【美国跨国公司的选择】第二季度的业绩报告显示,美国拥有大规模海外业务的企业受益于全球经济快速增长,而专注于国内市场的企业业绩却不尽如人意。面对这种趋势,美国企业该何去何从?
2007年08月24日 00:00 AM

US COMPANIES CHOOSE: NATIONAL MULTINATIONAL OR ‘A-NATIONAL'?

背景
中文 评论 打印 电邮 收藏
 

When Isaac Merritt Singer set up a branch of his sewing machine maker in Paris in 1855, he probably did not think he was blazing a trail US companies would still be following more than 150 years later. Singer's expansion in France turned the New York-based company into the first US multinational, pioneering a business model that would be adopted by other icons of American capitalism, from Ford to Standard Oil to General Electric.

But perhaps the most important legacy of Singer's daring move is that it worked: within six years of the French opening, foreign sales had exceeded US revenues. It is a lesson not lost on today's corporate leaders.

As the US economy is squeezed by a housing slump, credit turmoil and higher fuel prices, a gap has opened up between companies with large overseas operations and those focused on the domestic market. The second-quarter results season drawing to a close has provided the starkest evidence yet of this trend.

Over the past three months, blue-chips such as General Electric, the conglomerate, IBM, the technology giant, and UPS, the logistics group, have hitched a ride on a global economy growing faster than the US. By contrast, companies that depend on domestic consumers such as Wal-Mart, the retail bell-wether, and Home Depot, the do-it-yourself chain, have released disappointing results and gloomy predictions.

“US companies are in the midst of an unprecedented boom in global earnings,” wrote Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist for Bank of America, in a recent note to clients. “The second-quarter earnings season was a tale of two earnings: robust overseas earnings . . . versus weak/soft domestic earnings”.

This dichotomy has been reflected in US stock markets, particularly during the past few weeks as investors have run for cover from domestic woes. After monitoring more than 40 stock-picking techniques, Merrill Lynch analysts concluded that buying shares in S&P500 companies with the highest percentage of international sales was the second-best performing investment strategy this year.

But if foreign earnings have helped US multinationals stave off a fall in profitability, the question is whether the current reliance on the rest of the world is just a cyclical phase or the harbinger of a transformation in corporate America.

Could the importance of overseas markets destroy – as Sam Palmisano, IBM's chief executive, has argued – the old multinational model whereby companies decentralised manufacturing and sales operations but kept key functions such as the executive office, research and product design in the “home country”? And if so, are some US companies ready to become truly “transnational” by scattering their top executives around the world?

At first sight, there are significant cyclical forces behind the recent rise of US multinationals – forces, in other words, that could change in the near future.

First, the dollar has lost nearly a third of its value against America's largest trading partners over the past seven years, making it easier for US exporters to sell to the world and boosting the dollar value of overseas earnings.

Second, US multinationals have been boosted by global economic growth, which has largely been driven by emerging markets hungry for infrastructure and consumer goods – two of America Inc's strongest suits.

But macro-economic and trade factors are only part of the reason overseas profits of US companies are about to register a record 20th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. US executives argue that they are reaping the benefits of decades of investment aimed at shifting their companies' centre of gravity away from the domestic market.

相关文章

欧洲公司利润降幅高于美国公司 2008-06-04
美国跨国公司的选择 2007-08-24
跨国公司纷纷“迁居”上海 2007-03-20
“业绩指引”引出麻烦 2006-07-26
“美国公司不应提供季度收益预测” 2006-07-24

分享本文

排序: 评论总数
[查看评论]
未经英国《金融时报》书面许可,对于英国《金融时报》拥有版权和/或其他知识产权的任何内容,任何人不得复制、转载、摘编或在非FT中文网(或:英国《金融时报》中文网)所属的服务器上做镜像或以其他任何方式进行使用。已经英国《金融时报》授权使用作品的,应在授权范围内使用。