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The transfer of government-owned or government-run companies to the private sector, usually by selling them.
Copyright © 2012, Campbell R. Harvey. All Rights Reserved.


The conversion of a public enterprise to a private enterprise. For example, a government-owned railroad or airline may undergo privatization if ownership shares of the enterprise are sold to individual and institutional investors.
Wall Street Words: An A to Z Guide to Investment Terms for Today's Investor by David L. Scott. Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.


Privatization is the conversion of a government-run enterprise to one that is privately owned and operated. The conversion is made by selling shares to individual or institutional investors.

The theory behind privatization is that privately run enterprises, such as utility companies, airlines, and telecommunications systems, are more efficient and provide better service than government-run companies.

But in many cases, privatization is a way for the government to raise cash and to reduce its role as service provider.

Dictionary of Financial Terms. Copyright © 2008 Lightbulb Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson


the denationalization of an industry, transferring it from public to private ownership. The extent of state ownership of industry depends very much on political ideology, with CENTRALLY PLANNED ECONOMY proponents seeking more NATIONALIZATION, and PRIVATE-ENTERPRISE ECONOMY advocates favouring little or no nationalization. Thus, in the UK, the wide-ranging programme of privatization embarked upon by the Conservative government in the 1980s can be interpreted partly as a political preference for the private-enterprise system.

Advocates of privatization, however, also espouse the economic virtues of free enterprise over state control. Specifically they argue that firms that are left to fend for themselves in a competitive market environment are likely to allocate resources more efficiently and to meet changing consumers’ demands more effectively than a bureaucratic state monopolist (see PRICE SYSTEM).

In this regard, it is pertinent to distinguish between industries that can be considered NATURAL MONOPOLIES and those where, in theory, a more fragmented industrial structure could be recreated. In the former category come those industries, such as gas and electricity distribution, railway and telephone services, where ECONOMIES OF SCALE are so great that only a monopoly supplier is in a position to fully maximize supply efficiency. There could be a serious loss of efficiency through unnecessary duplication of resources if these activities were to be fragmented. The alternative of a private-enterprise MONOPOLY is not appealing either, critics argue, because of the dangers of monopolistic abuse.

In the latter category come industries, such as iron and steel, gas and electricity generation, shipbuilding and car manufacture, where, because production usually takes place on a multiplant basis, the scope exists for placing each plant under a different ownership interest, thereby creating a more competitive supply situation. However, because these activities are capital-intensive and, like natural monopolies, are characterized by significant economies of scale, the most that can be hoped for is the creation of a high seller concentration OLIGOPOLY. By contrast, the removal from the public sector of those individual firms (as distinct from whole industries) that were nationalized because they were making losses and needing reorganizing (for example, Ferranti, Inter nation-al Computers, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, British Leyland, British Shipbuilders) can be more easily justified.

The main problem with privatization is the extent to which competition can in fact be introduced into sectors hitherto confined to state monopolies, either by breaking up an existing state corporation into a number of separate private companies (as for electricity) or by encouraging new entry (as in gas and telecommunications). Because of this, it has been necessary in most cases to establish a regulatory authority (Ofgas and Oftel respectively for gas and telecommunications), backed up by the possibility of a reference to the COMPETITION COMMISSION, to control the industry. See DEREGULATION, INDUSTRIAL POLICY.

Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
These formalities were not fulfilled, because of which the building could not be privatised.
In the case of CAA it was noted that the Authority performed a regulatory function and could not be privatised.
It is clear that Gordon Brown is hell bent on seeing the Metro network privatised, which would I am sure be a disaster for the Metro users in the region.
Cardiff Bus is publicly-owned because the city council took over a dilapidated privatised service over 100 years ago and invested in it as a service to the people of the city.
"I see nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn't get to the point where everything is privatised and we all start having to pay.
The licences for all INTELSAT's current and planned satellites operating in the C- and Ku-bands will be held by a US-based company called Intelsat Llc once INTELSAT is privatised. Intelsat Llc will be wholly owned by Bermuda-based Intelsat Ltd.
Mr Duckworth, Mr Kinski and many others in the privatised utility boardrooms of Britain, are merely following the example of Mr Ellis and many other entrepreneurs in awarding themselves big pay increases.
But since the industry was split up six years ago into three privatised companies - National Power, Powergen and National Grid - the number of directors has soared to 38 with a combined pay of pounds 6,082,000.
More than 8000 state-owned enterprises have been privatised in over 80 countries during the past 12 years.
Mr Joseph also said PEEPA was developing a privatisation strategy to be concluded by May 2019, adding that the strategy would provide various options on how the organisation could be privatised and recommend the optimal one.
He further said that only air transport business of PIA will be privatised. The non-core business of PIA will be put into another company along with the liabilities.
Leave voters believed they were voting for an extra PS350m a week for the NHS and to cut immigration, when non-EU immigration exceeds that from the EU and our privatised border controls are totally inadequate to prevent illegal immigration.