经济学人官方译文 | 小强集团:企业集团永不会消亡,但它们的形态正在演变

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Schumpeter
熊彼特
The conglomeroach
小强集团
Conglomerates will never die out. But their form is evolving
企业集团永不会消亡,但它们的形态正在演变

Industrial conglomerates have long been considered the megafauna of the corporate world: big beasts like mastodons, who were condemned to extinction by spear-wielding corporate raiders in the 1980s. But a better analogy is with cockroaches because, against the odds, conglomerates have refused to die out. They flourish in most climates and are highly adaptive. And they have long been considered pests-at least to shareholders and business-school professors, if not to their numerous employees.
工业集团一直被视作企业界的巨兽。上世纪80年代,这些乳齿象般的庞然大物被挥舞着长矛的“企业掠夺者”宣告灭绝。但还是将它们比作蟑螂更恰当,因为尽管困难重重,它们拒绝消亡。它们在大多数环境中都能繁盛成长,适应性很强。而且,长期以来它们一直被视为害虫,至少在股东和商学院教授眼中是这样,虽然它们的众多员工未必认同。

Today the industrial world is in full cockroach-extermination mode. There has recently been a slew of proposed break-ups and spin-offs, most notably at America's General Electric (GE), United Technologies Corp(UTC), DowDuPont and Honeywell, and at their European counterparts, ThyssenKrupp, ABB, and Siemens.UTC's Greg Hayes, a strapping chief executive who drives a pickup truck and tells it like it is, says that even Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Jeff Bezos's Amazon are too big to manage. While investors tolerate Berkshire and the digital conglomerates for now, the double standard will not last for long.
今天的工业界全面启动了“灭蟑”模式。近期有许多拆解和剥离计划被提出,其中最引人注目的计划涉及美国的通用电气、联合技术公司(UTC)、陶氏杜邦、霍尼韦尔,以及它们的欧洲同行蒂森克虏伯(ThyssenKrupp)、ABB和西门子。高大魁梧的UTC首席执行官贺国瑞(GregHayes)开着一辆皮卡,有一说一。他说,就连巴菲特的伯克希尔·哈撒韦公司和贝佐斯的亚马逊也大到难以管理。尽管投资者目前能容忍伯克希尔和各家数字企业集团,但这种双重标准不会持续太久。

There are several reasons why executive sat industrial firms have a soft spot for unwieldy structures, despite the fact that shareholders usually detest them. The biggest is megalomania: bosses believe they are best placed to run empires. Executives also place undue emphasis on history, conventional wisdom and emotional ties. In order to break up a conglomerate, all of these arguments usually have to be confronted.
虽然股东们通常都厌恶那种尾大不掉的结构,但工业企业的高管们却对它情有独钟,这里有几点原因。最主要的一点是他们权欲爆棚:老板们都相信自己是管理帝国的最佳人选。高管们还过分强调公司历史、传统观念和情感纽带。要拆分一个企业集团,往往得将这些因素悉数破除。

The experience at UTC is illustrative.Last year, after adding Rockwell Collins to its Pratt & Whitney aerospacebusiness thanks to a $30bn takeover, it said it would spin off UTC's two otherdivisions, lifts, and temperature and security, retaining aerospace as itsfocus. The break-up came only after a painstaking effort by Mr Hayes, a UTCveteran, to convince himself and the board that the old sprawl was no longerviable. All the excuses had to be taken on.
UTC的历程很说明问题。去年,该公司以300亿美元收购了罗克韦尔柯林斯公司(Rockwell Collins),并将之与旗下航空部门普惠(Pratt&Whitney)合并。随后,UTC表示将剥离电梯、环境控制与安防这两个部门,而保留航空航天作为主营业务。身为公司资深员工的贺国瑞费尽心力说服自己和董事会旧有扩张模式已不再可行,这才使得公司决定分拆。所有的借口都得一一驳斥。

First history. The firm dates back to the 1920s, when Pratt & Whitney was part of the granddaddy of aerospace monopolies with Boeing and what would become United Airlines. When that was broken up in the 1990s it became United Aircraft, changing its name to UTC in 1975, after which it bought Otis, a lift company, and Carrier, created by the inventor of air-conditioners.
首先是公司历史。这家公司的历史可以追溯到上世纪20年代,当时的普惠、波音和后来成为联合航空的公司等企业组成了一家大公司,是航空垄断企业的鼻祖。到了30年代,这家大公司被分拆,普惠成为联合飞行器公司(United Aircraft),1975年更名为UTC,之后收购了电梯公司奥的斯(Otis)和空调的发明者创建的开利(Carrier)。

In 82 years UTC has never missed a dividend, added to which it is now worth more than GE, an ailing rival in whose shadow it long stood. So it was not obviously begging to be put out of its misery. When Mr Hayes first presented the board with his proposal for a break-up, half of its members resisted, as did some shareholders.
在过去的82年里,UTC从未停止派发股息,而且它的市值如今已超过处境不佳的竞争对手通用电气——它曾长期处于通用电气的阴影之下。所以它并非显而易见地需要摆脱苦难。当贺国瑞首次向董事会提出分拆建议时,有半数董事表示反对,一些股东也持同样立场。

