Britain's Socialist Sell-Off

Unloading state-owned dinosaurs is proving hard to do

Bumbling inefficiency and weak management have long characterized British industry. The reason, charged Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher while running for office, was that nearly 40 years of state ownership had sapped the initiative of many of Britain's largest and best-known companies. So within months after coming to power in 1979, Thatcher and her Conservative Party took steps to sell the assets of numerous firms to private investors. About half of Britoil (1983 pretax profits: $762 million) is now in private hands, as is all of the...

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