Pearson - Always learning

All your resources for Economics

RSS icon Subscribe | Text size

Posts Tagged ‘business strategy’

Up in the cloud

Cloud computing is growing rapidly and has started to dominate many parts of the IT market. Cloud revenues are rising at around 25% per year and, according to Jeremy Duke of Synergy Research Group:

“Major barriers to cloud adoption are now almost a thing of the past, especially on the public-cloud side. Cloud technologies are now generating massive revenues for technology vendors and cloud service providers, and yet there are still many years of strong growth ahead.”

The market leader in cloud services (as opposed to cloud hardware) is Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon. At the end of 2016, it had a market share of around 40%, larger than the next three competitors (Microsoft, Google and IBM), combined. AWS originated cloud computing some 10 years ago. It is set to have generated revenue of $13 billion in 2016.

The cloud computing services market is an oligopoly, with a significant market leader, AWS. But is the competition from other players in the market, including IT giants, such as Google, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, enough to guarantee that the market stays competitive and that prices will fall as technology improves and costs fall?

Certainly all the major players are investing heavily in new services, better infrastructure and marketing. And they are already established suppliers in other sectors of the IT market. Microsoft and Google, in particular, are strong contenders to AWS. Nevertheless, as the first article states:

Neither Google nor Microsoft have an easy task since AWS will continue to be an innovation machine with a widely recognized brand among the all-important developer community. Both Amazon’s major competitors have an opportunity to solidify themselves as strong alternatives in what is turning into a public cloud oligopoly.

Articles
While Amazon dominates cloud infrastructure, an oligopoly is emerging. Which will buyers bet on? diginomica, Kurt Marko (16/2/17)
Study: AWS has 45% share of public cloud infrastructure market — more than Microsoft, Google, IBM combined GeekWire, Dan Richman (31/10/16)
Cloud computing revenues jumped 25% in 2016, with strong growth ahead, researcher says GeekWire, Dan Richman (4/1/17)

Data
Press releases Synergy Research Group

Questions

  1. Distinguish the different segments of the cloud computing market.
  2. What competitive advantages does AWS have over its major rivals?
  3. What specific advantages does Microsoft have in the cloud computing market?
  4. Is the amount of competition in the cloud computing market enough to prevent the firms from charging excessive prices to their customers? How might you assess what is ‘excessive’?
  5. What barriers to entry are there in the cloud computing market? Should they be a worry for competition authorities?
  6. Are the any network economies in cloud computing? What might they be?
  7. Cloud computing is a rapidly developing industry (for example, the relatively recent development of cloud containers). How does the speed of development impact on competition?
  8. How would market saturation affect competition and the behaviour of the major players?
Share in top social networks!

BHS: the end of an era?

According to the BBC’s Joe Lynam, “Britain has the most competitive and dynamic retail environment in the world, which attracts shoppers globally.” It is perhaps this fact which may save BHS, with new owners being attracted by such an opportunity. BHS is soon expected to file for administration, with debts of more than £1.3 billion and having failed to secure the loan needed to keep it afloat. If this company collapses, it will bring an end to the life of an 88 year old giant.

The British retail scene has certainly changed over the past decade, with names such as Woolworths and Comet disappearing – could BHS be the next casualty of the changing retail climate? In the world of retail, tastes change quickly and those stores who fail to change with the times are the ones that suffer. One of the factors behind the downfall of BHS is the ‘dated’ nature of its stores and fashions. As clothing outlets such as Zara, Oasis and Next have continued to change with the times, commentators suggest that BHS continues with a trading offer from the 1980s. With the online shopping trend, many household names adapted their strategy, but BHS failed to do so and the second chance that BHS asked the public for when Sir Philip Green, its former owner, sold BHS in 2015 hasn’t materialised.

With administrators ready to be brought in and thousands of jobs hanging in the balance, the administrators will be looking at methods to attract funding, new owners or so-called ‘cherry pickers’ who may be interested in buying up the more profitable stores. Some of their stores remain in prime locations and deliver a tidy profit and it is perhaps these gems, together with the tradition that British Home Stores brings that may yet see the company saved. The outcome for BHS will not only affect the jobs of its employees, but will affect the pensions of thousands of workers. The BHS pension fund currently has a deficit of £576 million and so the Pension Protection Fund will have to look closely at the situation before thinking about issues a contribution notice to those connected with the fund.

