Mergers and Acquisitions: The state of the art – part 1

Well, now I have met practitioners and even more researchers in the topic of M&A on the global conference of Warwick Business School in London in the fantastic building The Shard – and what have I learned? A lot, definitely too much to just write all in one blog post, so I thought I will give you at least 3 over the next month. The first today with a summary of conclusions, the second with some reflections about the practitioners’ feedback and the third with reflections about the researchers’ contributions.

The conference started off with two fantastic keynotes, that were quite contrary, but still complementary. Prof. Phillippe Haspeslagh took us on a journey through the last 4 decades and the research about M&A. He could actually proof quite good how good the research results from the early days described what happened later and therefore I think we should actually judge ongoing research in the topic as both relevant and very interesting for the future. Then James Allison, the executive VP for M&A of the Unilever group, come with very good and specific insights from daily practise in the last 15 years in Unilever. As a conclusion we can say that they improved the way the work with M&A constantly and that they achieve great results in the megadeals. Where they struggle a bit is in the post merger integration for the smaller deals, both since they have less focus from headquarters but also because they find it more difficult to incorporate best practice when the integration work is of a magnitude that it is most efficiently driven by the business unit.

The main topics of the conference were:
1. Strategy and stakeholder management (James had the keynote to this and 4 research topics were presented)
2. Behavioural dynamics and technology (we learned that McKinsey uses big data, but we also heard some challenging comments by Prof. Tomi Laamanen from St. Gallen and again 4 scientific papers)
3. Role of context in M&A (Prof. Thorsten Feix bridged really well the gap from practice to science, 3 scientific papers and my empirical presentation that I have posted here as well)
4. Best practices in Tech M&A (Midaxo presented their M&A tool and the philosophy behind it, 3 scientific papers and a simple model presentation by GPMIP, I will write more about this VICARS model next week)

All was interesting, big data and AI are coming quicker than we probably expected, but all were also quite aligned on the importance of experience. The scientist felt a bit bad about not having relevance to practice, but as I also told them in the plenary session there are two parts:
a) there is a gap between science and practice and both sides should work to close it
b) scientific results have relevants for us practitioners, but don’t expect that they all will always be adopted to 100%, sometimes the open eyes, sometimes they confirm experiences and give more reliable arguments, sometimes the lead to new tool and processes, sometimes they contradict experience and lead to further research – the impact of each result needs to be evaluated individually

That is it for today, next time about fellow practitioners like Unilever, McKinsey and GPMIP.