Verizon will acquire Straight Path Communications for $3.1 billion, beating out AT&T’s initial offer of $1.25 billion. The primary driver for the deal is accessing Straight Path’s millimeter wave spectrum which will be key to building a faster 5G network.

Disruptive technology and evolving consumer habits are reshaping the telecommunications industry at a rapid pace and both Verizon and AT&T have used acquisitions to stay ahead of the curve. AT&T recently acquired Time Warner for $85 billion to gain access to its content including HBO and CNN and Verizon acquired Yahoo! for $4.83 billion to boost its digital ad business.

Consumers are dropping landlines and cable TV and moving toward online streaming, especially on mobile devices. Social media has also reshaped where viewers get information and entertainment and media companies are struggling to adapt. For Verizon, using acquisition in along with organic growth, will help the company build an infrastructure to stay relevant with consumers. A 5G network will have higher speeds and greater capacity to keep up with downloads, video streaming, and other smart devices like Alexa, Google Home, or even automated vehicles. Companies that can anticipate and capture future consumer demand will remain successful and continue to grow, while others will be left behind.

Leaders in all industries should be aware of this dynamic and consider capturing future customer demand as a major driver for strategic growth. This means giving customers what they need and also what they don’t know they need. Amazon does an excellent job of this by suggesting items in their follow up emails base on strong algorithms. Think about how you can apply this principle to your current customers and your potential future customers and how you will go about fulfilling their needs.

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Seeking growth amid a shifting telecommunications industry, AT&T has bet on media content. The company plans to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion in one of the biggest media acquisitions in history. The transaction will likely take over a year to receive regulatory approval, but both AT&T and Time Warner executives are optimistic. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has compared the deal to Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal in 2013, which was approved after a long period of regulatory scrutiny. This vertical merger will bring together Time Warner’s media content and AT&T’s distribution network in one company.

Consumers Dropping Landlines, Cable TV

The telecommunications market has shifted with many consumers dropping landlines and cable TV. Mobile use is increasing exponentially with mobile users representing 65% of digital media time in 2015. This means people are primarily using smartphones to read articles, play games and watch videos than are using computers.

Telecommunications and media companies are starting to take notice of these trends. Just last year AT&T’s biggest rival, Verizon, acquired AOL in a push to reach more mobile users. And earlier this year, it announced it would acquire Yahoo to boost its mobile unit.

Deal Synergies

One benefit of the deal is that AT&T will be able to provide more data to Time Warner and advertisers without raising prices for consumers or withholding the content from competitors (like Verizon).

AT&T may also plan to create original, exclusive content leveraging Time Warner’s expertise in media. Online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have successfully produced their own original content.

In the long term, AT&T wants to build up a robust, next-generation infrastructure in order to compete with cable providers. “I will be sorely disappointed if we are not going head-to-head” with cable providers by 2021, said Stephenson.

Growing in a Declining Market

As demand for traditional telecommunication services shrinks, AT&T and other providers must look outside their current market for new growth opportunities. In a declining marketing, consolidating, or simply gaining more market share will not help you grow in the long term. If AT&T managed to capture the entire market for landline phones, their revenues would still shrink as consumers abandon landlines.

By acquiring Time Warner, AT&T will own content including popular networks such as HBO and CNN. Organically growing its own content business would take time and be difficult given the large size of other media content producers like Disney and CBS. As an established business, Time Warner gives AT&T a foothold in the media market and immediate access to new users.

If like A&T you are stuck in a declining marketing, identifying markets with future demand for your company’s products or services is the key to growth. You can explore future demand by using our tool, the Opportunity Matrix, to understand where you want to position your company strategically looking forward.

Start exploring today 

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Yahoo says the private information of at least 500 million has been compromised due to a cyber-attack in 2014. In the biggest security breach to date, hackers gained access to sensitive information including names, emails addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and security questions.

The security breach has ramifications not just for Yahoo and its users, but also for Verizon, which is currently in the process of acquiring Yahoo for $4.8 billion. Even though the cyberattack occurred in 2014, Verizon only found out about it last week. As a result of the hack, Verizon could possibly walk away from the deal or renegotiate the price.

The hack on Yahoo highlights the need for functional due diligence in order to identify all critical information that could potentially impact a deal. Leaders tend to focus on financial and legal data during due diligence, however failing to fully research other areas of the business, including cybersecurity, can be detrimental to your acquisition. You don’t want to find a “surprise” after the acquisition closes.