A deal was on the cards last week, with BHS owner Dominic Chappell in talks with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, but the high debts and pensions deficit appears to have deterred this deal. The failing fortunes of BHS have now come back to haunt former owner, Sir Philip Green, who in March 2015, sold the business for just £1. Sir Philip may return to save the day, but the options for this once giant of the British high street are rather limited. The following articles consider the fortunes of BHS.

BHS seeks Sports Direct lifeline as it heads for collapse The Guardian, Graham Ruddick (24/04/16)
BHS expected to file for administration on Monday BBC News (25/04/16)
Thousands of BHS workers face anxious wait amid administration fears The Telegraph (25/04/16)
BHS administration: ‘Imminent bankruptcy’ puts 11,000 jobs at risk Independent, Peter Yeung (25/04/16)
Up to 11,000 jobs face the axe as BHS is expected to announce collapse of chain after efforts to find rescuer failed Mail Online, Neil Craven (24/04/16)
BHS nears collapse putting 11,000 jobs at risk Sky News (25/04/16)
BHS set to file for administration after sales talks fail Financial Times, Murad Ahmed (25/04/16)

Questions

  1. Using a demand and supply diagram, can you explain some of the factors that have contributed to the difficult position that BHS finds itself in?
  2. Now, can you use a diagram showing revenues and profits and explain the current position of BHS?
  3. What type of market structure does BHS operate in? Can this be used to explain why it is in its current position?
  4. How has the company failed in adapting its business strategy to the changing times?
  5. Looking back at the history of BHS, can you apply the product life cycle to this store?
  6. If another company is considering purchasing BHS, or at least some of its stores, what key information will it need and what might make it likely to go ahead with such a purchase?
Share in top social networks!

Supermarket wars: a pricing race to the bottom

In an earlier post, Elizabeth looked at oligopolistic competition between supermarkets. Although supermarkets have been accused of tacit price collusion on many occasions in the past, price competition has been growing. And recent developments show that it is likely to get a lot fiercer as the ‘big four’ try to take on the ‘deep discounters’, Aldi and Lidl.

Part of the reason for the growth in price competition has been a change in shopping behaviour. Rather than doing one big shop per week in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or Morrisons, many consumers are doing smaller shops as they seek to get more for their money. A pattern is emerging for many consumers who are getting their essentials in Aldi or Lidl, their ‘special’ items in more upmarket shops, such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer or small high street shops (such as bakers and ethnic food shops) and getting much fewer products from the big four. Other consumers, on limited incomes, who have seen their real incomes fall as prices have risen faster than wages, are doing virtually all their shopping in the deep discounters. As the Guardian article below states:

A steely focus on price and simplicity, against a backdrop of falling living standards that has sharpened customers’ eye for a bargain, has seen the discounter grab market share from competitors and transform what we expect from our weekly shop.

The result is that the big four are seeing their market share falling, as the chart shows. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.) In the past year, Tesco’s market share has fallen from 29.9% to 28.1%, Asda’s from 17.8% to 16.3%, Sainsbury’s from 16.9% to 16.2% and Morrisons’ from 11.7% to 11.0%. By contrast, Aldi’s has risen from 3.9% to 5.4% and Lidl’s from 3.1% to 4.0%, while Waitrose’s has also risen, from 4.7% to 4.9%. And it’s not just market share that has been falling for the big four. Profits have also fallen, as have share prices. Sales revenues in the four weeks to 13 September are down 1.6% on the same period a year ago; sales volumes are down 1.9%.

But can the big four take on the discounters at their own game? Morrison’s has just announced a form of price match scheme called ‘Match & More’. If a shopper finds that a comparable grocery shop is cheaper in not only Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Asda, but also in Aldi or Lidl, then ‘Match & More users will automatically get the difference back in points on their card. Shoppers also will be able to collect extra points on hundreds of featured products and fuel’. When the difference has risen to a total £5 (5000 points), the shopper will get a £5 voucher at the till. The idea is to encourage customers to stay loyal to Morrisons.

But what if Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s do the same? What will be the impact on their prices and profits. Will there be a race to the bottom in prices, or will they be able to keep prices higher than the deep discounters, hoping that many customers will not cash in their vouchers?

