American Brands Go Foreign

All-American? Not anymore

Chinese, Japanese and European companies have a growing appetite — and the fat wallets — to buy American companies and their familiar brands.

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In 2014, a Chinese company bought Motorola’s cellphone business for $2.9 billion. The Beijing-based company, Lenovo, also bought IBM’s desktop-computer business in 2008, and is now the world’s third-largest cellphone maker.

Chinese meat producer Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. purchased Smithfield Foods for $7.1 billion, making Chinese shareholders the biggest owners of pork farms in America. The late-2013 purchase means that American-made brands — such as Cook’s, Smithfield, Eckrich, Farmland, Healthy Ones, Armour, Curly’s, John Morrell, Kretschmar, Carando, Margherita and Gwaltney — are now Chinese-owned brands.

Ben & Jerry’s flavors are now owned by a Dutch company.

Other Chinese companies bought the huge AMC theater chain in 2012 for $2.6 billion and New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2015 for $2 billion.

Ben & Jerry’s flavors are now owned by a Dutch company. Budweiser was acquired by a Belgian and Brazilian partnership in 2008 for $52 billion, and H.J. Heinz Co. was bought for $23 billion by a Brazilian company in 2013.

Lucky Strike was bought by British American Tobacco in 1994. Citgo is owned by the nationalized oil company of Venezuela, Burger King is owned by a Brazilian company, and the 7-11 stores are now owned by Seven & I Holdings of Tokyo, Japan.

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Many other brand names — Popsicle, Frigidaire, Purina, Good Humor and Vaseline, for example — are also owned by foreign companies.

Foreign companies are buying pieces of America because the nation’s huge trade deficit is leaving piles of U.S. cash in foreign banks.

Americans are buying more cars, electronics, food and other products from overseas, so the dollars add up there until they’re used to buy Americans’ products and property — houses in California, brands in Chicago, run-down lots in Detroit, office buildings in New York, farms in the Midwest and factories in the South.

The Chinese and Japanese also are buying U.S. debt, which must be repaid by future American taxpayers.

The National Association of Realtors says foreigners bought roughly $45 billion of U.S. real estate in 2014. The largest share went to Chinese buyers who snatched up $22 billion of U.S. real estate.

The Chinese and Japanese also are buying U.S. debt, which must be repaid by future American taxpayers. By February, Chinese and Japanese held a combined $2.448 trillion in U.S. debt. All foreign government together hold nearly half of the debt of the United States.

A huge influx of foreign investment to the United States can boost the American economy in the short term, much to the benefit of the current shareholders and politicians.

But the influx also means future profits flow to investors overseas, not to American families and retirees.

Contemplate that the next time you pop open a cold European Bud and chow down on some tasty Chinese bacon with Brazilian ketchup.

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