When Kraft, parent company of Mondelez, staged a hostile takeover of Cadbury in 2009, it was not interested in Cadbury’s factories. Factories are two a penny. What it was after was the brand, and with it the markets. Where the products were made was irrelevant.
The enterprising and innovative CEO’s of the big multinationals have got it all worked out. Maximum profits for minimum effort. Why bother to create and establish a market for your own brand of product? You can use your investors’ money to buy an established company that has done all the hard work, keep the brands you want and eliminate the competition in one foul swoop by closing down their plants.
The question was not if Mondelez would close the Cadbury plant in Dunedin (along with many others around the world), but when. It turns out 2017 is the year. And that may have more to do with the length of time needed to avoid anti-trust repercussions than anything else.
The irony of it is they’re using our money to do it. Knowingly or not, most of us hand our money over to multinationals to do with it what they please. The dividends and the money we make when shares are on-sold buy our silence. But it shouldn’t. Shares mean votes at shareholders’ meetings. Shareholders hold a lot of power, if enough of them work together.
The New Zealand Superannuation fund had, in 2016, $21,459,995 invested in Mondelez shares, and another $16,120,537 invested in parent company Kraft. It is highly likely other big state-owned investment funds such as the ACC fund also have shares, as will most Kiwisaver Schemes and our banks. Collectively, New Zealand public institutions and New Zealanders probably own shares to the equivalent of the value of Cadbury Dunedin. So why are we letting Mondelez directors call the shots? How about demanding some concessions?
If Mondelez insists on leaving Dunedin and wants to take the Cadbury brand with it, let it have the brand. But demand that it donates the site to the city and leaves the plant behind. It’s only fair. It’s worth nothing to Mondelez, and over $2 million of the plant already rightfully belongs to New Zealanders. Cadbury was granted $2 million to upgrade its Dunedin plant in 2007 and has received rates relief and substantial grants for its chocolate festival promotional exercise from the Dunedin City Council for many years.
Workers, who want to, can use the plant to carry on making different chocolate products under their own brand and using their own recipes. It is the workers who have the expertise. It is the workers who know how to make chocolate. The directors only know how to buy and sell companies. Even if Mondelez goes, Dunedin will still have the most important ingredient – the workers. Let’s get them what they need to keep doing what they do best.