But if effectively the big four felt forced to cut their prices to match Aldi and Lidl, could they afford to do so? This depends on their comparative average costs. At first sight, it might be thought that the big four could succeed in profitably matching the discounters, thereby clawing back market share. After all, they are much bigger and it might be thought that they would benefit from greater economies of scale and hence lower costs.

But it is not as simple as this. The discounters have lower costs than the big four. Their shops are typically in areas where rents or land prices are lower; their shops are smaller; they carry many fewer lines and thus gain economies of scale on each line; they have a much higher proportion of own-brand products; products are displayed in the boxes they come in, thus saving on the staff costs of unpacking them and placing them on shelves; they buy what is cheapest and thus do not always display the same brands.

So is Morrison’s a wise strategy? Will other supermarkets be forced to follow? Is there a prisoners’ dilemma here and, if so, is there any form of collusion in which the big four can engage which is not illegal? Can the big four differentiate themselves from the discounters and the up-market supermarkets in ways that will attract back customers?

It is worrying times for the big four.

Heavy Discounters Up Pressure On The UK’s Big Four Supermarkets Alliance News, Rowena Harris-Doughty (3/6/14)
Tesco loses more market share as supermarket sector slows to record low CITY A.M., Catherine Neilan (23/9/14)
Record low for grocery market growth as inflation disappears Kantar World Panel, Fraser McKevitt (23/9/14)
How Aldi’s price plan shook up Tesco, Morrison’s, Asda and Sainsbury’s The Guardian, Sarah Butler (29/9/14)
Sainsbury’s shares drop 7% on falling sales report BBC News (1/10/14)
Sainsbury results: the reaction Food Manufacture, Mike Stones (3/10/14)
Morrisons Becomes First Of Big Four Grocers To Price Match Aldi, Lidl Alliance News, Rowena Harris-Doughty (2/10/14)
UK: Morrisons Takes On Discounters With Price Match Card KamCity (3/10/14)
Morrisons to match the prices of Aldi and Lidl The Telegraph, Graham Ruddick (2/10/14)
Three reasons why Morrisons price-matching Aldi and Lidl is not a ‘gamechanger’ The Telegraph, Graham Ruddick (2/10/14)

Questions

  1. Would it be possible for the big four to price match the deep discounters?
  2. What is meant by the prisoners’ dilemma? In what ways are the big four in a prisoners’ dilemma situation?
  3. Assume that you had to advise Tesco on it strategy? What advise would you give it and why?
  4. Assume that two firms, M and A, are playing the following ‘game’: firm M pledges to match firm A’s prices; and firm A pledges to sell at 2% below M’s price. What will be the outcome of this game?
  5. Is Morrisons wise to adopt its ‘Match & More’ strategy?
  6. Why is it difficult for Morrisons to make a like-for-like comparison with Aldi and Lidl in its ‘Match & More’ strategy?
  7. Why may Aldi and Lidl benefit from Morrisons’ strategy?
Share in top social networks!

WhatsApp Doc?

Facebook has announced that it’s purchasing the messaging company WhatsApp. It is paying $19 billion in cash and shares, a sum that dwarfs other acquisitions of start-up companies in the app market. But what are the reasons for the acquisition and how will it affect users?

WhatsApp was founded less than five years ago and has seen massive growth and now has some 450 million active users, 70% of whom use it daily. This compares with Twitter’s 240 million users. An average of one million new users are signing up to WhatsApp each day. As the Wall Street Journal article, linked below, states:

Even by the get-big-fast standards of Silicon Valley, WhatsApp’s story is remarkable. The company, founded in 2009 by Ukrainian Jan Koum and American Brian Acton, reached 450 million users faster than any company in history, wrote Jim Goetz, a partner at investor Sequoia Capital.

Facebook had fewer than 150 million users after its fourth year, one third that of WhatsApp in the same time period.

Yet, despite its large user base, WhatsApp has just 55 employees, including 32 engineers.

For the user, WhatsApp offers a cheap service (free for the first year and just a 99¢ annual fee thereafter). There are no charges for sending or receiving text, pictures and videos. It operates on all mobile systems and carries no ads. It also offers privacy – once sent, messages are deleted from the company’s servers and are thus not available to government and other agencies trying to track people.

With 450 million current active users, this means that revenue next year will not be much in excess of $450 million. Thus it would seem that unless Facebook changes WhatsApp’s charging system or allows advertising (which it says it won’t) or sees massive further growth, there must have been reasons other than simple extra revenue for the acquisition.

