, also spelled nationalisation
, is the act of taking an industry or assets into the public ownership
of a national government. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities
. The opposite of nationalization is usually privatization
or de-nationalisation, but may also be municipalization
. A renationalization
occurs when state-owned assets are privatized and later nationalized again, often when a different political party
is in power. A renationalization
process may also be called reverse privatization.
The motives for nationalization are political as well as economic. It is a central theme of certain brands of 'state socialist' policy that the means of production, distribution and exchange, should be owned by the state on behalf of the people. Socialists believe that public ownership enables people to exercise full democratic control over the means whereby they earn their living and provides an effective means of redistributing wealth and income more equitably.
Nationalized industries, charged with operating in the public interest, may be under strong political and social pressures to give much more attention to externalities. They may be obliged to operate some loss making activities where social benefits are clearly greater than social costs - for example, rural, postal and transport services. As an instance, the United States Postal Service is guaranteed its nationalised status by the Constitution. The government has recognized these social obligations and, in some cases, provides subsidies for such non-commercial operations.
Since the nationalised industries are state owned, the government is responsible for meeting any debts incurred by these industries. The nationalized industries do not normally borrow from the domestic market other than for short-term borrowing.
Nationalization may occur with or without compensation to the former owners. If it takes place without compensation it is a case of expropriation. Nationalization is distinguished from property redistribution in that the government retains control of nationalized property. Some nationalizations take place when a government seizes property acquired illegally. For example, the French government seized the car-makers Renault because its owners had collaborated with the Nazi occupiers of France.
A key issue in nationalization is payment of compensation to the former owner. The most controversial nationalizations, known as expropriations
, are those where no compensation, or an amount far below the likely market value of the nationalized assets, is paid. Many nationalizations through expropriation have come after revolutions
The traditional Western stance on compensation was expressed by United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull, during the 1938 Mexican nationalization of the petroleum industry, that compensation should be "prompt, effective and adequate." According to this view, the nationalizing state is obligated under international law to pay the deprived party the full value of the property taken. The opposing position has been taken mainly by developing countries, claiming that the question of compensation should be left entirely up to the sovereign state, in line with the Calvo Doctrine. Communist states have held that no compensation is due, based on socialist notions of private properties.
In 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 1803, "Permanent Sovereignty over National Resources," which states that in the event of nationalization, the owner "shall be paid appropriate compensation in accordance with international law." In doing so, the UN rejected both the traditional Calvo-doctrinist view and the Communist view. The term "appropriate compensation" represents a compromise between the traditional views, taking into account the need of developing countries to pursue reform even without the ability to pay full compensation, and the Western concern for protection of private property.
When nationalizing a large business, the cost of compensation is so great that many legal nationalizations have happened when firms of national importance run close to bankruptcy and can be acquired by the government for little or no money. A classic example is the UK nationalization of the British Leyland Motor Corporation. At other times, governments have considered it important to gain control of institutions of strategic economic importance, such as banks or railways, or of important industries struggling economically. The case of Rolls-Royce plc, nationalized in 1971, is an interesting blend of these two arguments. This policy was sometimes known as ensuring government control of the "commanding heights" of the economy, to enable it to manage the economy better in terms of long-term development and medium-term stability. The extent of this policy declined in the 1980s and 1990s as governments increasingly privatized industries that had been nationalized, replacing their strategic economic influence with use of the tax system and of interest rates.
Nonetheless, national and local governments have seen the advantage of keeping key strategic assets in institutions that are not strongly profit-driven and can raise funds outside the public-sector constraints, but still retain some public accountability. Examples from the last five years in the United Kingdom include the vesting of the British railway infrastructure firm Railtrack in the not-for-profit company Network Rail, and the divestment of much council housing stock to "arms-length management companies," often with mutual status.
Notable nationalizations by country
- 1948 President Peron nationalised the largely British and French-owned railways.
- 2005 Postal service renationalised.
- 2006 Water supply renationalised.
- 2008 Aerolineas Argentinas, airline, renationalised.
- 2006 On May 1 2006, newly elected Bolivian leader Evo Morales announces plans to nationalize the country's natural gas industry; foreign-based companies are given six months to renegotiate their existing contracts.
The Castro government gradually expropriated all foreign-owned private companies after the Cuban Revolution
of 1959. Most of these companies were owned by U.S. corporations and individuals. Bonds at 4.5% interest over twenty years were offered to U.S. companies, but the offer was rejected by U.S. ambassador Philip Bonsal
, who requested the compensation up front. Only a minor amount, $1.3 million, was paid to U.S. interests before deteriorating relations ended all cooperation between the two governments. The United States established a registry of claims against the Cuban government, ultimately developing files on 5,911 specific companies. The Cuban government has refused to discuss the effective and adequate compensation of U.S. claims. The United States government continues to insist on compensation for U.S. companies. In 1966-68, the Castro government nationalized all remaining privately owned business entities in Cuba, down to the level of street vendors.
