When did the term “multinational corporation” become redundant? In the 1960s, the multinational corporation vied with Communist dictatorships as the arch-villain du jour in movies, fiction, and even the nightly news (think of Goldfinger and James Bond, or ITT and Chiquita banana). The multinational corporation was regarded as the antithesis of the honest business, wielding massive, mysterious, and sinister powers that threatened governments and individual liberties.
That perception now seems almost quaint. Concerns about globalization per se have not diminished — fears, in fact, are rising, at least as evidenced by the nationalistic spirit that is pervasive in Europe (see View from Europe) and the furor over illegal immigration in the United States (CFO’s March feature on the use of immigrant workers, “Help Wanted,” continues to generate heated mail, some of it unprintable). But even as those controversies rage, cross-border transactions and operations are now routine even for very small companies, and it’s a rare start-up that doesn’t address global markets in the first draft of its business plan.
This was brought home to me in a review of this month’s issue. We always strive to offer readers stories on a wide range of topics, and this month is no exception. We have a cover story on the benefits of forging alliances with a prospective merger partner (“Try Before You Buy“), a feature on the rise of third-party consultants to answer the questions companies used to ask their auditors (“Party of Three“), and a Deals column on mergers between stock exchanges (“Super-Market Shopping“).
Embedded in all of these stories — not as a subject but as an assumption — is the complex issue of cross-border relationships. Even 10 years ago, this would not have been the case. Global business ranked low on the list of CFO readers’ priorities. No more. These days, every company is a multinational corporation, most for reasons of survival rather than world domination.