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How Apple’s arrogance impacts its ability to acquire new companies

February 15th, 2017 at 5:23 PM
Apple Acquisitions

A new report from Bloomberg sheds some interesting light on the hazy underpinnings of Apple’s acquisition strategy. Famously, Apple’s tends to shy away from large corporate acquisitions, with the company’s $3 billion purchase of Beats a few years ago standing as a lone exception. That notwithstanding, the report relays that Apple’s own arrogance and “take it or leave it” attitude might be precluding it from successfully inking similar large-scale acquisitions.

Per the report, many of Apple’s acquisitions are spearheaded by engineers who routinely meet with Apple’s M&A guru Adrian Perica to discuss attractive new technologies and companies that might help advance the company’s product roadmap.

So while identifying potential acquisition targets isn’t a problem, Apple’s penchant for believing that a) it can do everything on its own and that b) companies should be flattered to be swallowed up by Apple has sometimes led to a few standstills. As a quick example, Apple clearly bit off a lot more than it could chew when it decided to explore researching and developing its own electric car many months ago.

This is arguably problematic because by the time Apple realizes it can’t do something, potential acquisition targets may become too expensive to pick up. Using Tesla as an example, the company’s $44 billion market cap all but makes an Apple acquisition a non-starter. However, Apple could have picked up the company at a bargain back in 2013 when shares of Tesla were trading in the low $30 range.

Even when Apple isn’t intent on going it alone, their hubris can sometimes leave potential targets uneasy.

Apple also dictates terms and tells targets to take it or leave it, betting that the promise of product development support later and the chance of appearing in future iPhones are alluring enough, the people said.

That was the case when Apple acquired Metaio GmbH in 2015. Bankers appointed by the augmented-reality firm to negotiate weren’t allowed in the room, and while Metaio executives felt the offer was low, Apple’s vision for the technology convinced them to sell, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Interestingly, there’s a famous story detailing how Apple was very close to acquiring Dropbox. As the story goes, Steve Jobs called Dropbox a “feature, not a product” and made a relatively low-ball offer for the company. When Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said no, Jobs insinuated that Houston might want to reconsider because Apple was going to go after the company’s user base with a rival service.

Of course, as it all played out, Apple’s own iCloud offering hasn’t exactly done much of anything to stymie Dropbox’s growth.

While the allure of working under the Apple umbrella certainly works sometimes, that’s not always the case. Indeed, the cowboy-esque manner in which Apple tends to carry itself in negotiations isn’t exactly suited for large-scale acquisitions, something which some analysts believe Apple needs to be more open to in the future.

All that said, Tim Cook is on record as saying that Apple is “open to acquisitions of any size”, an interesting take given previous indications that Apple last year explored picking up Time Warner.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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