The word "European champion" will likely be the new buzzword of corporate executives and politicians in the EU, as the number of inter-EU mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals in 2017 climbed to its highest since 2008.
While the concept will surely touch some free-competition nerves, it might actually be the EU's best defence against the wave of foreign acquisitions, especially those from China.
Ever since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived – an idea that came to life following the creation of the single market but lost its momentum as a result of the economic crisis and misplaced priorities.
Now, the concept has regained its appeal.
The reasons behind this recent revival are manifold, but the arrival of China on the scene hastens the process.
With its ambitious agendas of Made in China 2025 and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese corporations are more cautiously received by some European countries as they engage in a massive scale of M&A in Europe, often targeting sectors considered strategic and consequently raising concerns about technology transfer.