Other possible reasons are investigated in the videos and articles below. One is to restrict competition which threatens Facebook’s own share of the messaging market: competition that has seen young people move away from Facebook, which they see is becoming more of a social media platform for families and all generations, not just for the young.

Videos and podcasts
Facebook pays billions for WhatsApp Messenger smartphone service Deutsche Welle, Manuel Özcerkes (19/2/14)
Facebook’s WhatsApp buy no bargain Reuters, Peter Thal Larsen (20/2/14)
Facebook Agrees To Buy WhatsApp For $19bn Sky News, Greg Milam (20/2/14)
Facebook Eliminates Competitor With WhatsApp Bloomberg TV, Om Malik, David Kirkpatrick and Paul Kedrosky (20/2/14)
Why WhatsApp Makes Perfect Sense for Facebook Bloomberg TV, Om Malik, David Kirkpatrick and Paul Kedrosky (20/2/14)
Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19bn BBC News, Mike Butcher (20/2/14)
Is Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp a desperate move? CNBC News, Rob Enderle (19/2/14)
Facebook’s $19bn WhatsApp deal ‘unjustifiable’ BBC Today Programme, Larry Magid (20/2/14)

Articles
Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in deal shocker ReutersGerry Shih and Sarah McBride (20/2/14)
Facebook to Pay $19 Billion for WhatsApp Wall Street Journal, Reed Albergotti, Douglas MacMillan and Evelyn M. Rusli (19/2/14)
Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $19bn The Telegraph, Katherine Rushton (19/2/14)
Facebook buys WhatsApp: Mark Zuckerberg explains why The Telegraph (19/2/14)
WhatsApp deal: for Mark Zuckerberg $19bn is cheap to nullify the threat posed by messaging application The Telegraph, Katherine Rushton (20/2/14)
Why did Facebook buy WhatsApp? TechRadar, Matt Swider (20/2/14)
What is WhatsApp? What has Facebook got for $19bn? The Guardian, Alex Hern (20/2/14)
Facebook to buy messaging app WhatsApp for $19bn BBC News (20/2/14)
WhatsApp – is it worth it? BBC News, Rory Cellan-Jones (20/2/14)
Facebook buys WhatsApp: what the analysts say The Telegraph (19/2/14)
Facebook ‘dead and buried’ as teenagers switch to WhatsApp and Snapchat – because they don’t want mum and dad to see their embarrassing pictures Mail Online (27/12/13)
Facebook and WhatsApp: Getting the messages The Economist (22/2/14)

Questions

  1. Are Facebook and WhatsApp substitutes or complements, or neither?
  2. What does Facebook stand to gain from the acquisition of WhatsApp? Is the deal a largely defensive one for Facebook?
  3. Has Facebook paid too much for WhatsApp? What information would help you answer this question?
  4. Would it be a good idea for Facebook to build in the WhatsApp functionality into the main Facebook platform or would it be better to keep the two products separate by keeping WhatsApp as a self contained company?
  5. What effects will the acquisition have on competition in the social media and messaging market? Is this good for the user?
  6. Will the deal attract the attention of Federal competition regulators in the USA? If so, why; if not, why not?
  7. What are the implications for Google and Twitter?
  8. Find out and explain what happened to the Facebook share price after the acquisition was announced.
Share in top social networks!

Conscious capitalism: realism or a dream?

On 5 and 6 April, there was a conference on conscious capitalism in San Francisco. In January, a new book, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia, was published. Many in the business world are enthusiastic about this seemingly new approach to business, which focuses on broader social, environmental and ethical goals, rather than simple profit maximisation.

As the Washington Times review linked to below states:

“Conscious Capitalism” promotes a business culture that embodies “trust, accountability, caring, transparency, integrity, loyalty and egalitarianism.” The management ideal of “Conscious Capitalism” contains four key elements of “decentralization, empowerment, innovation and collaboration.” Above all, this exemplary form of business practice relies on careful attention to four tenets: higher purpose and core values, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership and conscious culture and management.

So how realistic is this vision of caring capitalism? There may be a few inspiring businesspeople, truly committed to improving the interests of the various stakeholders of their business and society more generally, but could it become a model for business in general? And if so, does this require education, monitoring and regulation? Or can a libertarian approach to business generate an environment where conscious and caring capitalists flourish and succeed better than those with a more narrow focus on profit?

