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M&A with Eduard Sprokholt

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

And the other course I did during Q2.2 was, again, a finance course: mergers and acquisitions with Eduard Sprokholt. The same course with the same professor, probably with a more European focus, is available in my home country for a few hundred euro’s less but since it is freezing there now and the plane tickets are not cheap I happily signed up for it here in Thailand.

Eduard Sprokholt teaching at Sasin

This course would cover everything related to M&A; from deal preparation and the actual deal up to the post-merger integration. That seems like a lot, and it is a lot, especially given the limited time available meaning we reached some details for some parts but not for all. Besides a thick book about mergers and acquisitions we also had 2 readers to go through.

Besides this beast of a book, which was not as well written as I hoped, we also had 2 readers with articles and chapters from other books.

In total 4 homework assignments had to be handed in as a group, all based on cases. The strange thing was that none of the readers contained the cases, and unlike any other course done so far we did not get the complete case at all. The idea was to just search for information online: newspaper articles, fairness opinions, and official announcements are all accessible for whoever knows how Google works. The professor indicated he preferred that we looked for our own information this way as this would be closer to real-life work experience; your boss will not hand you a Harvard Business Case to analyze as an assignment. Besides realizing that all information is well available to whoever searches for it, we also came to the conclusion that the analytical skills of most journalists is serious lacking when they report on deal announcements and just copy and paste all information from the company statements.

Why would you need a complete MBA business case if you can find all necessary information in documents like this?

Besides the homework assignments we also had a group presentation about a recent M&A deal we could pick ourselves. Since we had to pick a deal early on in the course we had no clue which deals might be interesting meaning it was a bit hit or miss where some teams picked a deal which was boring and straightforward while others were more lucky with an interesting deal with some unusual twists and turns. The write-up of this final assignment was limited to 3 pages of text only which made it very difficult to summarize all interesting information in such limited space. Normally we just throw everything in the appendix but in this case that was also limited to 7 pages.

A detailed analysis for the deal between CNOOC and Nexen for our final report and presentation.

The final 50% of our grade depended on how well we did in the final exam. This exam consisted for about 30% out of calculations which we had practiced in class and the other 70% tested our understanding of concepts discussed in class. The instructions told us to use bullet points but given the exam format, where we had to explain the linkage between two concepts, this did not seem totally logically to me. Bullet points are fine when you ask for several reasons or multiple arguments, but not when you want to link executive stock options with the chance of overpaying for a target. I solved this problem by just giving one bullet point as answer consisting of a full paragraph. In the end I completely filled up the exam booklet, including the back page which you are not intended to write on, just to make sure the professor had something to do on his 10 hour flight back to Holland.

Instead of having everything in PowerPoint and distributed during class you actually had to stay awake to make notes and participate.

This course ended up as one of the more interesting ones I have done this year, not only because I have a genuine interest in the subject but also because of the unusual approach to analyzing interesting deals and doing the homework assignments. The workload for this course is relatively high but luckily it was spread out pretty well over the weeks meaning it never resulted in stress or problems.