t gone under due to efficient German competitiveness, my response is why hasn’t the UK done what France and Germany and even the likes of South Korea did with their industries?

I’m sorry, what? West Africa and Vietnam do not constitute help to French recovery, and if that was the case, Britain with a bigger empire should of been more effectively able to recover as well.

Without a cite I’d like to see proof of this, where I see the fact Fiat is one of the leading car manufacturers in the world.

If this is the case the french and italian car manufacturers would of fallen by the wayside years ago to German competitors, they didn’t, so why is it different for the UK.

Ok, fair enough, so one manufacturer is British owned.

Why are you assuming that because I’d like see more companies owned by the British rather than foreign companies, I’m some sort of beer garden socialist?

Again, let me ask this simple question, why is it ok for foreign companies to take over British industries, where as if the same happened in any other country, they’d take measures to protect their domestic industries. Which is what happened in South Korea, Germany, Italy and France. That’s not ‘irrational nostalgia’ on their part, they took an active interest in making sure they had developed domestic industries and then launched them on the world market.

If it doesn’t much matter than as an example US economic interests in a particular country wouldn’t be too much of big deal, except it is, why? Because those businesses can influence governments to make exceptions in laws or workers rights etc.

And your assumption I’m calling for economic nationalisation is false, I believe in private enterprise, it just galls me that there’s hardly any British owned companies in specific sectors of the economy and it’s dominated by foreign owners.

Believe what you want, but your portrayal of me as some socialist out to get the evil corporations is false at worse, and petty at best.

Tesco? Pretty friggin’ big! HSBC is one of the biggest banks on the planet. Unilever is a giant, as is BT. The BBC is the world’s largest broadcaster. BP is nearly 50% British, and Shell is more than 50%. You’d be surprised at how big Vodafone is.

The UK does just fine. It has plenty of world-class-sized companies.

Isn’t HSBC a Chinese owned bank?

I’ll agree, that’s impressive however they are just a few examples, after those you get pretty hard pressed to think of names of big British business.

However in 2009;

Mandelson admits foreign ownership of firms disadvantages UK

Britain has been a leading proponent of open markets and countless household names have fallen prey to foreign companies, including BAA – owner of Heathrow airport – ICI, Pilkington, BOC, Marconi, Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and British Energy.

Uk plc and foreign ownership

With the controversy over Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury, which resulted in Lord Mandelson calling for new rules on foreign acquisitions, only weeks past, Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable has criticised the lack of a public interest test for foreign takeovers of strategically important UK companies and utilities.

The British policy of allowing reasonably free trade in company shares is a good one. Anything else is protectionism, which history has shown doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run, and certainly not those inside the protectorate.
So some big-name British companies get taken over from time to time. Big deal, it happens in the other direction too. And I’m not sure why the rest of us should feel any sense of pride or ownership over these entities. They may be located in Britain, but their sole raison d’etre is to make money for whoever owns them.

I often hear that; I guess it’s a bizarre urban myth:

8th largest company in the world - not too shabby!

Currently, the TV add in France for a new German car is entirely in German (a couple apparently explaining the advantages of the car), ending with a statement along the lines of “you don’t need to understand German to know that this is a great car, since it’s a German car”

In fact Renault’s strategy is currently mostly to sell cars in “middle of the road” economies like Latin America, eastern Europe, etc… They aren’t particularly interested in poor formerly french african countries, nor really in overflooded markets like, say, the USA.

The countries that were formerly part of the French empire either don’t have maintened close ties with France (say in former French Indochina) or are dirt poor (Africa) hence not particularly attractive markets. The exception might be north Africa. French industry doesn’t rely on its former empire.
Besides it seems to me that the UK used to have a colonial empire, or I am mistaken?

Indeed. Who in his right mind would want to create a new car company nowadays? (well…there’s the exception of those really cheap cars produced in India. I can’t remember the name of the brand at the moment)

Finally, consumer goods (including cars) aren’t a significant part of French industry. In fact, I have a hard time thinking of even one well-known French company producing ordinary consumer goods besides Renault and PSA. The only products of well-known French companies that individuals buy are luxury items, drugs and food, as far as I can tell. If the OP isn’t in the habbit of buying high-speed trains, nuclear plants, heavy machinery or missiles, I doubt he’ll often be in relation with a French industrial company.

One should not forget that there are only two Aplha++ cities in the world - London and New York (Tokyo is no longer one). The two jockey for position as the world’s financial leader, though NY gets the Hollywood treatment. The brands may not all be flashy, but the UK, and London in particular, is a massive base for global companies. Arguing that the UK is somehow deficient in this matter is quite ludicrous! It’s stunningly important.

Ok so just London is worlds financial sector, what about outside that bubble?

Yeah, but there’s a dearth of UK companies which don’t focus on just the Financial sector, where’s all the British owned (Not government owned) shipbuilding, car making, steel industries?

I watched Adam Curtis and his piece called the Mayfair set. It summarises how the UK politicial establishment relied on the UK private investors to re vitalise the British manufacturing sector and lead it back towards profitablity, and what instead they realised was they’d put their faith into a bunch of corporate raiders who made millions for themselves and had gotten rid of large parts of the manufacturing sector without replacing it with anything.

The UK doesn’t have a strong manufacturing industry, and hasn’t had for decades, that is true. I didn’t realise it was just the manufacturing industry you were interested in.

In that case, yup - you’re right.

That’s nice. I wasn’t however referring to current Renault strategy. I was thinking back to the period when UK car industry was collapsing, 70s-80s. As I recall the data and figures, the old markets certainly were important. but I am relying on memory.

That wasn’t the case in the past (North Africa is a big exception). Not that I meant to make the argument French car industry uniquely relied on the old empire markets, but in the 70s-80s it helped. Any large " historical" market helps provide depth.

UK practised Free Trade, unlike mercantilist France. Even today the French have rather sharp elbows in Africa, although it’s gotten vastly better in my experience since the Gov started evolving away from pre carre thinking. For those cos used to quasi protected markets, they certainly have tried to leverage exclusionary policies as much as possible.

Of course France itself is a bigger market.


errrr I was just responding to his obsession with cars. But this is a good obs re overall industry.