Tag: business strategy

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.)

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?

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?

‘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?

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?