On top of that was conventional wisdom. For years it had been axiomatic that UTC needed the cash from the lucrative servicing contracts of Otis and Carrier to support the long-cycle, capital-intensive development of jet engines. But no one had ever checked. When Mr Hayes did, he discovered it was an "old wives' tale"; each business made enough cash to sustain itself and the dividend. That helped clinch it with the board.
然后是传统观念。多年来,大家都认为有一件事是不言自明的,那就是UTC需要从奥的斯和开利利润丰厚的服务合同中获得现金,以支持开发喷气发动机这一周期长、资本密集的业务。但从来没有人核实过这一点。贺国瑞去做了,并发现这是“无稽之谈”。实际上每块业务都能赚得足够的现金来维持自身运营和分红。这一点有助于最终在董事会敲定分拆计划。

Yet even then, a chief executive's natural inclination to preserve the legacy of his forebears runs against the logic of focus. As he puts it, "It's hard for me emotionally to go from a $75 bn [sales] business in 2019 to a $50 bn aerospace business." But Mr Hayes says that, ultimately, he knew that it was the right thing to do.
即便如此,身为首席执行官,贺国瑞自然而然地倾向于保留前人的遗产,而这和保持业务专注度的逻辑相悖。他说:“从情感上讲,我很难接受从2019年的750亿美元[销售]的公司转为一家500亿美元的航空航天企业。”但他表示,自己最终明白这么做是正确的。

Had he not broken up the company, others might have done it for him. That is because the resistance to change inside companies is increasingly overwhelmed by external forces, particularly from active investors anxious to boost returns. Shortly before Mr Hayes announced the break up of UTC, two hedge funds, Third Point and Pershing Square, started breathing down his neck. They may have come late to the process, but they are a symptom of a bigger change in the world of investment. As low-cost, index-tracking funds grow, active asset managers are under pressure to justify their fees, which makes them more likely to support break-ups. Hence the recent surge in activist campaigns. Lazard, a bank, says their number soared to a record 247 globally last year, up by 17% from 2017.
即便他不分拆公司,说不定也会有人替他做了这件事。这是因为企业内部对变革的抗拒正日渐被外部力量压倒,尤其是来自急于提高回报的积极投资者的压力。就在贺国瑞宣布分拆UTC前不久,两家对冲基金Third Point和Pershing Square开始紧盯他。它们或许来晚了,但它们的到来是投资界内更大变化的一个征兆。随着低收费指数跟踪基金的增长,积极的资产管理公司面临着证明其收费合理性的压力,这让它们更有可能支持分拆。因此,近期维权活动激增。Lazard银行表示,去年全球维权活动创历史新高,共有247起,比2017年增加了17%。

Even in developing countries, where conglomerates have long maintained their superiority, the tide may be turning. Bain, a consultancy, has studied such "dinosaurs" in India and South-East Asia and found that for years they outperformed more focused "pure-play" firms, because of better access to raw materials, regulatory favours and brains. But as local capital markets have developed, the advantages have eroded. Last year Bain reported that in 2007-16 a sample of 102 conglomerates underperformed a group of 287 more single-minded firms.
即使在企业集团长期保持优势的发展中国家,形势可能也在逆转。贝恩咨询公司研究了印度和东南亚的这类“恐龙”,发现多年来它们的表现优于专注单一业务的公司,因为它们更易获得原材料、监管优待和人才。但随着本地资本市场的发展,这些优势逐渐消失。根据贝恩去年的报告,2007年至2016年,102家样本企业集团的表现逊于287家更专注某项业务的企业。

Spreading disease
疾病传播

Such developments make it tempting to think that it is curtains for the cockroaches. Yet new forms are evolving. In another report, Bain noted that last year was the first time global M&A activity was dominated by deals taking firms into new lines of business, rather than ones to build scale, which generate synergies. Examples were Amazon buying PillPack, an online pharmacy, and Alibaba buying ele.me, a Chinese food-delivery business. Amazon's move into logistics, which has recently rattled incumbents such as XPO Logistics, FedEx and UPS, reinforces the trend.
这些新动态不禁让人觉得蟑螂的末日到了。但新的形态正在进化出来。贝恩在另一份报告中指出,去年的全球并购活动首次以将企业引入新业务领域的交易为主,而不是扩大规模的交易,这可以实现协同效应。例如,亚马逊收购了在线药店PillPack,阿里巴巴收购了外卖公司饿了么。亚马逊进军物流业的举动强化了这一趋势,近来让XPO物流、联邦快递和UPS等一众老牌快递公司深感不安。

For the time being, investors are tolerating these fashionable firms in a way that they no longer do the sprawling metal bashers. Perhaps, says Jerry Davis of the University of Michigan, that is because shareholders have mastered the art of valuing conglomerates that own traditional hard assets but still struggle with those holding nascent digital ones. Hence they give bosses like Mr Bezos the benefit of the doubt. But once markets evolve further and businesses mature, firms like Amazon will discover the drawbacks of probing into every nook and cranny. Bythen the activists will probably be crawling over the digital cockroaches, who will resist break-ups-just like their industrial forebears.
就目前而言,投资者还在容忍这些时髦的公司,却不会同样容忍那些四处扩张的传统工业公司。密歇根大学的杰里·戴维斯(Jerry Davis)认为,这或许是因为股东们已经熟练掌握了评估拥有传统硬资产的企业集团的技巧,但还难以对付拥有新生数字资产的这类企业集团。因此,他们虽有疑虑,但还是选择姑且相信贝佐斯这样的老板。但是,一旦市场进一步发展、企业变得成熟,亚马逊之类的公司会发现让自身业务无孔不入的弊端。到那时,维权分子可能就会盯上这些“数字蟑螂”,而这些蟑螂会努力抗拒分拆,就像它们的“工业蟑螂”前辈们一样。

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