Leading article: A sad loss of Autonomy

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A US company, HP, snapping up Autonomy is a challenge for proponents of the free market. To cavil about the takeover would contradict all the arguments about level playing fields. But Autonomy is one of only two FTSE 100 IT companies and it is a sting to see it go.

Even for the most assiduous free marketeers, there are downsides to foreign takeovers. Sometimes they materialise almost immediately – such as Kraft's closure of a Cadbury's factory within weeks of promising to save it. Sometimes they take decades, as the shift from standalone entity to far-flung subsidiary plays out.

But such concerns would mean nothing if there were more Autonomys coming up behind. With a vibrant homegrown industry – entrepreneurs in their thousands beavering away in garages and standing a real chance of creating the next Google – then Autonomy could go with the merest twinge of regret. Sadly, Britain has no such thing. There is no replacement for Autonomy. And it is no hypocrisy to mourn its loss.

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