The surging number of cross-border mergers and acquisitions within Europe's $6.5 trillion economy is revolutionizing the way business is conducted in this vibrant 11-country marketplace. That was the bottom line of Wharton's 1999 "Preparing for Success inEurope 2000" conference held at London'simposing Landmark Hotel on June 24th and25th attended by more than 150 topexecutives from over 17 countriesworldwide. The conference focused ontelecommunications and finance, two of thefastest-growing major sectors of today'sinformation-rich European economy.
Business today is blessed and cursed withthe availability of instant informationworldwide, said Didier Delepine, presidentof Equant n.v., the global communicationsgiant. As a result, he added, companiesmust reinvent themselves every few yearsand in the future they'll have even less timethan they do today.
Hilmar Kopper, chairman of the supervisoryboard of the Deutsche Bank AG, stressedthat the pan-European markets demandedby today's European customers, and theresulting surge in cross-border mergers andacquisitions, are moving the industry evercloser to universal banking. This makes themanagement of cultural differencesessential to business survival, he said, asthe business can no longer be controlled bythe head office in any one country.
There's never been a merger or acquisitionthat's made life easier, said Kopper, butyou can help things go smoothly and fast bydoing two things. First is to make all thetough decisions up front at the start ofnegotiations so no one will be taken bysurprise. Second is to make it clear toeveryone, including the top management ofthe company being acquired, that you aregoing to run the show. Four days afterKopper made those remarks, the chairmanof Bankers Trust, which the Deutsche Bankhad acquired a few weeks earlier for $10billion, resigned.
Companies today can't move fast enough toglobalize their operations, said KathleenWalters, sector president of Kimberly-ClarkEurope, that's been doing it. Jean YvesCharlier, president of Equant IntegrationServices U.K. agreed that today's challengeis becoming global, and to help his peoplecope with this new reality he supplies themwith customer information on-line in realtime in English along with a publicationtelling them what they have to accomplishin the next three years.