Global merger and acquisition deals with a combined value of £2.7 trillion ($4.06 trillion) have taken place so far this year (1 Jan to 3 Nov). This is a 38% increase on the same period in 2014 ($2.94 trillion) and even surpasses the previous record high for the same period in 2007 ($3.93 trillion) (see the chart from the Dealogic article linked below).
Measured by dollar value, October was the fifth biggest month in Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As) history with the announcement of $514bn of actual or proposed deals. These included:
||the proposed £71 billion deal to acquire SABMiller (the world’s second largest brewer) by AB InBev (the world’s largest brewer);
||the $67bn takeover of network storage provider EMC by Dell (the world’s third largest computer supplier);
||the proposed deal to acquire Allergan (producer of Botox) by Pfizer (the producer of Viagra).
Although the dollar value of M&As was extremely large in October the actual number of deals, 2177, was significantly lower than the average of 3521 over the previous 9 months.
Are these large M&As in the interests of the consumer? One advantage is that the newly combined firms may have lower average costs. Reports in the press, following the announcement of most M&As, often discuss the potential for reductions in duplicate resources and rationalisation. After the successful completion of a takeover two previously separate departments, such as finance, law or HRM, may be combined into one office. If the newly integrated department is (i) smaller than the previous two departments added together and (ii) can operate just as effectively, then average costs will fall. This is simply an example of an economy of scale.
Average costs will also decrease if x-inefficiency within the acquired business can be reduced or eliminated. X-inefficiency exists when an organisation incurs higher costs than are necessary to produce any given output. In other words it is not producing in the cheapest possible way. In a number of takeovers in the brewing industry, AB InBev has gained a fearsome reputation for minimising costs and removing any waste or slack in acquired organisations. In an interview with the Financial Times, its chief executive, Carlos Brito, stated that:
“In any company, there’s 20 per cent that lead, 70 per cent that follow and 10 per cent that do nothing. So the 10 per cent, of course, you need to get rid of.”
If any reduction in costs results in lower prices without any lessening in the quality of the good or service, then of course the customer will benefit. However, when two relatively large organisations combine, it may result in a newly merged business with considerable market power. With a fall in the price elasticity of demand for its goods and services, this bigger company may be able to increase its prices and make greater revenues.
An important responsibility of a taxpayer-funded competition authority is to make judgements about whether or not large M&As are in the public interest. For example, the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK investigates deals if the target company has a UK turnover that exceeds £70 million, or if the newly combined business has a market share that is equal to or exceeds 25 per cent. If the CMA concludes that an M&A would lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the market, then it could prohibit the deal from taking place. This has only happened on 9 occasions in the last 12 years. If competition concerns are identified, it is far more likely that CMA will allow the deal to go ahead but with certain conditions attached. This has happened 29 times in the last 12 years and the conditions are referred to as remedies.
The CMA has recently published a report (Understanding past merger remedies) that attempts to evaluate the relative success of the various remedies it has used in 13 M&A cases.
Are big mergers bad for consumers? BBC News, Daniel Thomas (30/10/15)
Mergers and acquisitions madness may be about to stop The Guardian (11/10/15)
M&A deal activity on pace for record year The Wall Street Journal, Dana Mattioli and Dan Strumpf (10/08/15) [Note: if you can’t see the full article, try clearing cookies (Ctrl+Shift+Delete)]
Global M&A Volume Surpasses $4tr in 2015 YTD Dealogic, Anthony Read (04/11/15)
M&A Volumes Weaken in October despite Megadeals Financial Times, James Fontanella-Khan and Arash Massoudi (01/11/15)
The merger of Dell and EMC is further proof that the IT industry is remaking itself The Economist (12/10/15)
- Using a cost curve diagram, explain the difference between economies of scale and x-efficiency.
- Explain why a takeover or merger might reduce the price elasticity of demand for the goods or services produced by the newly combined firm.
- Explain how the CMA determines the size of the appropriate market when calculating a firm’s market share.
- Draw a diagram to illustrate the simultaneous impact of greater market power and lower average costs that might result from a horizontal merger. Consider the impact on consumer, producer and total surplus.
