The great thing about playing the board game Monopoly as a kid was that you could buy up everything, collect rents all over the place (or get slaughtered if say your older sister was just a better player) but when the game ended, it was over.
We’re now living a real life monopoly game that’s crept up on even the strongest free markets.
In 2017, 75% of the beer market was cornered by three monopoly companies and one, Anheuser-Busch, held more than 40% alone. In the online search industry, one company monopolized the market and held 91% of market share and 98% of the cell phone market is concentrated among the four largest companies, with 70% being split between Verizon and AT&T alone. Even seemingly trivial things like peanut butter, coffins, and adult websites are all controlled by only a couple of firms.
According to a Harvard Business Review report, the failure rate for mergers and acquisitions sits between 70 and 90%. Even before the deal closes, it’s not uncommon for deals to unravel.
If the odds can be overwhelmingly negative, what can you do to increase your chance of success if you are looking to sell your business?
Don’t wait for the M&A process to begin to get your team in gear – that’s a sure fire way to fail.
After a call with a “strategy” director (I hate quotes, but let me do this just once) at a multibillion dollar public company, I couldn’t help but thank Forrest Gump for popularizing the proverb:
Stupid is as stupid does
This company is in a sleepy industry and to continue to grow they must find new ways to innovate. Our conversation circled around a request to help in what would be a major, breathtaking pivot into a completely new sector. To succeed, the company would need more leadership and more firepower than organic growth would provide, meaning they were looking to acquisitions. And we had the perfect target – a fit so good as to be called an epiphany.
Everyone has read studies proclaiming the majority of acquisitions fail to create shareholder value. Yet we are witnessing a roaring M&A market with very frothy valuations and no lack of buyers willing to venture into the game. Great for sellers. Timing is everything – private equity groups are finding rich exits to vintage deals entered into prior to the great recession that for years looked like they would be losers. These favorable returns are giving private equity investors even more reason to bring fresh capital to the table. Meanwhile, strategic buyers, armed with high valuations on their publicly traded shares and plenty of cash on hand have the wherewithal to bid aggressively, further driving up prices.