Although this term was once reserved for members of the Stock Exchange who, not being able to meet their debts, were due to be hammered, it has recently been accorded a much wider use in the industrial sphere. The term ‘lame duck company’ or just ‘lame duck’ is now commonly applied to companies which can only be kept from complete ruin by being propped up by public funds. The State has interfered more than once in recent years to save public companies from the natural consequences of their inabihty to compete successfully with foreign manufacturers in both home and export markets. This may have been caused by bad planning, itself due to State interference, by overmanning due to trade union intransigence or merely by bad management. Whatever the cause of the impending collapse, it may be decided that rather than lose an industry which is considered vital to the country’s image and/ or create, or increase, considerable unemployment, it is in the public interest to prop up the company out of the taxpayers’ money. Unfortunately, the matter is too often concerned with politics rather than with good economics and the real ‘lame ducks’ are often hidden under the cloak of nationalized industries, to which normal standards of efficiency cannot be applied.
Reference: The Penguin Business Dictionary , 3rd edt.