The following videos and articles discuss conscious capitalism and the arguments of those, such as John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Food Market, who advocate it.

Webcasts
Conscious capitalism The Economist, John Mackey (15/3/13)
Conscious Capitalism: Heroes of the Business World Conscious capitalism, April in San Francisco (5/4/13)
It’s Not Corporate Social Responsibility Conscious capitalism, John Mackey (Jan 13)

Articles, reviews and information
Conscious Capitalism: Creating a New Paradigm for Business Whole Planet Foundation, John Mackey
Companies that Practice “Conscious Capitalism” Perform 10x Better Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz (4/4/13)
4 Ways to Become a (More) Conscious Capitalist Inc., Francesca Louise Fenzi (8/4/13)
The New Management Paradigm & John Mackey’s Whole Foods Forbes, Steve Denning (5/1/13)
Book Review: ‘Conscious Capitalism’ Washington Times, Anthony j. Sadar (20/3/13)
Book Review: Whole Foods Co-CEO John Mackey’s Conscious Capitalism Huffington Post, Christine Bader (28/1/13)
Chicken Soup for a Davos Soul Wall Street Journal, Alan Murray (16/1/13)
Conscious business Wikipedia

Questions

  1. What are the features of conscious capitalism?
  2. Do firms “get the shareholders they deserve”?
  3. How might firms that are not pursuing conscious capitalism be persuaded to become more conscious and more caring?
  4. How does conscious capitalism differ from corporate social responsibility?
  5. What would you understand by “conscious consumers”? How might their behaviour differ from other consumers?
  6. Why might firms engaging in conscious capitalism become more profitable than firms that have a simple aim of profit maximisation?
  7. What reforms, both internal within a firm and in the legal environment, does John Mackey advocate? Do you agree with his suggestions? What else do you suggest?
Share in top social networks!

A new Penguin House

Two of the biggest publishing companies, Pearson of the UK and Bertelsmann of Germany are to form a joint venture by merging their Penguin and Random House imprints. Bertelsmann will have a majority stake in the venture of 53% and Pearson will have 47%.

The Penguin imprint, with a turnover of just over £1bn, has an 11% share of the English language book publishing market. Random House has a 15% share, with turnover of around £1.5bn. The new ‘Penguin Random House’, as it will be called, will have nearly 26% of the market, which should give it considerable market power to combat various threats in the book publishing market.

One threat is from online retailers, such as Amazon, Apple and Google, which use their countervailing power to drive down the prices they pay to publishers. Another threat is from the rise of electronic versions of books. Although e-books save on printing costs, competition is driving down prices, including the prices of paper books, which may make publishers more reluctant to publish new titles in paper form.

There has been a mixed reception from authors: some are worried that an effective reduction in the number of major publishers from six to five will make it harder to get books published and may squeeze royalty rates; others feel that an increased market power of publishers to take on the online retailers will help to protect the interests of authors

The following videos and articles look at the nature of this joint venture and its implications for costs, revenues and publishing more generally.

Videos and webcasts
Penguin and Random House merge to take on digital giants Channel 4 News, Matthew Cain (29/10/12)
Penguin and Random House confident merger will be approved BBC News, Will Gompertz (29/10/12)
Penguin Books and Random House to merge BBC News, Matt Cowan (29/10/12)

Articles
Random House and Penguin merge to take on Amazon, Apple Reuters, Kate Holton (29/10/12)
Pearson’s Penguin joins Random House Independent, Amy Thomson and Joseph de Weck (29/10/12)
Penguin and Random House sign merger deal Financial Times, Gerrit Wiesmann and Robert Budden (29/10/12)
March of the Penguin The Economist, Schumpeter blog (29/10/12)
Penguin chief: News Corp can’t derail Random House deal The Guardian, Mark Sweney (29/10/12)
Penguin and Random House confident merger will be approved BBC News, Anthony Reuben (29/10/12)
And so I bid Penguin a sad farewell Independent, Andrew Franklin (29/10/12)

Questions

  1. How does a joint venture differ from a merger?
  2. What types of economies of scale are likely to result from the joint venture?
  3. How are authors likely to be affected?
  4. Will the joint venture benefit the book reading public?
  5. The relationship between publishers and online retailers can be described as one of ‘bilateral oligopoly’. Explain what this means and why it is impossible to determine an ‘equilibrium’ wholesale price of books in such a market.
  6. What criteria would the competition authorities use to assess whether or not the joint venture should be permitted to proceed?
  7. What is likely to be the long-term outlook for Penguin Random House?
  8. Assess the benefits and costs of a News Corporation takeover of the Penguin division? This was an alternative offer to Pearson had it not gone with Bertelsmann. (News Corp. has the Harper Collins imprint.)
Share in top social networks!