- 1948 All manufacturing enterprises.
Nationalisation in France dates back to the 'regies' or state monopolies first organized under the Ancien Régime
, for example, the monopoly on tobacco sales. Communications companies France Telecom
and La Poste
are relics of the state postal and telecommunications monopolies.
There was a major expansion of the nationalised sector following World War II. A second wave followed under Francois Mitterrand in the early 1980s but much of his work was reversed by Jacques Chirac.
- 1938 Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais (SNCF) (originally a 51% State holding, increased to 100% in 1982)
- 1945 Several nationalizations in France, including most important banks and Renault. The firm was seized for Louis Renault's alleged collaboration with Nazi Germany, although this condemnation was without judgement and after his death, making this case remarkable and rare. A later judgement (1949) admitted that Renault's plant never collaborated. Renault was successful but unprofitable whilst nationalised and remains successful today, after having been privatized in 1996.
- 1946 Charbonnages de France, Electricite de France (EdF), Gaz de France (GdF)
- 1982 The Paris business of M&A advisory firm Rothschild was nationalized and renamed.
The Paris regional transport operator, Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), can also be counted as a nationalised industry.
The German railways were nationalised after World War I. Partial privatisation of Deutsche Bahn
is currently underway, as of 2008.
Most enterprises in East Germany were nationalised following World War II. After reunification, an agency, Treuhand, was established to return them to private ownership. However, due to structural and economic problems inherent in the previous regime, many of these had to be liquidated.
- 2008 Renationalization of the Bundesdruckerei (Federal Print Office), which had been privatized in 2001.
Railways in the Republic of Ireland were nationalised in the 1940s as Coras Iompair Eireann
- 2007 On August 3 2007, the Irish government were offered a stake in Eircom's copper network infrastructure. Ireland's telephone networks were privatised in 1999.
- 1983 Nationalization of the major Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim, bank Leumi, Discount Bank, Mezrachi bank due to the Bank stock crisis that struck Israel in 1983.
The regime of Benito Mussolini extended nationalisation, creating the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) as a State holding company for struggling firms, including the car maker Alfa Romeo. A parallel body, Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (Eni) was set up to manage State oil and gas interests.
- 2008 The Dutch State nationalizes the Dutch activities of Belgian-Dutch banking and insurance company Fortis, which had come in solvability problems due to the international financial crisis.
- 2001 Central government purchased the Auckland railway network from TranzRail.
- 2003 The Labour Government of New Zealand took an 80% stake in near-bankrupt national air carrier Air New Zealand in exchange for a large financial infusion.
- 2004 The rest of the country's rail network is purchased from Toll New Zealand, formerly known as TranzRail. A new state owned enterprise, ONTRACK, was established to maintain the rail infrastructure.
- 2008 The rolling stock of Toll New Zealand was purchased by central government, bringing the rail system under total state ownership and renamed as KiwiRail.
- 1972 On January 2, 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, after the fall of East Pakistan, announced the nationalisation of all major industries, including iron and steel, heavy engineering, heavy electricals, petrochemicals, cement and public utilities.
During the administration of Ferdinand Marcos
, important companies such as PLDT
, Philippine Airlines
and the Manila Hotel
were nationalized. Other companies were sometimes absorbed into these government-owned corporations, as well as other companies, such as Napocor
and the Philippine National Railways
, which in their own right are monopolies
(exceptions are Meralco and the Manila Hotel). Today, these companies have been reprivatized and some, such as PLDT and Philippine Airlines, have been de-monopolized. Others, like government-formed and owned Napocor, are in the process of privatization.
After the Carnation Revolution
, the Junta de Salvação Nacional
(temporary government) nationalized all the banking, ensurance, petrol and industries companies. Along with the telecommunications companies, which were state-owned even before the Revolution, all the nacionalized companies were reprivatized.
- 1948 With the Decree 119 of June 1948 the new Romanian communist regime nationalised all the existing private companies and their assets in Romania leading to the transformation of the Romanian economy from a market economy to a planned economy.
Russia and the Soviet Union
- 1918 All manufacturing enterprises and many retailing enterprises.
- 1998 The Yeltsin government began seizing Gazprom assets, claiming that the company owed back taxes. Privatization of Gazprom from the mid 1990's had been reduced to 38.37% with the intention of achieving full privatization. However, the stake of the Russian Government in Gazprom has since been increased to 50% with Vladimir Putin's plan to increase the stake to a controlling position. Gazprom is also buying up both Russian and other international Utility companies.
- 1946 USAMGIK nationalized all South Korean private railroad companies and made Department of Transportation. This now becomes Korail.
- 1941 Spain's railways were nationalised, as RENFE, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.
- 1983 Nationalization without compensation of the Spanish Rumasa. Separate business were later privatized.
The following companies/industries were the subject of nationalisation in the given year:
- 1869 Nationalisation of inland telegraphs under the GPO
- 1875 Suez Canal Company - The Egyptian share in the company was bought out by the British Government.
