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The ruling Busch family ultimately faced up to the fact that the U.S. is for sale, and foreigners are buying. It's everything from the St.-Tropez crowd buying up condos in Palm Beach, Fla., to Asian and Middle Eastern governments sinking billions into U.S. banks to Europeans taking over U.S. pharmaceutical and infrastructure companies. Even tourists are busy using their euros and pounds to snap up iPhones, jeans, shoes and everything else they can stuff into the empty suitcases they carry along for just that purpose, damn them.
Since 2003, foreign-led mergers and acquisitions have increased more than sixfold. Last year there were over 2,000 foreign-led acquisitions of U.S. companies in deals worth some $405.4 billion, twice the value of deals in 2006 and up from $60.8 billion in 2003, according to Thomson Reuters, the financial-information company.
Investors from Dubai are behind the June purchase of the General Motors Building in New York City for $2.8 billion. The Abu Dhabi Investment Council's sovereign wealth fund bought a 90% stake in the landmark Chrysler Building. General Electric's plastics division is gone, and its famed appliance unit could soon be in the hands of China's Haier or South Korea's LG. Chrysler is hoping to hook up with India's Tata Motors or Italy's Fiat. Switzerland's Roche Holding is offering about $44 billion to acquire the 44% of the biotechnology outfit Genentech that it doesn't own.
European infrastructure firms calculate that the U.S. needs a massive infusion of capital to modernize its roads, bridges and power lines, highlighted by a recent spate of blackouts and the tragic collapse of a Minneapolis highway bridge last year. Steve Lucas, cfo of British power utility National Grid, says estimates are that the U.S. will spend $2 trillion in the next two decades upgrading electricity and gas infrastructure. "That's bigger than China."