Crisis Management Strategies after World War I
The Case of the Budapest Flour Mills*
The history of the big Budapest flour mills reached its finale in the second half of the 1920s. By then, it had been clear to all players that the Hungarian flour mill industry could not return to the prosperity of the nineteenth century and indeed had become one of the many crisis branches of the Trianon economy. The grave problems of the branch were not without antecedents. The big mills in Hungary had begun to lose ground in the global market in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Their declining competitiveness manifested itself in reduced exports, drops in price, and increasing domestic rivalry. The big Hungarian commercial mills sought solutions to overcome their problems that were similar to the solutions adopted by other foreign companies at the time. They strove to cut production costs and increase profits by establishing economies of scale and scope with horizontal and vertical integrations. Companies used basically two means to limit competition between firms: they organized cartels or they merged with their rivals to control their economic environment. In this article, I analyze how these crisis management practices were applied to meet corporate needs in the interwar period. I investigate these questions mainly as a case study of the biggest Hungarian flour milling company, the Első Budapesti Gőzmalom Rt. (First Budapest Steam Mill Co. later: FBSM), based on its archival documents and articles that were printed in the contemporary economic press.