The proposed merger of equals between Praxair, Inc. and The Linde Group continues to gather pace toward a hoped-for Q2 transaction, and yet reportedly faces ongoing challenges from German unions.

Linde remains stoic in its aims to push forward with the merger, citing the many benefits of the potential merger for both the company and its shareholders – but making clear that a positive conclusion will only be reached if the overwhelming majority of the Linde shareholders support the combination.

Discussions between Praxair and Linde continue and it should be noted that at the time of writing they show no sign of abating, but the unwavering challenge to that dialogue highlights how a seemingly strong combination in prospect could eventually fail to reach fruition.

Multinational professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has recently released its latest tri-annual M&A Integration Survey, which has tracked the integration strengths and weaknesses of public-company mergers and acquisitions (M&A) since 1997.

Now in its 20th year, the survey explores some of the difficulties that can lead to deadlock in M&A and equally, the strategies that can escort a deal through to consummation.

Here, as the latest chapter of M&A thrives in the gases industry, PwC shares some of those key insights with gasworld.

Ambition

With increasingly diverse and multigenerational workforces, and most industries undergoing some form of digital disruption, today’s business leaders find it more prudent to buy than to build talent and capabilities they need to join the ranks of the disruptors, says PwC.

By definition, that means many of today’s deals require integrating a completely different type of organisation with capabilities far outside the acquirer’s core.

“Dealmakers are more ambitious than ever before. They’re using M&A not only to improve the bottom line, but to stretch their business, adding new and often unfamiliar capabilities,” said Gregg Nahass, partner in PwC’s Deals practice and author of the study.

“Reaching into unknown territory for growth is, of course, riskier than combining organisations that have a lot in common.”

PwC’s 2017 M&A Integration Survey polled a total of 151 respondents from a sampling of Fortune 1000 companies that had completed mergers or acquisitions in the previous three years. 32% of those were at the senior executive management level with titles including CEO, President, COO, CFO, CIO, EVP, and SVP, while 67% were VPs from corporate development, strategy, sales and marketing, operations, IT, finance, and HR.

It found that companies are getting better at achieving certain goals, but they are still struggling to reach others – namely because their expectations are changing. The report explores the challenges that today’s dealmakers are facing, along with what dealmakers are getting right about integration and where they need to improve.

Redefining M&A success

Companies are achieving greater financial and operational success with their deals, but strategic success is getting harder to come by. Transformational deals continue to increase with over half (54%) of the respondents now reporting these types of deals, which is a direct correlation to the decreasing percentage of respondents who report ‘strategic success’.

Financial results and synergies captured are improving based on respondents who reported ‘very favourable’ or ‘favourable’ results for profitability, cash flow, revenue capture and cost capture. In addition, the speed of integration has improved, with 88% of respondents reporting the time to achieve leadership alignment took six months or less.

pwc survey staff retention stat

Source: PwC

Top integration challenges

Integrating information technology and across functions and geographies continue to be among the most difficult challenges for business leaders to overcome during a deal.

People integration also remains a big challenge with less than half (45%) reporting ‘significant success’ in retention and very few reporting favourable results when it comes to employee morale and understanding.

Companies are focusing on integration earlier in the M&A process and shifting integration skillsets to meet their deal needs. Dedicating resources to centralised, cross-functional areas with high complexity can also increase deal success. Executive compensation and incentives are increasingly being tied to deal performance and driving greater deal success. This year’s survey also found that deals tend to perform better with dedicated leadership and personnel.

pwc survey dedicated leadership

Source: PwC

“Ultimately, success requires leadership to take a coordinated approach to integration, with a focus on fostering a cohesive culture. Early planning, rapid execution, and long-term commitment to integration completion improve the odds that M&A will meet objectives and deliver value,” added Nahass.

“After all, if people across the organisation aren’t on board with the transaction strategy, integration execution will likely falter.”

More information

PwC has conducted its integration surveys for 20 years. For more information or to participate in future surveys, visit pwc.com/us/integrationsurvey.