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Negotiating Cross-Border Acquisitions

With the increasing number of mergers and acquisitions, particularly across national borders, the importance of knowing how to approach delicate negotiations has grown. In this case study and interview, James Sebenius traces an Italian copper-products company's negotiations to provide important lessons for anyone involved in cross-border transactions.

Sebenius interviewed Sergio Ceccuzzi, management board member of KM Europa Metal AG and chairman of its subsidiary, Europa Metalli SpA. Together they discuss the growth of the holding company, SMI (Societa Metallurgica Italiana SpA). In 1965, SMI was one of many small and medium-sized copper transformation companies in Italy. Over the years, it developed a strategy of growth by acquisition, but only in areas that amplified its line of business. It first acquired Finmeccanica, a state-owned competitor, at a time when privatization in Italy was anathema. Next, through skillful negotiations, it acquired its major French competitor, Tr_fim_taux, also a state-owned firm. And, in its most difficult transaction, it overcame formidable obstacles to acquire Kabel-metal AG, a German competitor.

Throughout his conversation with Ceccuzzi, the author indicates specific lessons to be learned from each deal. In summary, he encapsulates the lessons into twelve major points, among them: be willing to wait, sometimes for years, for the right circumstances to culminate the deal; establish good personal relationships; map out the likely players in the deal and assess their interests, not yours; figure out how to deal with potential deal blockers; and, perhaps most important, remember that, even after the deal is done, negotiation does not stop.

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