- What is the difference between a structural and a behavioural remedy?
After initial resistance, the brewer SAB Miller last week agreed to a merger with Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The merging parties own over 400 brands between them. These include Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s, which are owned by AB InBev, and Peroni and Grolsch by SAB Miller. Furthermore, they are currently the number one and two firms in the market respectively. If the merger goes ahead the new entity would control almost one third of global beer production.
This merger represents the continuation of AB InBev’s aggressive expansion plans through mergers and acquisitions as it follows its merger with Interbrew in 2004 and with InBev in 2008. It seems that one key attraction of a merger with SAB Miller is its dominant position in rapidly growing African markets.
A second motivation for the merger appears to be an attempt to counter the rise of small independent craft beer producers. For example, in the USA craft beer’s share of the market has grown from 5 to 11% since 2011. It has been suggested that the leading breweries combining forces represents one of several strategies being used to try to counter the threat of craft breweries. Additional strategies include creating their own craft products that are marketed as independant products and attempting to buy-up craft beer producers. For example, in 2011 AB InBev purchased the Goose Island brand.
Commenting on the planned merger between SAB Miller and AB InBev, a spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale group expressed concern that:
independent beers may find it harder to get space in pubs and supermarkets because of the increased market presence of AB InBev.
Given the market positions of SAB Miller and AB InBev, it is likely that their merger will face considerable scrutiny by competition agencies in a number of jurisdictions. In fact it has been reported that plans have already been set in motion to sell SAB Miller’s interests in the USA to try to placate potential concerns from competition agencies in the USA and China.
Interestingly, SAB Miller has also protected itself by negotiating a clause that requires AB InBev to pay it $3bn if the deal falls through, for example on competition grounds. It remains to be seen what conditions competition authorities will require before the merger can go ahead and it is even possible they will try to completely block the deal.
Why beer drinkers lose in the SABMiller-AB InBev merger Fortune, John Colley (13/10/15)
Can craft beer survive AB InBev? The Budweiser maker’s acquisitions are unsettling the craft movement Bloomberg Business, Devin Leonard (25/06/15)
- How important do you think it is to consumers who a particular brand of beer is produced by?
- How serious a threat do you think independent craft beer producers are to the leading breweries?
- Outline some of the factors competition agencies will look at when they consider the merger between SAB Miller and AB InBev.
- Why might AB InBev have been willing to agree to pay a fee to SAB Miller in the event of the merger falling through?
When Kraft took over Cadbury, it was seen as a large take-over, but its size pales in comparison to the potential takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer. However, having made two offers for the UK drugs firm, the US company has been rejected twice, saying the terms of the offer were ‘inadequate, substantially undervalue AstraZeneca and are not a basis on which to engage with Pfizer.’
Pfizer initially made an offer of £46.61 per share, valuing the company at £58.5bn, but this latest offer increased the share price to around £50 and raised the company value to £63bn. The rejection was relatively swift and the price still too low, though analysts are suggesting that a price closer to £53 may tempt shareholders. At the moment the negotiations between these two giants remain ‘friendly’, but with this second offer being rejected by the Board, there are now concerns that the takeover could become ‘hostile’ with Pfizer going directly to shareholders. Indeed one investor has said:
We were very keen that the two boards actually get around the table and disucss the bid … I’m never very keen when companies just dismiss things and don’t allow shareholders to take a decision on it … The key thing is that these businesses get talking to each other so they can hammer out a deal.
Following the second offer, shares in AstraZeneca rose by 10p, as the debate continued as to whether such a take-over would be good or bad for British jobs.
Cadbury was seen as a jewel in the crown of British industry and the same can be said of AstraZeneca, especially with the growing importance placed on the Science sector in the UK. While Pfizer has now given the British government further assurances about protection for Britain’s science base, there are still concerns about what this take-over would mean for British jobs. Pfizer has said that 20% of the company’s workforce in research and development would work in the UK and the planned R&D base in Cambridge would still go ahead. However, asset-stripping is a phrase that has been thrown around, based on Pfizer’s previous take-overs and, based on this history, many are suggesting that any assurances made by Pfizer will be pointless. In particular, Allan Black from the GMB union said:
Similar undertakings were given by US multinationals before which have proved to be worthless.