New Windows open to Nokia

Nokia and Microsoft have announced that they are to form a strategic alliance. This will see Nokia using Windows Phone as the software platform for its smartphones. This follows problems with Nokia’s own Symbian software and the success of Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android software.

Recognising the depth of Nokia’s problems, its new boss, Stephen Elop, sent a memo to staff with apocalyptic warnings. He likened Nokia’s position to one of standing on a burning oil platform about to be engulfed with flames.

So is the alliance with Microsoft the way out of Nokia’s problems? Will it bring problems of its own? The following articles look at the issues.

Nokia to Use Microsoft Software in Smartphones New York Times, Kevin J. O’Brien (11/2/11)
Nokia, Microsoft to Join Forces to Challenge Apple Dominance Bloomberg, Diana ben-Aaron (11/2/11)
Nokia: ELOP’s challenge Bloomberg, Martin Garner (11/2/11)
Nokia falls into the arms of Microsoft The Economist: Newsbook blog (11/2/11)
Nokia and Microsoft sign strategic tie-up Guardian, Graeme Wearden (11/2/11)
Nokia and Microsoft form partnership BBC News (11/2/11)
Is the Nokia/Microsoft horse a stallion or a tired nag? BBC News blogs: Peston’s Picks, Robert Peston (11/2/11)
Microsoft and Nokia announce my dream partnership so why aren’t you all happy? ZDNet (CBS), Matthew Miller (11/2/11)

Questions

  1. What is meant by a strategic alliance? What forms can a strategic alliance take?
  2. For what reasons are Microsoft and Nokia forming a strategic alliance?
  3. How does Nokia hope to benefit from the alliance?
  4. How does Microsoft hope to benefit from the alliance?
  5. Why is Nokia’s share of world profits in the mobile handset market much less than its share of total handset sales (see The Economist article above)? Conversely, why has Apple such a large share of world profits in the handset market (just over 50%) and yet only a tiny market share?
Share in top social networks!

M&A activity: surge or blip?

August is usually a quiet month for mergers and acquisitions. But not this August! As the linked Independent article below states:

Korea National Oil Corporation’s £1.87bn hostile bid for Dana Petroleum yesterday was just the latest in a surge of activity taking merger and acquisition (M&A) levels to a nine-month high.

Despite edgy economic data from the US, global deal-making has already topped $197bn (£127bn) so far this month, and is on course to beat the August record of $260bn set in 2006, according to Thomson Reuters. This week’s $89.8bn total is the highest weekly total since early November.

During the global recession of 2008/9, M&A activity slumped. In 2007, global M&As were worth $4162bn. In 2009 they were worth only $2059bn. Not only were companies cautious of acquiring other companies in a period of great economic uncertainty, but finance for deals was hard to obtain. Now, with many companies having cut costs and having much healthier balance sheets, they are in a position to bid for other companies. And banks too are much more able and willing to provide the finance to support takeovers.

So does this signify a continuing surge in M&A activity? Or are the August figures likely to be a ‘blip’, with fears of a double-dip recession dampening any renewed takeover fever? The articles below look at the recent cases and at the factors influencing current M&A activity.

Articles
Stock markets catch deal fever as M&A booms again Independent, Sarah Arnott (21/8/10)
BHP, Intel, RSA shatter usual August M&A lull Reuters, Quentin Webb (20/8/10)
Global M&A volume could be highest in August International Business Times, Surojit Chatterjee (21/8/10)
Mergers and acquisitions mania disrupts bankers’ summer breaks Guardian, Elena Moya (21/8/10)
Merger mania predicted as cash-rich firms stalk takeover targets Observer, Richard Wachman (22/8/10)
M&A Signal Higher Stock Prices Ahead Minyanville, Terry Woo (20/8/10)
From slowest to busiest TodayOnline (21/8/10)