- 1912 Nationalisation of inland telephone services under the GPO, apart from Portsmouth, Hull, Guernsey, and Jersey. The Portsmouth telephone service was nationalised the following year.
- 1916 Liquor Trade - The nationalisation of pubs and breweries in Carlisle, Gretna, Cromarty and Enfield under the State Management Scheme; mainly an attempt to restricting alcohol consumption by armaments factory workers. The scheme was privatised by asset transfer in 1973.
- 1926 Central Electricity Board introduced under The Electricity (Supply) Act 1926 founded National Grid UK and set up a national standard for electricity supply in the UK.
- 1927 British Broadcasting Company (a privately owned company) became British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a public corporation operating under a Royal Charter.
- 1933 London Transport
- 1938 Nationalisation of UK Coal Royalties under the Coal Commission
- 1939 British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) later to become British Airways (BA) - combining the private British Airways Ltd. and the state owned Imperial Airways
- 1939 At the outset of WWII, much of British industry was subjected to State regulation or control, although not nationalised as such.
- 1943 North of Scotland Hydro-Electricity Board
- 1946 Coal industry under the National Coal Board (later British Coal); Bank of England - the latter had had private shareholders who were bought out by the state.
- 1947 Central Electricity Generating Board and area electricity boards, Cable & Wireless Ltd - the latter had had private shareholders who were bought out by the state.
- 1948 National rail, water transport, some road haulage, road passenger transport and Thomas Cook & Son under the British Transport Commission. Separate elements operated as British Railways, British Road Services, and British Waterways, also National Health Service taking over a mixture of previously Local Authority, private commercial and charitable organisations.
- 1949 Local authority gas supply undertakings in England, Scotland and Wales
- 1951 Iron and Steel Industry (denationalised by the following Conservative Government)
- 1967 British Steel
- 1969 National Bus Company, combining former interests of the British Transport Commission with others acquired from the British Electric Traction group.
- 1971 Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd - The strategically-important aero-engine part of the recently-bankrupt Rolls Royce Limited.
- 1973 Local authority water supply undertakings in England and Wales
- 1974 British Petroleum - the combination of a 50% stake bought by Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty after World War I with around a 25% stake acquired by the Bank of England from Burmah Oil made the UK Government directly or indirectly BP's majority shareholder, though commercial independence was maintained. The shares were all sold during the 1980s.
- 1975 National Enterprise Board - a State holding company for full or partial ownership of industrial undertakings
- 1976 British Leyland Motor Corporation - became British Leyland upon nationalization. Privatized in 1986 to British Aerospace.
- 1977 British Aerospace - combining the major aircraft companies British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley and others. British Shipbuilders - combining the major shipbuilding companies including Cammell Laird, Govan Shipbuilders, Swan Hunter, Yarrow Shipbuilders
- 1997 Docklands Light Railway - John Prescott announced to the 1997 Labour Party Conference that he had nationalised this.
- 2001 Railtrack - although not nationalised as such, the takeover by Network Rail of the railway infrastructure in 2002 following the liquidation of Railtrack, whilst not a state owned company, has no shareholders (company limited by guarantee) and is underwritten by the State. In addition prior to this the government began to make use of a residual shareholding of 0.2% (including voting rights) in Railtrack Group Plc leftover from the original sale.
- 2008 Northern Rock - announced by Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer on 17 February 2008 as 'a temporary measure'. The bank will be run at 'arms length' as a commercial business and sold to a private buyer in the future.
- 2008 Bradford & Bingley (mortgage book only) - announced by Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer on 29 September 2008. The loans part of the company was nationalised, while the commercial bank was sold off.
British assets nationalised by other countries
- 1940s Argentine railways
- 1953 British Petroleum's Iranian assets by their government (actually a nationalisation of part of a part-nationalised company)
- 1956 The Egyptian Government nationalised the Suez Canal, owned by the Suez Canal Company which was part owned by the British State.
- 2007 On May 1 2007, Venezuela stripped the world's biggest oil companies of operational control over massive Orinoco Belt crude projects, a controversial component in President Hugo Chavez's nationalization drive.
- 2008 On April 3 2008, President Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalization of the cement industry.
- 2008 On April 9 2008, Hugo Chavez ordered the nationalization of Venezuelan steel mill Sidor, in which Luxembourg-based Ternium currently holds a 60% stake. Sidor employees and the Government hold a 20% stake respectively.
- 2008 On August 19 2008, Hugo Chavez ordered the take-over of a cement plant owned and operated by Cemex, an international cement producer. While shares of Cemex fell on the New York Stock Exchange, the cement plant comprises only about 5% of the company's business, and is not expected to adversely affect the company's ability to produce in other markets. Chavez has been looking to nationalize the concrete and steel industries of his country to meet home building and infrastructure goals.
has nationalized its food distribution infrastructure.