Many of Cadbury’s shareholders who will shortly vote to sell their company are overseas individuals and institutions. In this gobal world one group of overseas shareholders will sell to a new group of overseas shareholders. It is not quite as some present it. The Cadbury family ceased to own and control it years ago. As a major quoted company on an international stock market anyone can come along and buy shares.
Cadbury is currently led by an international management team. It is true the UK is well represented in that team. It is the senior managers who are keen to sell to the new overseas shareholders. The new shareholders will put in a different international management team, which will also include some British people in some of the important jobs.
Of course there is in me that same feeling as many share today. Why can’t we have great British brands, with products from good British factories, owned by British shareholders? Wouldn’t that be good? The answer to both, is Yes, we can and it would. No government, however, is going to stop British managers selling out if they wish, or stop international shareholders selling their shares for a good price, unless there is a competition policy reason to block the merger. Cadbury ceased to be a plucky British company years ago. Fewer than 10% of its employees work in the UK.
Will the UK factories survive? I hope so. The truth is that British managers and British shareholders have been known to close UK factories and switch produciton abroad when the figures show that is the right commercial thing to do. British ownership does not protect all UK jobs. Foreign ownership does not mean automatic closure. Nissan. Toyota and Honda have done much more for UK motor industry jobs than Britsh Leyland, Rover and the UK government did. Time will tell how much commitment to the UK Kraft will have. The workforce and the British government can make the future of the British factories more certain by their actions. It needs to be better made in Britain. The UK needs to have an attractive tax and regulatory system so people want to invest here.