Data and Reports
International
The era of globalized M&A: Winds of change Thomson Retuers and J.P.Morgan (June 2009)
Preliminary M&A Financial Press Release 2Q10 Thomson Reuters (25/6/10)
World Investment Report 2010: Annex Tables United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (see tables 9–16)
UK data
Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies Office for National Statistics
Mergers & Acquisitions data Office for National Statistics
Mergers and acquisitions involving UK companies: 1st Quarter 2010 Office for National Statistics (2/6/10)
Mergers and Acquisitions Tables Office for National Statistics

Questions

  1. Identify the reasons why firms want to take over other firms.
  2. Why does M&A activity tend to increase during a period of economic boom and decline during a recession?
  3. What is likely to happen to M&A activity over the coming months?
  4. Exmamine two recent mergers or acquistions and explain why the acquiring company was keen to take over the other company, or why the two companies were keen to merge. Were there any economies of scale to be gained? Would the merger increase the acquiring company’s market power?
Share in top social networks!

Online SMEs come of age

‘eBay has declared that Britain’s small businesses have “come of age” online, after reporting that the number of its traders who are turning over £1m a year had nearly doubled over the last 12 months.’

So begins the linked article below from the Guardian. Unlike other small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), many of which did not survive the recession, the number of successful online SMEs is increasing and their survival rates are generally high. According to eBay, some 25,000 people have set up business on its site since the recession and it is predicted that 127 will have a turnover of over £1 million in 2010 (up from 66 in 2009).

So what is it about the online environment that helps small business to develop and thrive? Does going down the e-commerce route avoid many of the pitfalls of traditional business models? And does it have any specific pitfalls of its own? Read the articles below and then attempt the questions that follow.

eBay doubles number of traders with turnover above £1m Guardian, Graeme Wearden (21/8/10)
Why e-commerce IPOs will soon be the smarter buy VentureBeat, Owen Thomas (18/8/10)
Small businesses prosper in eBay’s millionaires’ club InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (21/8/10)
Ecommerce technology is retail investment priority: report InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (13/8/10)
Move into ecommerce could transform the Scottish economy Sunday Herald, Colin Donald (22/8/10)
Small businesses ‘tend to be a risk’ to lenders BBC Today Programme (23/8/10)

Questions

  1. What advantages does e-commerce have for SMEs: (a) in the startup phase; (b) over the long term?
  2. What are meant by ‘network economies’? Does eBay offer such economies to SMEs?
  3. Follow the links in the above articles to study the experience of two specific online SMEs and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business strategies.
  4. What considerations might an SME take into account that is currently trading on eBay or Amazon in deciding whether to set up its own website and trade directly from that?
  5. Why may a move into e-commerce prove particularly beneficial to the Scottish economy? Would this apply to all online SMEs or only certain types?
Share in top social networks!

Changes in the Office

Whilst a new version of Windows may make the headlines, it’s not Windows that is the main source of profit for Microsoft: it’s Office, with it’s suite of appplications – Word for word processing, Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations, Access for databases, FrontPage for web pages and Outlook for e-mail. But Office is under threat from two sources.

First, despite that fact that Microsoft’s share of the office applications market has remained fairly constant at around 94%, it is facing increased competition from free alternatives, such as Google docs and Google Apps, and OpenOffice from Oracle (see also).

Second, the demands of users are changing. With the growing use of social networking and file sharing, and with a more mobile and dispersed workforce, Microsoft Office needs to adapt to this new environment.

With the launch of Office 2010, these issues are being addressed. The following articles examine what Microsoft has done and whether it is a good business model

Microsoft Office 2010 takes aim at Google Docs BBC News (11/5/10)
Office 2010: banking on Apps Sydney Morning Herald, David Flynn (11/5/10)
Microsoft’s two-pronged strategy for Office 2010 BBC News, Tim Weber (12/5/10)
Revamped Microsoft Office Will Be Free on the Web New York Times, Ashlee Vance (11/5/10)
Microsoft Predicts Fastest-Ever Adoption of New Office Software Bloomberg Businessweek, Dina Bass (12/5/10)

Questions

  1. Discuss the business logic of giving away products free.
  2. Discuss the likely success of Microsoft’s response to the changing market conditions for office applications software.
  3. Explain what is meant by ‘cloud computing’. What opportunities does this provide to Microsoft and what are the threats?
  4. What is meant by ‘network economies’? How do these benefit Microsoft? How is Sharepoint relevant here?
  5. Are network economies likely to increase or decrease for Microsoft in the future?
Share in top social networks!