1998 was undoubtedly the year of the merger. More companies than ever before joined together in deals that totaled $2.25 trillion and created the world’s biggest oil company. Faced with plummeting oil prices,oil giants Exxon and Mobil sought to achieve economies of scale through a $250bn merger
there are several factors behind increase in mergers and acquisitions. Firstly, the accelerated rate of globalization has left companies desperately seeking overseas acquisitions in order to remain competitive. Deutsche Bank bought its way into the US with its takeover of the Bankers Trust,whilst Siemens hopes that its acquisition of Matra,the French defense group,will allow it to gain access to France’s railway business,which is dominated by Alstom,the Anglo-French consortium.
Another factor behind the increase in merger activity is the record performance of the stock markets,which has enabled companies to finance major acquisitions on the strength of their inflated share prices. Earlier this year Vodafone,the UK mobile telephone operator,acquired its US counterpart AirTorch by by making Airtorch shareholders a cash and stock swap offer worth a total $62bn. The deal created Vodafone AirTorch,the world’s largest mobile telecoms group with over 29m customers.the European banking sector is also seeing a trend towards consolidation,a process accelerated by deregulation, over-capacity and the arrival of the single European currency.
New technology is also making it easier for companies to diversify as different industries come to rely on common technologies. Microsoft, for instance, is busily diversified into cable and telecommunications as well as WebTV. The US software giant has a $5bn equity stake in AT&T, which recently bought Media One for $57bn. Under the deal, Microsoft will succeed in introducing its recently-launched cable television software into millions of homes in the US and UK.
Not all mergers,however,are the result of global economy trends,polical chage or technological innovation. BMW’s takeover of the Rover Group injected much needed investment into the struggling UK car manufacturer whilst extending BMW’s product range. and when the UK pharmaceutical firm Zeneca merged with Swedish drug company Astra,the new companies started with strong R&D capabilities,further by the world’s best selling drug Losec in its portfolio of products.
Despite of these potential benefits and their promise of competitive advantage,mergers and acquisitions are not risk-free ventures.
Such alliances are more than just financial agreements;they also involve the coming together of different corporate and, in many cases,national cultures. This can have a destabilising effect on a workforce and may mean projected efficiencies are not delivered. Daimler and Chrysler, for example, face the challenge of integrating two very different corporate and national cultures.
A further destabilising effect is the prospect of redundancies as companies look to reduce their payroll by restructuring duplicated functions such as marketing and administration. Although shareholders are lured by such short-term savings,there is little evidence to show that mergers and acquisitions actually add long-term value to company performance.