Get ready for the next wave of consolidation

In times of economic distress, companies with the stronger balance sheets are like sharks in the water, seeking to gain market share through acquisition or attrition.

Global domination. That is the dreamy aspiration, mostly unspoken, of CEOs around the world of companies large and small. Market share domination is probably a more accurate description of the goal. In times of economic distress, companies with the stronger balance sheets are like sharks in the water, seeking to gain market share through acquisition or attrition. With the dawning of a new era of government regulation, spawned by the current and ongoing financial meltdown and the Enron generation, the sharks are circling but keeping an eye on antitrust regulators .

While tech spending doesn't exactly correlate to the credit crunch, IT purchases are expected to slow down over the next three quarters, according to Forrester . Advertising spending in 2009 could be curbed if the economy spirals downward. Of course, no one knows which direction the gyrating stock market and spending patterns will go. If the $700 billion government (taxpayer) handout brings more confidence into the markets, the outlook will be better. But the majority of companies lacking strong financials or sales pipelines will be looking for reasonable exits or ways to conserve cash while the economy sorts itself out.

Consolidation is already happening as a result of the meltdown in the banking sector. The frenzied consolidation triggered during the tech meltdown earlier in this decade will resume. The sharks--Microsoft, Google, HP, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and a few others--are looking at the landscape to see what fits best into their portfolios at discounted prices. Web start-ups aren't immune to the economic circumstances, but many of them are hoarding their VC cash, hoping to outlast the storm. Whatever the future holds, the threat level has gone from to yellow to red alert, and CEOs are preparing for the worst.

 

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