Economic patriotism and nationalism is likely to intensify according to 43 percent of business journalists polled for the annual GFCNet Media Barometer. A further 31 percent consider nationalism a crucial issue, and only 5 percent of journalists believe that economic patriotism is of no importance.
The survey sought the opinions of 93 financial and business editors and senior reporters from 10 countries across the globe from publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Reuters, Handelsblatt, Corriere Della Sera, breakingviews.com and L’Agefi Hebdo. The survey focused on the issue of economic patriotism and the quality of companies’ communication.
The survey revealed strong national attitudes, with Italian, German and Portuguese respondents most likely to consider economic patriotism a key issue. Opinions are divided in France, where as many journalists believe economic patriotism will intensify as believe it is of little concern.
None of those polled believed economic patriotism is always justified, while nearly half cited it reasonable in the defense of strategic sectors. Overall, the survey revealed reluctant attitudes towards the acquisitions of defense companies, electrical or gas utilities by foreign companies; those linked to national security and sovereignty. International and dematerialized sectors such as banking and stock exchanges were deemed most acceptable for acquisition.
The loss of jobs is the main concern when a foreign company buys national assets (true in six out of ten countries); followed by the loss of corporate headquarters. National security was considered vital in Germany and the U.S., but of almost no importance in Portugal and in the Netherlands.
For most journalists, trade buyers appear as the most acceptable acquirers, since they meet a strategic goal within companies’ business development. On the other hand, hedge funds and activist investment groups are perceived as the least acceptable, with asset managers straddling the middle ground.
“Economic nationalism has rarely been out of the news over the last year, from the Dubai Ports to countless M&A situations in Europe and beyond,” says Martin Mosbacher, chairman of Intermarket Communications and a founder of GFCNet, a network of independent financial communications firms. “Some describe it as ‘the inevitable corollary to globalization.’ While growing pains are apparent, it is clear that globalization is happening at an accelerated pace. Companies and regions that most resist it appear to be struggling with the effects of growing isolation.”
The media barometer revealed a gap between non-listed financial services businesses and listed companies. According to the journalists interviewed, listed companies have “good” communication, whereas non-listed financial services companies only communicate in a “satisfactory” way. The journalists mainly identify three areas for improvement of companies’ communication: access to top management through informal meetings; formal events and interviews; and transparency.
Journalists believe that firms need to more actively take the lead on the topics that involve them. Journalists also made it clear that they prefer qualitative relationships and more substantive content to an increasing flow of unusable, marketing-focused information.