At the very minimum, it will cost 5,500 jobs as the new combine strains to squeeze the planned $1.4bn out of costs, and though there can be no certainty, I’m willing to bet there will be few if any benefits to consumers in terms of price and choice. Probably the reverse.
It would of course ill become those of us who believe in free markets to complain too loudly. If there is no good public interest reason to disallow a takeover, then it must proceed, however apparently destructive. In theory, the capital thereby released gets recycled and put to better, more effective use somewhere else. That’s how capitalism works. If the merger doesn’t deliver as promised, it creates opportunities for hungrier, more competitive rivals.
But too often, this is not what’s happening. In growing numbers, companies are sitting on their cash rather than putting the money to more productive use, that or otherwise paying it out to their shareholders who also sit on it. This despite zero or even negative interest rates.
There’s not the space here to explore the myriad explanations for this failure. Suffice it to say something has gone very badly wrong. Risk aversion is the order of the day, and has been for a long time now. Rather than pursue top line growth, executives focus instead almost wholly on cost cutting improvements to the bottom line, such as this dismally uninspired, empire building, merger. And they wonder why people have lost trust in business and finance.
Time to build a runway
The longest running example of policy prevarication in UK history – where to build more runway capacity for London and the south east – may be about to come to an end. The new prime minister, Theresa May, has personally taken charge of the cabinet committee that will take the final decision, and promises to deliver it by the end of October.