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[经济学人] [2009.1.24]The ties that bind 家财万贯

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发表于 2010-4-29 03:38 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
The Wallenbergs
瓦伦堡家族


The ties that bind
家财万贯


Jan 22nd 2009 | STOCKHOLM
From The Economist print edition


Sweden’s business dynasty is weathering the financial crisis pretty well. Does this demonstrate the superiority of old-fashioned family capitalism?
瑞典的商业王朝正平安地渡过金融危机,这是否说明老式的家族资本主义更具优越性呢?

THE day his family almost lost its bank is still fresh in the mind of Jacob Wallenberg, one of the fifth generation of a dynasty that controls almost a third of the value of companies on the Swedish stockmarket. It was in 1993, in the depths of Sweden’s banking crisis, and accountants were totting up the results for Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), upon which the Wallenbergs’ business empire had been built a century and a half earlier. The bank’s capital ratio was being steadily depleted by a torrent of bad debts. If it fell below 8%, the bank would probably be nationalised. When the final tally came, the figure was 8.04%. “There was a deep sigh of relief,” Mr Wallenberg recounts.
在雅各布•瓦伦堡的记忆里,他的家族差点失去所拥有银行的那一天仍历历在目。瓦伦堡家族掌控了瑞典股市近三分之一份额的公司,而他已是这个王朝中的第五代了。1993年,随着瑞典银行危机的深入,会计师正在清算瑞典北欧斯安银行(SEB)的资产,瓦伦堡家族的商业帝国就是在一百五十多年前从这家银行开始一步步创立的。由于一系列的坏账,银行的资本金充足率一步步减少。如果它下降到8%以下,银行可能被收为国有。当最后的结果出来时,数值为8.04%,瓦伦堡先生说:“那真是大大的松了一口气。”

That crisis taught Mr Wallenberg, who is now chairman of Investor, the family’s main investment-holding company, two lessons. The first was that cosy links between companies are all fine and good, but when it comes to the crunch, cash is king. “Relationships are great, but cashflow is even better,” he says. The second lesson was to remember that “sometimes life can turn sour”, and to be prudent. Almost two decades later, with rich economies around the world deep in a slump that closely echoes the one Sweden went through, the Wallenbergs are still well served by their hard-learned lessons. Neither of the family’s main companies, SEB or Investor, is completely unscathed. Yet they seem to be weathering the crisis better than most.
那次危机给了瓦伦堡先生两个教训,他是家族主要投资公司Investor的现任主席。第一点是公司间的适当联络是很好,但是当困难时期来临时,现金为王。他说:“关系是很重要,但现金流更重要。”第二点是记住“人生总有不如意时”,因此要居安思危。几乎二十年后,当全球经济陷入衰退瑞典经济也深受影响之时,瓦伦堡家族仍严格遵着他们来自不易的教训。无论是SBE还是Investor,没有一家瓦伦堡家族的主要公司受到伤害。他们看起来比绝大多数公司都能更好安度这次危机。

Although SEB holds some worrying loans, the overall quality of its book is enviable. A ranking by Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, an investment bank, puts its proportion of bad debts at 0.8%, among the lowest in Europe, and about a third of the average of its peers. For its part Investor, which released its annual results on January 20th, said the value of its underlying investments had fallen by about a quarter in 2008. In most years that would be a disaster. Yet when set against a 40% slump in the Swedish stockmarket (and falls of 30% or more in most big markets), it looks quite good. It looks even better when contrasted with private-equity firms’ performance.
虽然SEB持有一些令人担忧的借款,但是银行账本的总质量还是令人羡慕的。根据Keefe, Bruyette & Woods投资银行的评级,它的坏账率为0.8%,只有同行的三分之一左右,在欧洲是最低的。其中Investor在1月20日发布了年报,在2008年公司的投资总值减少了四分之一左右。这在大多数年头中算是一个灾难,然而相对于瑞典股市暴跌40%(大多数市场下降30%以上),这个结果还算不错了。相对于私有企业表现来说,它更出色。

The main reason for Investor’s resilience is that it entered the downturn flush with cash, giving it the means to support struggling subsidiaries and buy distressed assets at knock-down prices. Much of the money was raised by selling assets when markets were near their peaks. Early last year it sold its stakes in Scania, a truckmaker, and OMX, a Nordic exchange operator. Investor’s prudence may be a comfort to its shareholders today, yet for some time it was a source of great aggravation. Many criticised it for being slow to do deals in the buy-out boom and for sitting on too much cash. In this regard it was not alone.
Investor能快速恢复的最重要原因是在经济低迷时期它有充足的现金可以支撑陷入困境的子公司,以最低限价购得不良资产。许多资金是当时市场接近顶峰时出售资产所得。去年早些时候,它出售了卡车制造商Scania公司和北欧交换机OMX公司的股份。Investor的远见今天对它的股东来说可能是个安慰,但有时却是麻烦的来源。很多批评针对它在经济繁荣时期过于保守,坐拥过多现金。在这点上它不是孤立的。

