quinta-feira, 3 de outubro de 2013

Giant state-owned firms have fallen back ou of fashion

The Economist (september 21, 2013) published an article which I think is of interest to my readers.
Back in 1987 the rock band Bon Jovi was top of the pops and the world’s third largest firm by value was Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), a utility in Japan few outside that conuntru had heard of. Today Bon Jovi is still churning out number one albums but TEPCO’s value has fallen by 90% and it is teetering on bankruptcy. It is now known around the world for the disaster at its nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

In 2009 the message was that America capitalism had lost the plot. Only three of the world’s ten most valuable listed firms were from America: Exxon Mobil, Walmart and Microsoft. A new species of big beast had reared its head: vast state-controlled oligopolies from emerging markets. Petrochina, China Mobile and ICBC and CCB (two chinese banks) were all in the top ten that year. Brazil had a star in the form of Petrobras. The year before Gazprom, a Kremlin – run racket masquerading as a corporation, had graced the list. Suddenly it seemed as if the best way to create a giant firm was not to innovate or win customers but to adorn a government bureaucracy with some of the trapping’s of a private firm, such as a stockmarket listing.

Today the picture is once again transformed. Nine of the ten most valuable firms are american. America’s share of the top 50 is rising too. Why? A perky stockmarket is partly responsible. The euro crisis has killed off any hope that more firms from the euro zone might scale the rankings.

Two deeper factors are also at play. First, America’s mix of resilience and renewal. Three of its biggest firms have their roots in the late 19th Century – Exxon, General Eletric and Johnson & Johnson. Their durability reflects their powerful corporate cultures. But the country still does creative destruction too. IBM and Intel have slid down the rankings to be replaced by Apple and Google. Second, the old rule that buying shares in state firm is investment suicide has reasserted itself. The world’s ten biggest state firms in 2009 have lost $ 2.2 trillion of value, or 60% from their peaks. Investors now award most state firms stingier valuations than their private peers. Gazprom is worth three times its profits (P/E = 3), versus Exxon’s multiple of 11. And although emerging economies have slowed, private firms are doing fine. In 2007 investors gorged on shares in Petrochina when it listed in Shanghai, briefly making it the only firm ever to be worh over $ 1 trillon. Now China’s hottest corporate property is Alibaba, a private internet firm plotting a huge flotation.

Government firms are unloved again. That is how it should be. Shortcomings of cosy state capitalism never went away. Petrochina’s ex-boss, is under investigation probably for graft. Gazprom wastes $ 40 billion a year through corruption and inefficiency. Minority investors in Brazil protest that Petrobras is building unprofitable oil refinaries and favouring local supplies, at politician”s behest.

These vast organizations are not going away; most still make huge profits, often boosted by cheap public funding. But governments must recognise that the slump in their valuations is a sign they are allocating capital badly. That is in no one’s interest. Petrobras has made a baby step by allowing outside shareholders to appoint a director, while China sometimes mutters about modest reforms of its industrial fiefs. But the hybrid model of a firm beholden to both investors and politicians is a full of contradictions as Karl Marx said capitalism was. Privatization is the best way to resolve these tensions.

Business people, at least, can now be a little less dazzled by state firms. To outlast the average pop star’s career, companies need a culture of innovation, financial discipline and, increasingly global reach. These are things only a few managers are able to deliver – and wich no government can.

Após refletir sobre este artigo, cheguei a conclusão de que eu deveria realizar prejuízo com minhas ações de Petrobrás e Banco do Brasil.