This was echoed by Lord Sainsbury who commented that any assurances made by Pfizer would be ‘frankly meaningless’. However, Vince Cable seems more confident about the consequences for British industry and said:
We’ve now received some assurances from the company that they will strengthen the British science base, they will protect British manufacturing … We need to look at that in detail, we need to look at the small print, we need to establish that it is binding, but as far as it goes, on the basis of what we’ve seen so far, it is welcome and encouraging.
We therefore seem to have a tale of two stories. On the one hand, the assurances of a US company that British jobs and its science base will be protected, but on the other hand, suggestions that we should take Pfizer’s assurances with a pinch of salt and that any take-over could be ‘devastating’. The truth of the matter will only be known if and when the take-over goes ahead and perhaps more importantly, whether it remains friendly and co-operative or does indeed go ‘hostile’. The following articles consider this medical take-over between giants.
AstraZeneca rejects Pfizer bid as US Pharma giant courts UK government The Guardian, Julia Kollewe and Sean Farrell (2/5/14)
AstraZeneca rejects new Pfizer offer BBC News (2/5/14)
AstraZeneca Pfizer: major shareholder urges talks The Telegraph, Denise Roland (2/5/14)
AstraZeneca rejects Pfizer’s raised bid of 63 billion pounds Reuters (2/5/14)
Pfizer-AstraZeneca offer: IoD warns intervention ‘disastrous’ for Britain. The Telegraph, Louise Armitstead (2/5/14)
Pfizer enters takeover discussions with AstraZeneca, sources say Wall Street Journal (2/5/14)
Exclusive: Pfizer insider warns that takeover of AstraZeneca could be ‘devastating’ Independent, Jim Armitage and Chris Green (2/5/14)
The Cadbury deal: how it changed takeovers BBC News, Ben Morris (2/5/14)
Pfizer set to make higher bid for AstraZeneca The Guardian, Julia Kollewe (1/5/14)
The UK’s response to Pfizer’s takeover bid is incoherent and misguided The Guardian, Larry Elliott (4/5/14)
- What type of take-over would this be classified as? Explain your answer.
- What would occur if the take-over became ‘hostile’?
- Using a demand and supply diagram, explain why share prices in AstraZeneca went up by 10p on the day the second offer was made.
- How would such a take-over affect British jobs?
- Explain how this proposed take-over could (a) boost British R&D in science and (b) harm British R&D in science.
- To what extent might there be concerns from the competition authorities were this take-over to go ahead? How might such a takeover affect Pfizer’s market share and hence its ability to charge a high price?
Valued by private investors at more than $10 billion, the future listing on the stock market of Twitter, is an eagerly anticipated event. The necessary forms have been submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of the initial public offering (IPO). Twitter will be looking to avoid the mistakes made by Facebook when they were first listed in May last year. Twitter has also announced its intentions to purchase MoPub, which is a firm specialising in mobile advert exchanges.
So, what will this listing mean for Twitter? The public will now be able to purchase shares in Twitter, in much the same way as you can buy shares in RBS or Facebook. The financial performance of Twitter will come under much greater scrutiny from its shareholders, who will be interested in short term returns and long term stability. Becoming a public limited company will attract investors and is likely to provide a much larger scope for expansion for Twitter. However, as yet no details have been released on a likely date for the flotation or on the prices we can expect.
One thing Twitter will be trying to avoid is a repeat of the problems that beset Facebook and indeed of the problems that other public listings have created for giants such as Google, Zynga and Groupon. When Facebook moved to public ownership, its share prices initially fell below its IPO and subsequently Facebook lost more than half its value. More recent success in mobile advertising has restored the fortunes of this company, but Goldman Sachs, which is handling Twitter’s transition will be looking to avoid a similar occurrence. As Sam Hamadeh from PrivCo (a firm that gathers data on private companies) said:
Twitter will learn from Facebook’s flawed playbook and do the opposite … Unlike Facebook, which waited too long to IPO (until its growth rate decelerated), Twitter will IPO at just the right inflection point: while revenue grows in triple digits.
