LONDON -- Takeovers can be great opportunities. They are a chance for company bosses to dream, to see the big picture, and to be creative. And when they succeed, they can make a company. Just look at the success of a business such as Vodafone.
So in this article, I have also taken the chance to dream. Here are three takeovers I think should happen.
The only way to challenge Apple
I commute to work every day by train. When I get on the train and walk through the carriages -- especially the first-class carriages -- the sight is always the same as I walk by seat after seat: iPad, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iPad, and then, yes, another iPad.
You don't need me to tell you that the dominance of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) in the world of technology is phenomenal. It's Apple, Apple, Apple, wherever you go.
Contrast Apple's success with Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) . Nokia once ruled the world of mobile, but somehow it completely missed the transition to smartphones. It finally came out with its Lumia range of smartphones, and these are surprisingly impressive, bedecked in Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) brightly colored and intuitive "metro" interface.
But this hasn't been enough to stop Nokia's share price from tumbling. The company can now be gobbled up for $10 billion -- no more than a tasty mouthful for a Microsoft that is still massively cash-rich.
People conveniently forget this, but Microsoft still has a stranglehold on the corporate IT market. This makes it one of the few companies with the financial muscle to be able to challenge Apple. And this could be Microsoft's chance to seize the initiative from Apple, but while I suspect that the strategic mastermind that was Bill Gates in his pomp may have been able to rise to the challenge, it is likely too much for poor old Steve Ballmer.
If Apple really wants to take over the world
If Apple's competitors might try snapping at its heels, there are things it can do to leave other companies trailing in its wake.
Perhaps Apple's biggest strength is its brand, which it backs up with world-class technology and visionary design. The combination is formidable. But, if you think about it, Apple's product range is pretty limited: computers, phones, tablets -- that's about it.
Imagine if it moved into the field of televisions, or games consoles, or music systems. Imagine if it applied its brand, its technology, and its design to these fields. The company could dominate even more than it does currently.
I have recently looked at the decline of Japanese giant Sony (NYSE: SNE ) . With its share price a tenth of what it used to be, it could easily be snapped up by Apple. Sony still produces some world-leading technology, but its once unrivaled brand is tarnished and fading, and its design could be better.
What better company than Apple to turn things around?
Of course, it will probably never happen, largely because of the cultural gulf between Japan and the West Coast of the US, but I still think the prospect is enticing.
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK ) and AstraZeneca are both British pharma giants and huge players in the global drugs industry. But GlaxoSmithKline's price-to-earnings ratio, at its current price of 1447 pence, is 14.3, while AstraZeneca's P/E, at its current price of 2853 pence, is a mere 6.1. AstraZeneca's market capitalization is less than half GSK's. Why?
Quite simply, because Glaxo has found a way to innovate with incredible success, while AstraZeneca hasn't. While the patents to AstraZeneca's money-spinners are expiring one after another and its research and development operation is failing spectacularly to produce, GlaxoSmithKline is churning out new drug after new drug, with a pipeline that is the envy of other pharma companies.
So what to do then? Well, why not put the two together? Keep AstraZeneca's manufacturing and marketing infrastructure, but replace the company's research model with GSK's. Then watch as AstraZeneca's research output shoots up. Simple!
Too ambitious? Perhaps, but this could be the way to arrest AstraZeneca's decline -- and the firm's shareholders would be laughing all the way to the bank.
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