The UK has adopted a relatively open market policy towards takeovers of domestic companies by ones from overseas. True, takeovers have to be in accordance with competition legislation, namely the 2002 Enterprise Act, or, in the case of takeovers affecting competition in the UK and at least one other EU country, the EU 2004 merger control measures and Article 102 of the Lisbon Treaty. The EU regulations disallow mergers if they result in ‘a concentration which would significantly impede effective competition, in particular by the creation or strengthening of a dominant position’ (see Economics (7th ed) pages 370–3 or Economics for Business (5th ed), pages 443–50). The UK legislation is similarly concerned with a substantial lessening of competition. But in both cases, competition policy is not concerned with whether the takeover is by a foreign company rather than a domestic one. So should we be concerned?
Interest in this question increased recently with the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft. Many saw it as yet one more example of British companies being taken over by foreign ones. Other examples include the takover in 2008 of Scottish and Newcastle (brewers of Courage, John Smith’s, Fosters and Kronenbourg) by the Carlsberg/Heineken consortium; the sale of the Rover group, with Minis now made by BMW, and Jaguar Land Rover now owned by Tata Motors of India; and the takeover in 2007 of Corus, the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker, by India’s Tata Steel. One of the key complaints about foreign takeovers is when they result in job losses. Although Kraft gave assurances that the Cadbury plant at Keynesham, near Bristol, would remain open, as soon as the takeover was completed, Kraft announced the closure of the Keynesham factory. Tata Steel earlier this year decided to mothball its steelworks at Redcar, on Teesside. It may never re-open.
But there are many arguments on either side about the desirability of takeovers by foreign companies. On the positive side, they may result in investment in new plant and new products and a faster growth of the company. This could result in more employment, not less. They may bring in foreign expertise and give access to new technology; they may be able to achieve various economies of scale through joint operations; productivity may increase. As the article from The Economist states:
For 30 years the consensus has been that Britain has more to gain than to lose from its open embrace of globalisation. … Britain has enjoyed a strong inflow of foreign direct investment. It has consistently attracted more than any other European country. A report on British manufacturing for Policy Exchange, a centre-right think-tank, notes that the openness of the economy “makes Britain a magnet for foreign companies looking for acquisitions on which they can build their manufacturing operations” for Britain and elsewhere.
On the negative side, there may indeed be job losses as ‘rationalisation’ takes place. Head office functions and key research facilities may move abroad. Hostile takovers may result in the stripping of assets for short-term gain, thereby undermining the loing-term viability of the company.
The article from The Economist explores these issues.
Small island for sale The Economist (25/3/10)
A summary of cross-border mergers, acquisitions and disposals by UK companies and foreign companies in the UK can be found at: Mergers & Acquisitions data Office for National Statistics
For statistical bulletins and press releases see: Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies Office for National Statistics
For international data on foreign inward and outward direct investment see: Interactive database on Enterprise and Investment UNCTAD
See also: World Investment Report UNCTAD
- Explain what is meant by the ‘competition for corporate control’. In what ways does this competition affect consumers?
- From the point of view of a multinational company, assess the strategy of acquiring foreign companies by hostile takeovers.
- Has the UK benefited from an open policy towards inward investment and foreign takeovers of UK companies?
- How do short-term flows of funds prior to a takeover impact on the takeover process?
- Compare the trends in inward investment to the UK with outward investment by the UK.
- Examine the arguments for and against the government blocking takeovers if they threaten jobs.
Kraft was seeking to take over Cadbury since September 2009, (see Cadbury: Chocolate all change and A Krafty approach to Cadbury). But the Cadbury board had rejected previous bids as being too low. The September bid, for example, was valued at £10.2bn. On 19 January 2010, however, after heated negotiations the board accepted the latest offer by Kraft valued at £11.5bn ($19bn).
But is the deal good news? Or will what is sweet for senior management and the financial institutions which brokered the deal be dark bitter news for the main stakeholders – consumers, workers and shareholders? The following articles explore the issues.