Twitter is a rapidly growing business, but still has significant scope for expansion and this move to public ownership may be just the thing. Setting the right IPO and the right date will be crucial, as a multitude of factors can and do affect the price of shares listed on the stock market. Twitter will also need to ‘focus on doing the right stuff’ to make a success of the listing and its purchase of Mopub looks to be a step in the right direction. For now, all we can do is speculate, but if the launch is successful, then the founders of Twitter are likely to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each.
Twitte files for IPO The Telegraph, Sophie Curtis (13/9/13)
Twitter plans stock market listing (see also) BBC News (13/9/13)
Twitter files for IPO, hopes to avoid Facebook’s mistakes Independent, Nikhil Humar and James Vincent (12/9/13)
Facebook shares close 11% below flotation price BBC News (21/5/12)
Twitter fails to answer key IPO questions Financial Times, Richard Waters and April Dembosky (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: how much is it worth? The Guardian, Juliette Garside (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: Tech float successes and disasters The Telegraph, Gabrielle Putter and Szu Ping Chan (13/9/13
Twitter to see ‘strong demand’ for share sale BBC News (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: Firm in stock market launch bid Sky News (13/9/13)
- What are the characteristics of a public limited company? Are there advantages and disadvantages?
- Which factors affect (a) the supply of shares and (b) the demand for shares?
- What mistakes were made by Facebook when it made the transition to public ownership?
- How does advertising generate revenue for Twitter?
- How might you go about valuing Twitter or Facebook?
- Companies such as Twitter and Facebook have hundreds of millions of subscribers. Are there network externalities of this?
- Twitter is purchasing MoPub. What type of takeover would you classify this as?
The growth of emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil brings with it both good and bad news for the once dominant countries of the West. With growth rates in China reaching double digits and a much greater resilience to the credit crunch and its aftermath in these emerging nations, they became the hope of the recovery for the West. But, is it only benefits that emerge from the growth in countries like China?
Chinese business has grown and expanded into all areas, especially technology, but countries such as the USA have been reluctant to allow mergers and takeovers of some of their businesses. Notably, the takeovers that have been resisted have been in key sectors, particularly oil, energy and technology. However, it seems as though pork is an industry that is less important or, at least, a lower risk to national security.
Smithfield Foods is a US giant, specialising in the production and selling of pork. A takeover by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has been approved (albeit reluctantly) by the US Committee on Foreign Investment. While the takeover could still run into obstacles, this Committee’s approval is crucial, as it alleviates concerns over the impact on national security. The value of the deal is some $7.1bn, including the debt that Shuangui will have to take on. While some see this takeover as good news, others are more concerned, identifying the potential negative impact it may have on prices and standards in the USA. Zhijun Yang, Shuanghui’s Chief Executive said:
This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise. Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company.
The date of September 24th looks to be the decider, when a shareholder meeting is scheduled to take place. There is still resistance to the deal, but if it goes ahead it will certainly help other Chinese companies looking for the ‘OK’ from US regulators for their own business deals. The following articles consider the controversy and impact of this takeover.
US clears Smithfield’s acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Penn Energy, Reuters, Lisa Baertlein and Aditi Shrivastava (10/9/13)
Chinese takeover of US Smithfield Foods gets US security approval Telegraph (7/9/13)
US clears Smithfield acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Reuters (7/9/13)
Go-ahead for Shuanghui’s $4.7bn Smithfield deal Financial Times, Gina Chon (6/9/13)
US security panel approves Smithfield takeover Wall Street Journal, William Mauldin (6/9/13)
- What type of takeover would you classify this as? Explain your answer.
- Why have other takeovers in oil, energy and technology not met with approval?
- Some people have raised concerns about the impact of the takeover on US pork prices. Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate the possible effects of this takeover.
- What do you think will happen to the price of pork in the US based on you answer to question 3?
- Why do Smithfield’s shareholders have to meet before the deal can go ahead?
- Is there likely to be an impact on share prices if the deal does go ahead?