Home sweet home
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Home sweet home

In a few years the merger between Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter will appear epoch-making. It will mark a change in the trend of financial mergers away from flashy cross-border deals to more workaday domestic ones.

The contrast with Morgan Stanley's previous acquisition attempt ­ that of SGWarburg at the end of 1994 ­ could not be more marked. Morgan wanted Warburg for its strength in international distribution and its cross-border franchises, for example in European M&A. The attractions of Dean Witter were much more mundane: principally, its US retail network and its money management arm.

There are good reasons why plain home-based acquisitions make more sense. Acquired staff can be suspicious and resentful. They may not be up to your own high standards. When Swiss Bank Corp bought Warburg, it found that the jewel of Warburg's operation ­ its corporate finance department ­ was not as well run or technically competent as it expected.

Many cross-border investment banking mergers never quite made it, mainly because of culture clashes. First Boston has never regained its place as a top-three player in the US after the takeover by Credit Suisse. Deutsche Morgan Grenfell still struggles two years after its establishment, as an article in this issue describes.

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