Most Japanese companies assume overseas acquisitions are high risk – and yet continue to acquire in pursuit of growth. But according to research from Daiki Tanaka (formerly of McKinsey and now running his own consultancy) Japanese overseas acquisitions of companies in the same industry from 1996 to 2018 had a lower failure rate (2.8%) than domestic Japanese acquisitions where the acquiring company is “jumping” into new sectors (3.4%).
The money at stake is are far bigger however for overseas takeovers. The average price tag of an overseas acquisition is Y24.5bn (over $200m), whereas the average domestic acquisition in Japan is around Y1bn (over $9m). This would be partly skewed by recent mega acquisitions such as Takeda acquiring Shire for $62bn and SoftBank acquiring ARM for $32bn.
Tanaka also concludes from his research that a “let’s be lovers first” approach is actually a higher risk strategy for overseas acquisitions. Taking a minority stake and then gradually raising it to full ownership/marriage can mean that due diligence is insufficient and the minority shareholder has not been able to participate fully in corporate governance.
Tanaka expects Japanese companies to continue to acquire overseas companies from the same industrial sector, because lower risk domestic acquisitions will not necessarily help to access higher growth overseas markets. If they want to escape the low growth, ageing Japanese market, acquiring overseas is the obvious quick route out. It would seem that a virgin marriage is recommended however.
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