In Reversal of History, Emerging Countries Buy Up European Assets

In Reversal of History, Emerging Countries Buy Up European Assets
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi attended the signing of a deal between Italian steelmaker Lucchini and Algerian conglomerate Cevital, Rome, Italy, Dec. 9, 2014 (Photo from the office of the Italian Prime Minister).

In a reversal of historical trends, emerging countries are now going to great lengths to buy into portions of Europe’s sluggish industrial system. In the gloomy context of an old continent struggling to overcome the crisis that has been gripping its economies since 2007, businesses from developing nations are queuing to purchase valuable European assets, often in countries that were once their colonial rulers.

As a consequence of the growing importance that their own countries have gained on the world stage, private and public managers from China, India and the Persian Gulf countries are now familiar figures in the governing bodies and boardrooms of big as well as small- and medium-sized European enterprises. But what is most striking about the increasing relevance in Europe of emerging economy players is that not only these economic powerhouses, but also nations with a low geopolitical profile, such as Algeria, are criss-crossing Europe on an industrial shopping spree.

In a recent development, Cevital, Algeria’s largest private conglomerate, bought Italy’s steelmaker Lucchini, saving all 2,000 jobs at the company’s plant in the Tuscan port city of Piombino and announcing plans to increase employment over the next four years. The move came as a sharp rebuttal to accusations from populist politicians across Europe that immigrants from North Africa are stealing jobs from European nationals.

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