Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders
It’s a puzzle M&A bankers and corporate executives have been trying to solve for years: how far from your home market can an acquisition take place and ultimately stumble over cultural differences? It’s a question that looms large as quintessentially Italian automaker Fiat prepares to swallow up Chrysler – inventor of the K-car and the minivan – and which reportedly haunts St Louis-based employees of Anheuser Busch in the aftermath of their company’s takeover by the penny pinching Belgians and Brazilians at InBev.
Gary Katz, CEO of Deutsche Boerse unit International Securities Exchange, insisted during his appearance at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit that all has been sweetness and light since the Germans assumed control of the upstart American options exchange and that there has been “nearly zero turnover” since the takeover.
But Thomas Kloet, Chief Executive of Canadian exchange powerhouse TMX, was one of several executives at the summit who insisted that cross border mergers can often be a recipe for disaster and that the ideal mergers are “domestic roll-ups” like CME Group’s takeover of Nymex and the Chicago Board of Trade or indeed TSX Group’s takeover of the Montreal Exchange, which created TMX.
Implicitly criticizing some of the first-ever cross border deals in the sector like NYSE’s merger with Euronext, Kloet said: “there are significant regulatory differences that make cross border mergers pretty difficult to do, especially when they start passing over salt water, so to speak.”
In the last few years, the majority of the biggest players in the space, from New York Stock Exchange operator NYSE Euronext, and Nasdaq OMX, to Chicago Merc operator CME Group and InterContinentalExchange have gone public.
Now, that could be about to change, Nasdaq OMX President Magnus Bocker said at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit. As Nasdaq looks for ways to attract new listings and end a virtual drought in IPOs, it sees financial services firms as one of the most promising areas.
The exchanges industry has seen countless trans-Atlantic mergers in the past few years, from the New York Stock Exchange combining with Euronext, and Nasdaq buying up Nordic exchange operator OMX, to Deutsche Boerse’e Eurex snagging the International Securities Exchange.
But you are not likely to see CME Group, parent of the Chicago Merc and the world’s largest derivatives exchange, flirt with any European counterparts anytime soon, CME CEO Craig Donohue hinted at the Reuters Exchanges & Trading Summit on Monday.
As if providing a trading platform, prestige and market data weren’t enough, stock exchanges are facing growing demands from the CEOs of their listed companies to help halt their stocks’ slide, BATS Trading CEO Joe Ratterman said at the Reuters Global Exchanges and Trading Summit on Monday.
Ratterman said he has been hearing of company bosses he calls “issuer-CEOs” giving the high-ups at rival exchanges, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, an earful when the stocks of those companies come under attack from short sellers.
But those two U.S.-based exchanges have had strong management to help them weather the storm, Liquidnet CEO Seth Merrin said at the Reuters Global Exchanges and Trading Summit.
At the beginning of 2009, as Mexico felt the pinch of the U.S. meltdown, Finance Minister Agustin Carstens said the country’s economy was much better prepared than before to resist slowing business from its northern neighbor, where it ships about 80 percent of exports.
Asked about the possible effects of the U.S. recession in Mexico, he candidly anticipated in a TV interview in February the economy would only “catch a little cold instead of a pneumonia.”
The phrase has haunted him ever since as mounting bad news — unemployment, inflation, industrial activity — show Mexico is not immune to the U.S. crisis.
With Mexico officially in recession — GDP contracted 1.6 percent in the first quarter versus the same period of 2008 and could fall further in the current quarter — Carstens now thinks the economy may not grow again until the first quarter of 2010.
In an affable chat with Reuters during the Latin American Investment Summit, Carstens also talked about measures taken to keep the peso from weakening further against the dollar but shied away from saying if, or when, daily dollar sales could stop.
Fixed-line phone provider Telefonos de Mexico was an old, rusty government-run mammoth when businessman Carlos Slim bought it two decades ago. In a matter of a few years, and with the help of billions of dollars to deploy a nation-wide, state-of-the-art network, Telmex became Slim’s cash cow.
But times change fast. The expansion of cell phone services across Latin America, led by sister company America Movil, has dented Telmex’s domestic revenue in recent years. The arrival of new technologies, which allow international calls at very low prices, hit Telmex’s long-distance sales too.
And let’s not forget the new players in the market.
The company bets Internet services will help it keep business charging ahead. Chief Financial Officer Adolfo Cerezo told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit that in five years Telmex could become a mostly-web focused company.
The one thing holding back even faster growth is that only a quarter of Mexican families own a computer.
High unemployment rates, declining remittances from Mexicans living abroad, an economic slowdown and contracting consumption is not boding well for Mexican retailers. This year is no exception as the country’s leading supermarket chains struggle to keep customers happy, offering anything from stamps to buy German cuttlery sets to cooking classes for housewives pulling their hair wondering what to prepare for lunch next.
Monterrey-based Soriana, Mexico’s No. 2 retailer, knows a thing or two about sailing in choppy waters. After an ambitious acquisition of 200 stores from a smaller rival in 2007, which boosted its presence across the country, the company faced tight liquidity to meet debt payments last year.
But Soriana has moved fast to cut costs and lighten the weight to face more hard times in 2009. Chief Financial Officer Aurelio Adan told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit that Soriana’s same-store sales will be flat this year but it will generate enough cash flow to cut its debt by over 20 percent.
Adan expects to turn the page in 2010 and resume Soriana’s strong growth with the opening of 40 stores.
All the infrastructure projects in the world sound great! They look awesome on paper, they’ll make people’s lives better and they’ll let us go visit our friends and families in about half the time it used to take.
It’ll be a dream world!!
Well, unfortunately, we are going to have to pay for all these projects at some point and all of the guests at this year’s Reuters Infrastructure Summit acknowledge that the paying is the hardest part.