chapter  2
14 Pages

Municipalisation, War, Tax and Nationalisation

Imperial Continental Gas Association in an Era of Turmoil, 1824–1987
ByRyo Izawa

This study followed the brief history of a British multinational utility enterprise, Imperial Continental Gas Association (ICGA). The company passed through successive waves of technological and political shocks throughout its life. Political uncertainties, such as municipalisation, wars, international taxation and nationalisation, had a critical impact on its corporate decisions. Some political events seen in the Netherlands (Rotterdam, 1887; Amsterdam, 1898), Austria (Vienna, 1899), Germany (Berlin and Hanover, 1916), France (1946) and the UK (1948—1949) directly forced the company to divest its works. The fear of municipalisation, nationalisation and/or international double taxation prompted the company to reorganise its corporate structure whereby ICGA gradually shifted from a company with over-centralism to a pure holding company with decentralism during the first half of the 20th century. Arguably, the political capabilities of ICGA nurtured by these experiences contributed to the survival of its Belgian business. The system in Belgium prevented not only (wholly) municipalisation or nationalisation, but also serious tax burdens. Thanks to its reliable stronghold in Belgium, ICGA could succeed in investing in oil and gas business in the 1960s and 1970s. In addition, the company took over all the shares of the Calor Gas Group in 1969, which was also one of the largest LPG suppliers in the UK. In 1984, ICGA was selected as an original member of the FTSE 100 Index. Then, ICGA brought down the curtain in 1987 by splitting itself into a Belgian energy company (Contibel Holdings) and a British LPG supplier (Calor Group). Eventually, the political capabilities nurtured by these experiences contributed to the survival of ICGA for 164 years.