Another company in the automotive sector of our Europe moved in the court of the giant Asian ChemChina.
Pirelli, the fifth tire manufacturer on the world, has been acquired by means of sovereign funds of nationalized China. An operation financially complex which opens the debate to a series of assessments on the health conditions of our badly off capitalism, especially if you consider that the company from Milan claims an important place in the industrial history of this country.
Actually it is not so simple to bring out an univocal diagnosis whereas we are divided between liberals more or less pure and those who are most favourable to stronger forms of protectionism.
The situation is even more complex because it is inserted in a chaotic economic phase characterized by stormy winds of an unprecedented crisis involving the industrial policy of the Euro zone, the symmetries and asymmetries between worlds that differently understand the operating schemes of policy and economy.
As well as it is not easy to determine the focus on which setting a complete analysis and reasoning.
We should start from afar, ie by the endemic italic inability to create favourable conditions to the starting up and development of the “big enterprise” and then continue on the government choices about industrial policy, which in the more or less recent history, are definitely “lasseiz faire”.
Or maybe we should approach the topic only in terms of employment, available capitals and more in general the ability to create wealth within the national territory regardless of philosophical nationalisms (see Lamborghini or Ducati).
And perhaps, to stay on topic, we should be satisfied if the Chinese capitals see in Italy favourable opportunities for investment, even more than the US and UK in the last 12 months.
Given that the conditional is predominant in the reasoning, significant uncertainties remain about the outcome of certain industrial operations. Some of these related to the “sharing” of relevant technologies, to the company’s choices in the medium and long term, to the absence of a clear political vision of the strategic areas on which to focus (and protect).
A company like Pirelli has created value not only in the industrial field, but also brand value linked to Italian style as the Pirelli calendar or the historical naming PZero.
Things that might not change in the future, or maybe yes if from Beijing the will to make Pirelli even more global were to pass through the shift of the company gravity center to the place considered more convenient from a strategic and commercial point of view.
However Europe that loses its best pieces should ask itself questions, especially if certain “transfers” take place in a system where the players do not play by the same rules.
Pirelli is acquired by Chinese state company that makes the interest of its own nation, in a country – Italy – in which could already boast a sizeable surplus in exchange, even in the presence of agreements that provide substantial majorities of share capital to “authorize the relocation of the headquarters and the transfer to third parties of the intellectual property of Pirelli”.
Someone, in support of the operation, points out how even Fiat is hiring workers in Italy after the well known cross-border operations. Actually if Fiat hires it is because you start to see some new product to keep busy the assembly lines more than for its sorties in Netherlands or the UK (aside Chrysler).
“Power is nothing without control”, was Pirelli’s mantra some time ago and Chinese have both the power (capital) and the control (corporate) and they do not appear willing to stop in shopping.
And while we are waiting to see what will become of this turbocapitalsim another historic European brand in the automotive sector, Pininfarina, seems to be flying towards Indian shores.
Translated by Federica Izzo