The infamous 1998 Daimler-Benz Chrysler merger and more recently, the 2014 Publicis and Omnicom merger is a classic example of why there are no such things as mergers. The term “merger” refers to firms of similar size and power that come together and form a new entity with neither a designated buyer or a target. The the board of directors is divided between management from each company and shareholders essentially retain control of each company.
The 1998 $36 billion Daimler-Benz Chrysler merger was an international one between Germany’s Daimler-Benz and U.S. Chrysler, both world-leading car makers. Whilst a number of problems plagued the transaction, perhaps the most pressing issue was culture. Each company had a distinctively different heritage, values and culture. Daimler was a hierarchical company that prided itself on reliability and quality whilst Chrysler was an entrepreneurial company which favoured flashy designs at affordable prices. As a result, this created a sense of unrest in employees and management. Nine years later, the merger dissolved due to internal politics and Chrysler was sold for only $6 billion.
Since then there has been few mega transactions until the announcement of the merger between French advertising agency, Publicis Groupe and U.S. advertising agency Omnicom Group last year. Similar to Daimler-Benz Chrysler, that merger was valued at $35 billion. Again, internal politics, power struggles between management from both companies were present as well as a number of tax and regulatory issues. As time went on, both companies accumulated losses from pre-merger preparations. A little more than nine months later and the merger was called off.
Both companies suffered serious shocks to their share price. The merger ultimately boils down to the lack of accountability and direction.
So what are the real benefits then of a merger aside from all the so-called cost savings?
For the buyer, it means a smaller premium given control of the merged entity is split 50-50. And for the seller? To crudely put it, it is simply used for psychological purposes, to sell the deal and reassure employees of the selling company that the culture will not change. However, this has not always been the case given the struggle for companies to integrate post merger.
However, in today’s digital day and age where consolidation is occurring in almost every industry, it is safe to say virtually all business mergers are simply acquisitions. Take a look at the tech giants, Google, Facebook, Apple. The big players grow through acquisitions, keep their brand name and continue to remain relevant by acquiring up-and-coming innovative smaller players in the market i.e. social media giant, Facebook buying out mobile applications such as Instagram and Whatsapp.