Cadbury battle ends with midnight handshake Financial Times, Lina Saigol (19/1/10)
Cadbury takeover: a crafty bit of business or an overpriced confection? Telegraph, Jonathan Sibun (20/1/10)
Cadbury’s sweet City deal leaves a bitter taste in Bournville Guardian, Heather Stewart and Nick Mathiason (19/1/10)
Thousands of Cadbury jobs under threat as Kraft swallows a British icon (including video) Times Online, Helen Nugent and Catherine Boyle (20/1/10)
Cadbury deal ‘the price of globalisation’ Financial Times, Jenny Wiggins and Jonathan Guthrie (19/1/10)
Cadbury sale ‘right thing to do’ FT video (19/1/10)
Bitterness as Kraft wins Cadbury Independent, Nick Clark (20/1/10)
The winners: Management duo in line for bumper pay packet from takeover deal Independent, Nick Clark (20/1/10)
Kraft came hunting in the only country that would sell – Britain Independent, James Moore (20/1/10)
Kraft’s takeover leaves a bitter taste in the mouth Telegraph, Tracy Corrigan (19/1/10)
A sweet deal – or a takeover that is hard to swallow? Independent, Hamish McRae (20/1/10)
Cadbury: banks are the real winners BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (20/1/10)
Warren Buffett blasts Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury Guardian, Graeme Wearden (20/1/10)
Cadbury says job cuts inevitable after Kraft takeover (including videos) BBC News (19/1/10)
Cadbury and the open market theory: they’d better be right Guardian blog, Michael White (20/1/10)
The Business: Bonus season and the Cadbury takeover Guardian podcast, Aditya Chakrabortty
How did Quakers conquer the British sweet shop? BBC News Magazine, Peter Jackson (20/1/10)
Why Kraft must keep organic cacao farmers sweet Guardian blog, Craig Sams (20/1/10)
- What were the incentives for the Cadbury board to accept the proposed offer by Kraft?
- Do such incentives lead to the efficient operation of markets?
- Explain what is meant by ‘competition for corporate control’. To what extent is such competition in the interests of consumers?
- What economies or diseconomies of scale are likely to result from the takeover? What will determine the extent to which changes in costs are passed on to the consumer?
- How will the following stakeholders fare from the takeover, both in the short run and in the long run: (a) consumers; (b) workers; (c) shareholders?
- Examine Warren Buffet’s arguments for rejecting the deal.
It’s one of a declining number of UK-owned industries still left in the UK: Cadbury. However, over the past few years, mergers have become the norm and Cadbury looks set to become the next. Kraft, an American food giant, has been interested in taking over Cadbury for some time and this topic was covered on the Sloman Economics News Site at the beginning of September, when we considered Kraft’s bid of £10.2 billion. (see Cadbury: Chocolate all change). Since then Kraft shares have dropped in value and so Kraft’s current bid is now worth less: a hostile bid of £9.8 billion. This has been refused by Cadbury’s Board of Directors, calling it ‘derisory’.
From the time that Kraft’s bid was formally submitted, the stopwatch begins to tick. A 60-day period is allowed under the ‘takeover code’ which is in place to protect shareholders without resorting to a date in court. Following Kraft’s bid, Cadbury share prices immediately fell, but then began to recover as the implications became clearer. Other companies mentioned as potential rivals include Nestlé and Unilever, although, given Cadbury’s recent boost in sales, Unilever has said that it is no longer interested. So, what does the future hold for Cadbury? Will it be the latest in a long line of British companies to leave their UK owners?
Kraft’s Cadbury takeover bid will set 60-day timetabling ticking Guardian, Jill Treanor (9/11/09)
Kraft plays long game in Cadbury pursuit Reuters (9/11/09)
Cadbury rejects hostile Kraft bid BBC News (9/11/09)
Kraft facing 5pm deadline in battle for Cadbury Guardian, Julia Kollewa and Elena Moya (9/11/09)
Strong sales rise boosts Cadbury BBC News (21/10/09)
Cadbury rejects £9.8bn hostile bid from Kraft Guardian, Julia Kollewe (9/11/09)
Kraft may offer more cash in bid for Cadbury Telegraph, Amy Wilson (4/11/09)
Paulson raises Cadbury stake Guardian, Nick Fletcher(11/11/09)
Unilever rule out Cadbury bid as sales beat forecasts Telegraph, Amy Wilson (5/11/09)
Cadbury’s fight for independence BBC News, Edwin Lane (24/12/09)
- Kraft is looking to expand by taking over Cadbury. What type of takeover would you classify this as and what do you think Kraft’s motives are for this takeover bid?
- If Kraft is successful, what are the likely advantages and disadvantages for (a) consumers of Cadbury chocolate; (b) shareholders of Kraft; (c) shareholders of Cadbury; (d) competitiors?
- Cadbury has said that the £9.8bn bid was ‘derisory’. How will Kraft have decided on the price it’s willing to offer and what factors are likely to influence this?
- John Paulson has raised his stake in Cadbury by purchasing another 6.3m shares. What effect do you think this will have on Cadbury’s share price and why? Does this make the takeover by Kraft more or less likely?
- Is there a role for the Competition Commission in this possible takeover? If so, why; and if not, why not?
- Cadbury has reported a boost in sales. What effect will this have on the takeover bid from Kraft? Why has this sales boost caused Unilever to pull out?