Editor's Blog: Media merger mania

The future flow of information bits is uncertain, complex and unstoppable

The future flow of information bits is uncertain, complex and unstoppable

The unravelling this week of the merger between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler - the US company was bought for $36bn in 1998 and finally sold for $7.4bn today, ouch - actually looks straightforward in the context of very recent M&A movements.

On reflection this morning it occurred to me that the merger talk before this big auto-makers' deal was much more complex. The deals were potentially more exciting - and more uncertain.

And guess what? Every large deal had information and media at its heart.

You'll have read about them in potentially hundreds of places. Murdoch's News Corp bidding for the venerable company that brings us The Wall Street Journal (not to mention a website that is arguably the real prize), Microsoft and Yahoo! possibly tying the knot against the backdrop of a Google-dominated online world and Thomson Corp's bid for Reuters, albeit more about financial information.

It may take some time and lots of opining along the way from certain quarters (we have to keep the wolf from the door somehow) but I wouldn't bet against all these deals eventually coming off.

It isn't so much that old media is weak. Globally, print is a growth industry. And in developed markets, services such as the terminals and applications that the likes of Bloomberg, Reuters and Thomson supply are hardly new and haven't depended on the internet.

It's rather that size and reach matter and in a time of rising markets companies feel the need to flex their muscles, even if deals would have been better value several years ago.

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In all of this, the crazy thing is that none of the three deals mentioned guarantees anything.

News Corp may yet be outflanked - though a business paper/website play from Murdoch aligned with a business news TV station are clearly assets he doesn't have right now - Microsoft-Yahoo! may not be a match for Google and its equity-funded expansion, and Bloomberg may yet prove more than a match for its peers.

I don't profess to be an expert in auto-makers but in 1998 the German-US tie-up I began writing about above, while a gamble, probably looked more of a sure bet than what we're seeing now in media and information services. And look how that ended up.