Functional Leaders Critical to Comprehensive Due Diligence

Functional due diligence is one of the best ways to ensure you are making decisions with the most complete data. This means incorporating leaders from each of the functional areas of your business – IT, sales, marketing, operations, accounting, finance – early on in the due diligence process. These leaders are involved in the day-to-day tasks of running the company and have a high-level of familiarity with their functional area. They are specialized experts who can spot problems, identify solutions, and ask appropriate questions that other executives may overlook.

It’s best to have each functional leader develop their own list of questions based on their experience working in the functional area of your business and the overall acquisition strategy. Next, have the functional leaders from your company meet with their respective leaders on the seller’s side to gather the necessary information. Once each functional leader has met with their counterpart, you can compile the individual lists into one comprehensive data set that covers all aspects of your business in thorough detail.

An addition to identifying risks and critical pieces of information, functional leaders can help develop and implement your integration plan. They will be able to anticipate specific integration challenges you may have and help develop solutions to avoid these pitfalls. Involving functional leaders in due diligence increases your chances of a successful acquisition.

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Another blockbuster tech deal was announced yesterday. Verizon will acquire Yahoo’s core business for $4.83 billion to boost its digital advertising capabilities. The deal includes Yahoo’s search, mail content and ad-tech business, but does not include Yahoo’s shares in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. The combined company will reach over one billion users. Verizon plans to merge Yahoo with AOL, which was acquired last year for $4.4 billion, to create a larger advertising subsidiary.

Verizon’s Strategic Rationale

Verizon is building is digital advertising capabilities to compete with the top two players, Google and Facebook. With the deal, Verizon will double its digital advertising business to become the third largest US internet advertiser with 4.5% of the market share.

Lowell McAdam, Verizon Chairman and CEO, said in a press release“Just over a year ago we acquired AOL to enhance our strategy of providing a cross-screen connection for consumers, creators and advertisers. The acquisition of Yahoo will put Verizon in a highly competitive position as a top global mobile media company, and help accelerate our revenue stream in digital advertising.” 

In building on its AOL deal, Verizon is doing what we call taking “frequent bites of the apple,” or using a series of deals to achieve its overall growth strategy. Using a multiple deals rather than a single transformational deal can have many benefits including focusing on a single reason for acquisition, adjusting to integration challenges more easily and minimizing the risk of acquisition failure. Fortunately, Verizon has already had some time to digest and integrate the AOL acquisition because integrating Yahoo’s massive workforce of 8,800 employees and 700 contractors will be no easy task.

Integrating Yahoo will be critical to growing Verizon’s digital ad business. In today’s marketplace, content is king and Verizon will need to produce and monetize exciting content in order to compete with Google and Facebook, who have users creating unique videos for free on YouTube and Facebook. Even with Yahoo, Verizon will still be far behind Google and Facebook who make up 36% and 17% of the market, respectively.

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I decided to answer a very basic, but important question about M&A, given that we often talk about strategic acquisitions.

Q: What’s the difference between a financial and a strategic buyer?

A: A financial buyer brings little inherent value to the transaction. Typically they bring capital and capital allocation knowledge, but usually no specific knowledge about the technology, application, or customers of the seller.

On the other hand, strategic buyers do have specialized knowledge about a particular market or product that will add value to the transaction, or what we call “synergies.” Synergies typically come in two forms – cost reduction or increasing revenues. Acquisitions that bring real value are focused on the revenue growth side rather than on cost-cutting. You can only cut costs once, but done right you can continue to grow revenue for years to come.

For example, although a strategic acquirer may be able to cut costs by consolidating overhead and admin expenses, that hopefully is not the only reason for the acquisition! It might be that the seller’s technology is complementary to the buyer’s and can be used to grow market share through cross-selling. In a recent example, Verizon just closed on its acquisition of AOL for its mobile advertising technology. Verizon is a huge mobile carrier and has expertise with mobile phones and an understanding of the technology and business. Adding mobile advertising is another way it can increase revenues with its current customer mix, especially as more and more people acquire smartphones.

For strategic acquirers, the focus of the acquisition should be on long-term growth for the entire business. Most strategic acquirers will buy a company and keep it rather than sell it after a few years to make a profit, as private equity groups tend to do.