Category: Economics 10e: Ch 09

Northern Rock seems to have had a fixed place in the news for the past year or so. Unfortunately, the advertising it’s been getting hasn’t been positive. The usual picture was one of a Northern Rock branch and a few hundred people queuing outside, ready to withdraw their savings.

In the financial crisis, the banking sector has been at the forefront of economic policy and billions of pounds of public money have been invested in banks simply to keep them afloat and encourage them to keep lending. But now the government, in a measure approved by the European Commission, is considering selliing part of Northern Rock, by splitting it into a ‘good bank’, which will be returned to the private sector, and a ‘bad bank’, which will have to remain nationalised. This bad bank would gradually run down its assets and eventually be liquidated. Similar plans are being considered for the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group.

Northern Rock’s loan book will be cut from £100bn pre-crisis to just £20bn to ensure that a bank which enjoyed state support should not have “an unfair competitive advantage”. Savers with Northern Rock will find themselves in the ‘good’ bank, while mortgage customers with arrears and those who are regarded as risky, will be seen as ‘bad’ bank clients.

The buyers of these banks remain unknown. Tesco was considered to be a possible buyer of Northern Rock but has pulled out, with plans to build a new full-service bank itself. Established banks, such as Barclays, will not be allowed to make a purchase and the FSA has stated that standards will not be dropped to allow new competitors to enter the market, especially given that much of the banking crisis is due to poor standards and insufficient regulation. National Australia Bank, the owners of Yorkshire and Clydesdale, is a possible buyer, as too is Virgin Money, even though it would require new finance and possibly new partners. Some potential bidders may be ruled out by competition considerations. So let the games begin!

The following articles look at the banking situation and the possible developments.

Where Gordon Brown feared to tread, Kroes is ready to trample Telegraph, Alistair Osborne (28/10/09)
Lloyds eyes capital raising plans BBC News (29/10/09)
Tesco rules out Northern Rock takeover Guardian, Julia Finch (28/10/09)
EU approves Northern Rock split BBC News (28/10/09)
The Business Podcast: The break-up of Northern Rock Guardian (28/10/09)
Lloyds Banking share price could scupper offer SME Web, Roberta Murray (29/10/09)
Roll up, roll up, for the great bank sell off Independent, Richard Northedge (8/11/09)
Treasury says Northern Rock may lose savers as Government pulls out The Times, Francis Elliott and Suzy Jagger (5/11/09)
Union fears for 25,000 jobs as EU insists Lloyds and RBS must shed branches Guardian, Jill Treanor (3/11/09)
Decision time for Lloyds shareholders BBC News, Money Talk, Justin Urquhart Stewart (11/11/09)
The Business podcast: The break-up of Northern Rock Guardian (28/10/09)

Details of the European Commission ruling on the restructuring of Northern Rock can be found at:
State aid: Commission approves restructuring package for Northern Rock

Questions

  1. What started all the trouble at Northern Rock?
  2. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against the break up of Northern Rock and the other banks that received state aid? Do you think the right decision has been made?
  3. The BBC News article ‘Lloyds eyes capital raising plans’ refers to 43% of Lloyds being owned by the tax payer. What does this mean and how has it happened?
  4. Why do you think Tesco has decided not to put in a bid to take over Northern Rock?
  5. Consider the potential bidders for these new ‘good’ and ‘bad’ banks. In each case, consider the (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages. Then, explain the type of take-over or merger this would be and whether there could be any competition considerations.
  6. One of the aims of recent developments in the banking sector is to increase competition. Why is this so important and how will it affect consumers and businesses?

Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics (and a prize of $1.4m) on Monday for their work on how economic transactions operate outside markets in common spaces and within companies. Their work includes topics such as the free-rider problem and how this can lead to a sub-optimal over-consumption of a resource. Their work also considers economic governance and how this has led to the increasing popularity of outsourcing for companies.

Despite the prestige of a Nobel Prize, there have been suggestions that a Nobel Prize in Economics should not have been awarded this year, given the inability of economists to predict the financial crisis and mixed opinions about how to prevent another one in the future. What do you think?

US duo wins Nobel for economics Financial Times, Chris Giles (12/10/09)
Two Americans win Nobel economics prize MSNBC, Associated Press (14/10/09)
What this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics says about the Nobel Prize in Economics The New York Times, Steven Levitt (12/10/09)
Humbling year for bickering economists Financial Times, Alan Beattie (11/10/09)

Questions

  1. What is market failure and how does the free-rider problem fit in?
  2. Do you think economists were at fault for not foreseeing the financial crisis?
  3. Do you think that the research of Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson was deserving of the Nobel Prize and how important is their research in the context of economic theory?

Cadbury is arguably the producer of the best Easter eggs and also one of the best known adverts – who can forget the guerrilla playing the drums! If you think there is no substitute for Cadbury chocolate, then you’ll find this story especially interesting.

In early September, Kraft Foods made a £10.2 billion bid for the maker of Dairy Milk. This was duly rejected by Cadbury, whose Chairman said that the offer ‘fundamentally undervalued’ the business. This initial bid, although rejected, has sparked interest in the corporate world and Cadbury shareholders have seen their shares rise in value by almost 40%, closing at 775.5p on Friday 11th September.

Following this bid, other potential buyers have entered the picture, including Nestlé and Hershey’s. There is also the likelihood that Kraft Foods will make a higher bid, financed through a bridging loan. Despite this interest, Cadbury still wants to remain independent, hoping that its investors will be buoyed by the company’s rising profits in recent months.

Take a look at the following articles that consider these possible take-overs of Cadbury and how the corporate world has been, and will continue to be, affected.

