Tim Buckley Owen M&A activity to grow in 2011?
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By Tim Buckley Owen

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A little flurry of acquisitions in the information industry currently is tending to confirm the view of one consultancy that mergers and acquisitions are going to be a key driver for media companies generally in 2011. But what does it mean for their information manager customers? It was last November that Wolters Kluwer Germany announced that it was acquiring LexisNexis Deutschland (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e31402 for background). Now that acquisition is complete and, with all the LexisNexis products expected to be fully incorporated by February, Wolters Kluwer says that it will be able to give its German customers an integrated offering of strong online legal services, publishing and workflow solutions (http://digbig.com/5bdecm). Since then cloud computing specialist Salesforce.com and content aggregator ProQuest have each announced acquisitions of their own. Salesforce has grabbed real time communications specialist Dimdim, Dialog’s owner ProQuest has carried off the e-book pioneer ebrary – and both are bullish about the service enhancements that will result. Salesforce sees itself harnessing Dimdim’s technology to mirror the ‘proven Facebook model’ of combining collaboration and communication into an integrated service (http://digbig.com/5bdecn) – reflecting the view of its boss Marc Benioff that cloud applications are increasingly moving from transactional to social models (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e30603 for more background on this). Meanwhile ebrary will add a quarter of a million books to ProQuest’s already huge content offering, and the company says that it is ‘primed for imaginative technology mash-ups’, planning continued investment in ebrary’s products and services (http://digbig.com/5bdecp). News has also emerged recently that Thomson Reuters’ tax & accountancy unit is on the acquisitions trail, seeking to capitalise on the harmonisation of international accounting standards. Speaking to the Financial Times last December, its chief executive Roy Martin said that it would be launching products for China, Taiwan and South Korea in the first quarter of 2011, and was also looking for acquisitions in continental Europe – which the FT pointed out was the traditional stronghold of its rival Wolters Kluwer (http://digbig.com/5bdecq – registration or subscription required). All this seems to bear out the view of international accountancy firm PwC that media companies of all kinds will see increased M&A activity in 2011, following the finding that 50% of all such activity in the sector by value in 2010 took place in the final quarter. Even the most ‘traditional’ of segments such as books and magazines were now seeing strong digital impacts from e-readers and tablet devices, PwC declared, with media companies looking to digital M&A as the driver (http://digbig.com/5bdecr). Inevitably, such activity will convey mixed messages to professional purchasers of content. Strategic acquisitions can enhance usability as workflow solutions increasingly displace traditional content as the main offering – but each acquisition also means potentially fewer opportunities for taking your business elsewhere.

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