- Programme: Mergers and Acquisitions
- Nationality: Australian
- Job Post-programme: Head of Strategy and Business Development (Rail), TE Connectivity
“This programme gives you the right skills to work on transactions. You will be well placed to look at the market, assess likely targets against your business strategy, propose opportunities and really understand how they can deliver value to your organisation.”
Navigating the world of M&A is tricky when you have little experience of buying and selling companies, as Wesley Gilbert found when tasked with identifying targets for TE Connectivity’s growing rail division.
“We have a corporate team looking after M&A, but the business unit needs to prepare these deals in a way so that the information is clear and concise for the corporate team. I needed to pick up the skillset to work on the more niche acquisitions for our portfolio and market business growth,” he says.
To that end, Wesley took the Mergers and Acquisitions programme at London Business School in 2016. The programme taught him to spot businesses that complement TE Connectivity, which manufactures technology for connecting and sensing devices in everything from cars, planes and trains to power grids and household appliances.
Wesley also learnt about the strategic aspects of deal making from Marcus Alexander, Adjunct Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, such as setting out clear aims and identifying potential risks in order to complete a successful merger.
Moreover, Florin Vasvari, London Business School Term Associate Professor of Accounting, taught him and his peers about the financial side of M&A. “Florin showed us how to look at financial models – which provide statistical data on M&A activity, deal cycles and growth rates in certain industries – and determine whether they were right for our business when thinking about the information we need to identify targets.”
Other topics covered on the programme included M&A trends – highlighting the opportunities facing TE Connectivity and its competitors – and the bidding and acquisition process. Moreover, Wesley and his fellow students looked at the cultural nuances of dealing with vendors around the world.
“One of the guest speakers, Phil Carter [an M&A advisor who previously led and implemented more than 30 deals while at Shell International in London], talked about the regions in which he had put M&A deals together, and some of the differences he encountered,” Wesley says. “We learnt about different etiquette and how, for example, some cultures like to sit down immediately and talk business, while others are casual for the first five meetings before getting down to it.”
Spending time with people from different industries and backgrounds gave Wesley an insight into how his peers approach deal-making. “We had a large group from Saudi Arabia and it was great to engage with them, because their country isn’t a traditional place for the rail industry. They have their own ways of doing business, so it was really interesting to learn about them and the sectors they operate in.”
The art of negotiation
Developing a strategy for the deal-making process and overcoming setbacks during negotiations were other topics covered on the programme. For Wesley, focusing on service agreements and the pitfalls when not scrutinising every aspect of a deal were particularly fascinating.
“Not getting your service agreements in place can have a major impact,” he says. “For example, without an agreement, you may find there is no power in the building that came as part of a deal or the computers have been taken away. You also need to check whether you have the right permits to operate in certain regions or countries.”
As a newcomer to M&A, Wesley now has the confidence to identify potential targets and participate in deals. “This programme gives you the right skills to work on transactions,” he says. “You will be well placed to look at the market, assess likely targets against your business strategy, propose opportunities and really understand how they can deliver value to your organisation.”