Cadbury snubs £10.2bn Kraft move BBC News (7/0/09)
Hershey’s and Nestlé in running to buy Cadbury Telegraph (10/9/09)
Kraft races to prepare new Cadbury bid Guardian (9/9/09)
Return of the Deal? BBC News (7/9/09)
Hershey considers Cadbury counterbid Times Online (9/9/09)
Cadbury spurns ‘low growth’ Kraft BBC News (13/9/09)
Long Cadbury shares? Cash out! Khaleej Times Online (United Arab Emirates) (14/9/09)
Hedge fund Eton Park stakes £180m on Cadbury bid Telegraph (10/9/09)
Cadbury vision is to stay single Financial Times (11/9/09)

Questions

  1. In the 13th September BBC News article, an extract from a letter to the Kraft Chief Executive from the Chairman of Cadbury stated that under Kraft’s offer “Cadbury would be absorbed into Kraft’s low growth, conglomerate business model, an unappealing prospect.” What does he mean by a ‘conglomerate business model?’
  2. Eton Park has bought £180 million worth of shares. In what ways do you think this will affect the future of Cadbury? Is Cadbury more or less likely to sell now?
  3. How would you explain the rise in Cadbury’s share price when it looked as though the company might be taken over?
  4. Cadbury’s Chief Executive hopes that investors will continue to support the company given the positive profit margin growth. What does this actually mean?
  5. If the take-over were to go ahead, what do you think would be the impact on the (a) the Cadbury factory in Birmingham; (b) Cadbury’s workers; (c) Cadbury’s shareholders; and (d) the price of Cadbury chocolate?

The world experienced a large increase in merger activity from 2003 to 2007. The merger boom came to an end, however, in 2007/8 with the credit crunch and the ensuing recession. For example, the value of acqusitions of UK companies by overseas companies fell from £82.1 billion in 2007 to £52.6 billion in 2008, while the value of acquisitions of overseas companies by UK companies fell from £57.8 billion in 2007 to £29.7 billion in 2008 (see Mergers &#38 Acquisitions data (National Statistics)). The decline continued in the first part of 2009.

Recent evidence, however, suggests that the beginnings of recovery in the world economy, a greater availability of credit and a substatial rise in share prices since March (see for example the FTSE 100 and Dow Jones indices) are leading to a new wave of mergers. Recent weeks have seen, amongst others, the takeover of Marvel Entertainment by Disney (see Disney is ‘Marvel’lous), the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Orange, and Kraft’s bid for Cadbury (see Cadbury: Chocolate All Change). So what has stimulated this new merger wave? How do mergers relate to the business cycle and to the stock market? Should they be welcomed? The following articles look at some recent mergers and at the issues they raise.

The return of the deal The Economist (10/9/09)
The revival of M&A is better than a poke in the eye Guardian (8/9/09)
Hovering Kraft The Economist (7/9/09)
Orange and T-Mobile to create UK’s largest mobile phone company Guardian (8/9/09)
Watchdog urged to investigate T-Mobile and Orange merger Guardian (8/9/09)

Questions

  1. Why has there been a recent rise in M&#38A activity? Discuss whether the revival in activity is likely to continue.
  2. Discuss whether an increase in M&#38A activity is ‘better than a poke in the eye’?
  3. To what extent will mobile phone users in the UK benefit or lose from a merger between Orange and T-Mobile?
  4. Will Cadbury’s consumers and workers benefit from a takeover by Kraft?

It’s probably one of the most recognisable names in the world – Disney. Well, as if the company wasn’t already established enough, it’s just got a bit bigger, with a $4bn deal with Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Characters such as Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Donald Duck have now been joined by some more masculine characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Much of Disney’s recent success has come from films appealing to girls, but in-house Disney franchises appealing to boys are fewer and further between. “We would love to attract more boys, and Marvel skews more in the boys’ direction, although there is universal appeal to many of its characters” said Bob Iger, Disney chief executive. “Marvel’s is a treasure trove of characters and stories, and this gives us an opportunity to mine characters that are well known and characters that are not well known.”

This new deal is likely to have major repercussions for Warner Bros and all of the major Hollywood studios, as well as those with a vested interest in Marvel. It is also hoped that this deal will restore some of Disney’s profits, which have been reduced through the current economic downturn. The following articles consider this deal and the likely results.

Weaker sales dent Disney profits BBC News (30/7/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal BBC News (31/8/09)
Walt Disney buys Marvel Entertainment in £2.5billion deal Mirror News (1/9/09)
Disney take-over of Marvel Telegraph, Paul Gent (2/9/09)
Disney’s Marvel Deal Forces DC’s Hand Defamer, Andrew Belonskey (10/9/09)
Disney deal puts Marvel online slots at risk for Cryptologic Online Gambling News (9/9/09)
Disney’s picl-up of Marvel not so super: Citi FP, Trading Desk (4/9/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal (video) BBC News (1/9/09)
Of mouse and X-men Economist (3/9/09)
Disney buys Marvel, Now in Business with every studio in Hollywood Defamer, Brian Moylan (31/8/09)

For Disney’s announcement of the take-over, see:
Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment Disney Corporate News Release

Questions

  1. Discuss the pros and cons for consumers of the take-over of Marvel Entertainment by Disney.
  2. Which factors will have had a significant impact on Disney’s profits in the current recession? Explain why.
  3. What do you think will be the likely impact of the take-over on Marvel’s shareholders?
  4. Discuss the main ways in which a business can grow and consider their advantages and disadvantages.
  5. How will Disney’s Marvel deal affect its competitors and those with whom it does business? Is Disney going to be able to control prices and other aspects of business deals?