A Dutch Multinationals' Miracle in Post-war Germany



At the end of the 1960s a statistical survey run by the Bundesbank, revealed that the Netherlands was the second largest foreign direct investor in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Only the American multinationals, which had become the world’s most important foreign direct investors after the war, had invested more in the FRG at that time. However, Dutch multinational investments in Germany had a long history and developed largely before the Second World War, often against the odds. At the end of the 1930s Dutch investments had been even larger than the investments of all American multinationals in Germany combined. Directly after the war all Dutch assets were put under Allied control, however despite this the big Dutch multinationals - Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell, Philips, and AKU – were able to regain control over their investments at the end of the 1940s. From this point onwards they continued to further expand their interests in the neighbouring country. This paper addresses the question of how and why the major Dutch multinationals were able to regain their property, and then grow so luxuriantly in the FRG. It shows that historical continuities and path dependence played a key role in this, alongside favourable market conditions after the war. The outcome, however, was uncertain and depended partly on extensive lobby activities.
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The Business History Seminar has been made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) and the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Cummunication.
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Marten Boon