Merger Research: What’s new in 2013 ?

It is that time of the year when newspapers and magazines are full of ‘book of the year’ recommendations.

Well, by way of contrast……

….here is my selection of ten of the most interesting new (freely-downloadable) research papers I have read in 2013.

A great antidote to an overdose of turkey and tinsel !

The selection covers both theory and practice and ranges from hospital mergers….to topical issues in merger policy…. to what makes for successful mergers.

Do drop me a line if you think there are other papers as deserving of a read as those on the list.

ten_jpg-626x875

So, here are my ten (in no particular order)……

1. Quality matters

Most studies of the effects of past mergers focus on price. Here is that rare beast – one that looks at how two past mergers affected quality.

‘Mergers and Product Quality: Evidence from the Airline Industry, Chen and Gayle, MPRA, November 2013

http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/51238/1/MPRA_paper_51238.pdf

2. Going forward

Here is another paper looking at an often overlooked issue: how the prevalence of forward contracting in a sector affects the impact that horizontal mergers may have. Maybe one to consider when that next electricity merger comes along?

‘Forward Contracting and the Welfare Effects of Horizontal Mergers’, Miller, EAG, May 2013

http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/eag/296846.pdf

3. Could hospital mergers be good for you?

Hospital and health mergers are very much in the news these days. Here’s a paper that shows how price, quality, coinsurance and regulation can interact to produce some surprising results.

‘Hospital Mergers: A Spatial Competition Approach’, Brekke, Siciliani and Straume, NHH, April 2013

http://www.nhh.no/Files/Filer/institutter/sam/Discussion%20papers/2013/08.pdf

4. Bad news for R&D?

This paper uses a differences-in-differences approach to look at the effect of over 200 mergers on R&D.

On the face of it, it looks like bad news for R&D. But is it actually harm to consumers?

‘M&A and R&D – Asymmetric Effects on Acquirers and Targets’, Szücs, DIW Berlin, October 2013

http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.429740.de/dp1331.pdf

5. Judging books by titles

Don’t let the title put you off. This is one of the most important papers of 2013. Its results should give merging companies and competition authorities a lot of food for thought.

‘Merger Externalities in Oligopolistic Markets’, Gugler and Szücs, DIW Berlin, June 2013

http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.426970.de/dp1321.pdf

6. Timing is everything

I can think of several UK cases where the fact that the deal has been investigated after completion has helped clarify aspects of the case!

This paper puts the issue into a wider policy context and highlights the main factors that should influence timing. But is it really a case of either/or?

‘Ex post or ex ante? On the optimal timing of merger control’, Cosnita-Langlais and Tropeano, Economix Working Papers, June 2013

http://economix.fr/pdf/dt/2013/WP_EcoX_2013-22.pdf

7. Are cartels and mergers substitutes?

The short answer is ‘yes’, according to this paper. Clues perhaps for the Merger Intelligence function in a voluntary regime?

‘Do Cartel Breakdowns Induce Mergers?’, Hüschelrath and Smuda, ZEW, June 2013

http://econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/74799/1/749474947.pdf

8. A new demand-side efficiency

Some interesting new arguments in this paper, of particular interest where search costs are high.

‘Search Costs, Demand-side Economies and the Incentives to Merger under Bertrand Competition’, Moraga-Gonzalez and Petrikait, February 2013

http://www.tinbergen.nl/~moraga/Moraga_Petrikaite_3.pdf

9. Culture clashes

Clash of cultures often gets blamed for mergers that don’t deliver. But how strong is the theory and evidence supporting this view?

This paper contains some interesting insights into one of the most important questions about M&A.

‘The Role of Corporate Culture in Mergers and Acquisitions’, Bouwman, May 2013

http://faculty.weatherhead.case.edu/bouwman/downloads/BouwmanCorpCultureM&A%20Dec2012.pdf

10.Mergers that matter

An interesting approach to measuring what affects propensities to merge and who benefits from merger.

Mergers that matter: The Value Impact of Economic Links’, Harford et al, July 2013

https://www.nhh.no/Files/Filer/institutter/fin/wp/Paper%20-%20Jarrod%20Harford.pdf

Happy reading…and Merry Christmas one and all

One Question That Can Make Or Break A Merger Case

Over the past ten years hundreds of companies have made a case to the UK competition authorities seeking approval for their merger.

The way in which cases are argued and presented before the authorities varies widely. As a result, there are many lessons that can be learned from past practice, good and bad.

In this brief article I focus on one important aspect that crops up again and again. It concerns the following question:

–       How to make a case that fits together well?    –

A question to ask early

It is clearly a question that is best asked (and answered) early on in the process of developing the case for a merger.

Rubik

And yet, in the hurly burly of the deal, it is a question that is easy to overlook –  or to ask too late in the process – or to answer only partially.

Instead what tends to happen in these circumstances is that the different elements of the case emerge and evolve as the process unfolds.

Such an approach may have the advantage of flexibility  – but it also carries the risk that, once the walls are built, the roof won’t fit.

And that is indeed what happens in a surprising number of cases, resulting in

  • Wasted time and cost
  • A longer investigation –  and – in some cases
  • A poorer overall outcome for the merging parties.

A challenging question

Perhaps one of the reasons the question doesn’t always receive the timely attention it deserves is that there are a number of different aspects to it.

Here are the five I look at:

1. Are the arguments put forward internally consistent ?

  • When the individual building blocks of a case do not hang together well the credibility of the overall case suffers and the process takes longer, while inconsistencies are probed.
  • To take a simple example that has arisen many times: how well does the argument that acquisition is the only path sit with the proposition that entry into the business is easy and inexpensive?

2. How to ensure the case put forward remains consistent throughout the process ?

  • Changing tack on a major plank of a case during the process always raises questions in the agencies’ minds.
  • ‘Why”, they understandably ask, “should the new story we are being told be more credible than the old one (which we were assured was accurate)?”

3. How well is the overall story for the merger supported by the evidence advanced?

  • When these clash the agencies rightly question not only the particular piece of evidence concerned but – sometimes more damaging –  the coherence of the wider story.
  • For example: If the overarching story is that exit of the target company is inevitable in the absence of the deal, how well does this tally with the actions of the target in the past year or two?

4. Do the theory and evidence match?

  • When theory and evidence collide which, if either, will remain standing?
  • For example: where a case relies heavily on the theory that only two suppliers are needed to ensure a highly competitive outcome, how credible is that theory given the number of suppliers that customers actually shortlist?

5. How well integrated are the business, economic and legal arguments?

  • A particular risk is where separate submissions from legal advisers and economic advisers contain material that does not fit together well (or at worst is contradictory).
  • Another is when key analysis is identified and put forward too late in the day.

A powerful first step

The very process of asking each of these questions in a structured way, and with the right tools and techniques, is a powerful first step to:

  • understanding the real strength or weakness of the case right from the start
  • prioritising the evidence-gathering and analysis needed to make the strongest case
  • deciding how best to present the case
  • managing the five risks/opportunities I outlined above.

Even where it turns out that there is not an immediate or clear answer to one or more of these questions, identifying that fact can be crucial to managing the resulting risk, as well as the overall case.

                                                                                               © Adrian Payne 2013

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Material in this article is drawn from my training course – ‘Making a Merger Case: Best Practice and Common Pitfalls’.

The course examines lessons from over 500 past cases in each of the following areas: case preparation, case strategy, research and analysis, communication and presentation, and resources.