The CMA Will Definitely Clear This Merger

An investor tells me with certainty that, if the high profile deal in which he is interested happens, the CMA will definitely clear it.

“They (the acquirer) wouldn’t go ahead if they weren’t absolutely sure they could get it through”, he insists.

It’s a view that I’ve heard many times during my investor briefings on mergers from supermarkets to video games.

It’s a bold claim.

Which is why – when it crops up – I usually find myself asking briefing participants the following:

What would have to be the case for it to be true?

What would have to be true for this to be the case?

At which point participants to the discussion tend quickly to alight on three big assumptions:

1. That the acquirer has prepared perfectly for all eventualities

2. That none of the eventualities results in any risk whatsoever that the CMA will find competition problems.

3. That this acquirer would only proceed with absolute certainty of outcome.

When that happens discussion often then turns to how frequently these assumptions have held in similar past cases.

Quite a lot is known about that, under all three headings.

And when that is discussed, guess what tends to happen next.

Questions Are Not The Answer

UK parliamentary hearings often illuminate the skills involved in powerful questioning and in how to respond to questions, powerful or otherwise.

And strong questioning skills incorporate strong listening skills.

You can’t have one without the other.

It’s why I regularly cite parliamentary hearings in my training work for competition agencies, because participants in the training can watch and replay the key interactions to observe the quality of the questions and the quality of the listening.

Yesterday’s interrogation of Boris Johnson by the Privileges Committee was no exception.

In fact it was an exemplar in one area in particular……..

The importance of questioners listening actively to the answer they are being given

and asking a powerful follow-up question that builds on that answer…..

…….and the results when that doesn’t happen!

If you are building skills in this area take a look at a few of the interactions and see what you would have done differently as a questioner:

  • Which parts of the answer could/should have been probed further that were not followed up?
  • What would have been a more powerful follow-up question?

Dial or No Dial?

I’ve been very struck over the years by how differently companies prepare for CMA hearings during merger investigations.

Hearings are an important feature in many merger investigations, providing an opportunity for the merging firms, rivals and other interested parties to make their case.

Some hearings are turning points in a case.

Some are wasted opportunities.

Much depends on how hard the organisations involved think (or don’t think) about the objectives they set themselves.

Some prepare to dial up the rhetoric.

Some prepare to move the dial.

So, for all those with CMA hearings in view here’s a key question to start with…..

What are you really preparing for ?