Tipologia: Paragrafo/Articolo – Data pubblicazione: 30/03/1935
«The Economist», 30 marzo 1935, pp. 720-721
IMPORT REGULATIONS AND BARTER: Parliament is out of fashion in Italy; but political discussion is taking place, nevertheless, in committees and corporations. An instance of the effect of these discussion is the gradual relaxation of import regulations. The newspapers have just published a circular letter from the President of the Institute for Foreign Trade, of which the gist is that importers can import goods in excess of the basic quantities if they can connect the imports in question with some export transactions. It is provided that: (1) Imports and export may be connected in triangular fashion between different countries; and (2) that the importer may get into touch with exporters so as to offset the different operations. The creation of intermediary or special (corporative) bodies to this end is encouraged. Once upon a time money used to be such an intermediary. But until it becomes so once again we must rejoice that efforts are being made in earnest to rebuild foreign trade even on the barter system. The outflow of gold from the Bank of Italy has again been checked; and in the last ten days of February there was a slight inflow. As from March 5th, Banca Commerciale Italiana, Credito Italiano, Banco di Roma and Credito Marittimo shares will be no longer listed on the Italian stock exchanges. Prices already had become largely nominal. At the Milan Bourse, only 2,375 Comit’s shares, 9,473 Credit and 550 Bancoroma were sold in 1934, and the shares of the Credito Marittimo were not even mentioned. The disappearance of these shares from the list is the final outcome of the precess by which all frozen assets of the banks have been transferred to the I.R.I. (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction). This has restored the banks to complete liquidity. As in past years, the banks had endeavoured to insure themselves against raids by big industrial customers, and so had largely pooled their shares in special financial companies, financed and controlled by the same banks. It happened that among other frozen assets the majority of the banks’ shares were also transferred to the I.R.I. The big-four banks became thus the property of the I.R.I., and as the I.R.I. is a public body, practically financed by State institutes (Loans and Deposits Institute, Social Insurance Institutes), the four banks are now de facto public or State institutes. There is a minority of private shareholders, though a diminishing minority, who could until March 5th sell their interests at a quasi fixed price.
I.R.I. TO RESELL ITS INDUSTRIAL SHARES? Clearly, the I.R.I. became tired of buying all the shares which came on the market, and listing was accordingly terminated. The question now being asked, however, is: what is the use of the State keeping four separate organisations all its own property? Following on the heels of the announcement of the exclusion of these shares from the list, there came another announcement, not less displeasing to the few remaining private shareholders, namely, that no dividend would be distributed by the four banks for 1934, and that all profits would be put to reserve. This was taken as a presage of reorganisation and fusion, and pessimists wondered if such large and highly developed organisations could ever again be able to earn receipts proportionate to their capital. Time will show. The best course appears to be to let the banks live. Apart from their mistakes in the inflation period, they have excellent traditions; they are now liquid; and they can utilise some of the best organising brains in Italy. But traditions and brains can thrive only in competition.
Rumours are current in financial circles that the policy poursed by the I.R.I. is the gradual sale of all its miscellaneous portfolio of industrial shares to powerful private interests. The sale of Italian Gas Company to the Frassati group has been followed by other sales of electric shares to the powerful Edison and Pirelli interests. In a year this process of transfer from public to private ownership will perhaps be complete. The big four banks may then again become private concerns.
Another problem new being discussed in the banking world is this: will banks be allowed to continue to be of the mixed type usual in Italy, or should a strict division of labour be enforced? In the outside banking circles the opinion seems to be growing that every bank ought to be restricted to a given region, to a given industrial section, and mainly to a given set of current short-term commercial operation or long-term financing. The bulk of expert banking opinion, however, is distrustful of such hard and fast maxims. To bankers the question is exclusively a matter of practical prudence. Some banks have had to be salvaged as a result of unwise long-term investments; but nobody thinks that a bank can prosper without a convenient and prudent mixture of short-term, medium-term and long-term operations.