What made Investor exceptional, however, was not that its managers were necessarily more prescient than others (though Investor’s chief executive, Börje Ekholm, gave warning well before the crash that debt was too cheap and assets too pricey). The chief reason was that it could resist pressure from outside investors, because it is almost impossible to take over. A dual-shareholding structure gives the Wallenberg family and their charitable foundations more votes per share than other shareholders, and allows them to maintain control of Investor even though they own only about a quarter of its shares.
然而造成Investor如此杰出的原因不是它的管理层比其他公司的更有先见之明(尽管Investor首席执行官Börje Ekholm在大崩盘前曾警告说债务过于廉价而资产过于昂贵)。最主要的原因是公司几乎不可能被收购,因此管理层能够抵御外部投资者的压力。双重股权制给了瓦伦堡家族和他们的慈善基金会比其他股东更多的投票份额,即使他们在仅拥有四分之一股权的情况下仍可掌控Investor。

Admirers of family-controlled companies say Investor demonstrates two of their big advantages: they are able to take longer-term decisions without worrying about being taken over or meeting short-term profit targets, and the interests of managers and shareholders are well aligned. Among the boosters of such companies is Credit Suisse, an investment bank, which in early 2007 launched an index of publicly listed family firms, saying they have proved to be more profitable than their widely held peers (those in which no single shareholder owns more than a 10% stake). But enthusiasm for family-controlled firms should be tempered with caution, for their record is not unambiguously positive—and because Investor is an unusual example of the breed.
家族企业的赞誉者说Investor证明了它们有两大优势:它们不用担心被收购或面对短期利润目标,从而能够制定长期的规划,管理层的利益和股东的利益得到有效的统一。家族企业的推崇者之一投资银行瑞士信贷公司在2007年早些时候曾经推出一个公众家族企业指数,它指出这些公司能够比那些被广泛持股(没有一个股东持股大于10%)的其他公司更有优势。但是家族企业的创业热忱会因谨慎而削弱,它们没有明显积极进取的历史记录,然而Investor是其中少有的例外。

It is true that family-controlled companies that are run by their founders usually generate higher returns than widely held ones. An influential study by researchers at Harvard and Wharton business schools found just that in 2004. But it also found that once management control passes to the second generation, they generally perform worse. This trend is exacerbated when dual-stock structures or other convoluted methods are used to maintain control. In the long run, being shielded from takeover breeds inefficiency.
确实,家族企业在创始人的领导下通常都能产生比广泛持股企业高的利润回报。2004年哈佛大学和沃顿商学院研究人员进行的一项有影响的调查证实了这一观点。但是同时也发现一旦领导权过渡到第二代,它们的表现通常更差了。这种情况在双重股权制或其他复杂控股形式下就更加明显。从长期来看,免于被收购造成了低效。

That Investor has survived beyond its third generation, while still generating good returns, makes it all the more unusual. One reason may be that its shareholding is extraordinary, too. In 1917 Knut Wallenberg set up the first, and biggest, of the charitable foundations that have become repositories for most of the family’s wealth. Jacob and his cousin Marcus, today’s generation, wield enormous influence, but their prosperity is largely of their own making. In that sense they are founders or employees, not just descendants. In line with family tradition, most of their assets will probably go into foundations too, leaving the next generation to start afresh and avoiding the infighting that can arise in business dynasties (see article).
Investor已经经历到第三代仍然创造着很好的回报,这就很不寻常了。其中的一个原因可能是它特别的股权制。1917年,凯勒•瓦伦堡创立了第一个也是最大的一个慈善基金会,后者成为家族的主要财富库源。雅各布和现在的领导人他的堂弟马库斯都对其有巨大的贡献,公司的兴旺很大程度上是他们亲自创造的。从这点上看,他们更像是创始人或是雇员,而不是单纯的继承者。按照家族的传统,他们的资产也可能会归入基金会,让下一代重新开始,避免了商业王朝中的内斗。

The influence of the professionally run charitable foundations may also be a deciding factor in making Investor unique, for the foundations are ultimately the biggest winners or losers from the decisions of Investor’s managers. As such they exercise closer oversight of the company than they might if it were either widely held or simply run by family members for their own benefit. Moreover, the charitable foundations, like university endowments, plan to be around for ever, and take a long-term view that gives managers more leeway. The danger is that more leeway may mean more rope. After all, it was not long ago that even the house of Wallenberg came perilously close to losing its bank.
慈善基金会的专业运作可能也是造成Investor与众不同的一个决定性因素,因为Investor管理层的决定最终影响其成为最大的赢家或是输家。实际上无论广泛持股或是单纯的由家族成员掌控他们的利益,他们都会尽可能去关注公司运作有无疏漏。而且,象大学捐款这样的慈善基金会永远想着力争上游,有长远的眼光给经理人更多的灵活性。但危险是更多的灵活性意味着更多的诀窍。毕竟瓦伦堡殿堂差一点失去它的银行还是不久以前的事情。
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