On July 24th, 2015, the top officials of Nikkei, Japan’s largest media company, announced that the company has become the new owner of a prominent global newspaper, the Financial Times. ((Nikkei’s Surprising Purchase of the Financial Times, THE Economist (Sept. 12, 2015, 3:11 PM), http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21659831-deal-indicates-global-ambitions-otherwise-domestic-company-nikkeis-surprising.)) The news came as a surprise to many, as senior executives of the FT and its parent company, Pearson, had been in negotiation with a German media company, Axel Springer, for about a year. ((Ravi Somaiya et al., Nikkei to Buy Financial Times from Pearson for $1.3 Billion, N.Y. Times (Sept. 12, 2015, 3:45 PM), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/24/business/dealbook/pearson-financial-times-sale.html?_r=0.)) In fact, the FT’s own homepage was still reporting Axel Springer as the leading bidder even after Nikkei had announced the deal. ((Manuel Baigorri et al., FT Chase Capped by Nikkei Leapfrogging Axel Springer Bid, Bloomberg (Sept. 12, 2015, 4:01 PM), http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-23/ft-chase-capped-by-nikkei-leapfrogging-axel-springer-for-paper.)) Nikkei succeeded in out-bidding Axel Springer with an offer of $1.3 billion just an hour before the deal was closed. ((Id.)) The price tag of the FT made it one of the largest M&A deals involving newspapers, some of which are the sales of the Washington Post for $250 million and the Boston Globe for $70 million. ((Ravi Somaiya et al., supra note 2.))
Nikkei, best known outside of Japan for its publishing of the Nikkei 225 stock average, is also the proprietor of Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan’s largest business newspaper. The move of the Japanese media giant is seen by experts as part of their strategy to establish global presence and benefit from the FT’s successful business model in digital circulation. ((Id.)) The deal is also seen as part of an increasing move toward globalization in media. ((Id.)) Axel Springer has been involved in global partnerships with groups such as Politico, a Virginia-based news organization, and the Guardian has long been pursuing a business strategy centered on global growth. ((Id.)) Similarly, Japanese companies have been looking outward for growth as domestic market continues to shrink due to rapidly aging population and low birthrate.
Some experts predict that the Nikkei’s purchase of the FT signals a much larger wave of global M&A deals through 2018, much of it involving Asia. ((Anthony Fensom, Asia’s Renewed Deal Frenzy, THE Diplomat (Sept. 12, 2015, 4:29PM), http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/asias-renewed-deal-frenzy.)) Although China and Hong Kong are expected to top the list of M&A activities, Japan is also expected to take up a significant volume of the deals thanks to the Abe administration’s cheap money policy. ((Id.)) In 2014, Japan had $65 billion worth of M&A deals, and that figure is expected to rise to as high as $91 billion in 2017. ((Id.)) It remains to be seen whether such projection will materialize as China’s economic growth slows down and the Federal Reserve prepares to increase the interest rates.