CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury - Let us not to the marriage of two such firms admit impediments. Despite the timing of the announcement of the SmithKline/Glaxo merger City analysts were well informed of events as they happened, says Miranda Kavanagh, a directo

This was the deal that caught everyone on the hop. There’ll probably be many fireside reminiscences in years to come along the lines of the ’where were you when Glaxo Wellcome said they’d merge with SmithKline Beecham?’ variety. The answer being for most of the City: ’in a wine bar’, I expect.

This was the deal that caught everyone on the hop. There’ll

probably be many fireside reminiscences in years to come along the lines

of the ’where were you when Glaxo Wellcome said they’d merge with

SmithKline Beecham?’ variety. The answer being for most of the City: ’in

a wine bar’, I expect.



According to the Financial Times, the announcement was put out at

11.15pm on Friday. Where fighting for column inches is the name of the

game, then this would obviously be sub-optimal timing. But there never

would be any shortage of newsprint over such a sensational turn of

events, so the timing probably didn’t really matter.



Coverage has been largely positive, mainly, I think because the

background to these kinds of deals has been largely signalled in the

past. The fact that big pharmaceutical companies seem unable on their

own to come up with new products to produce a growth rate acceptable to

shareholders is a theme that has been around since the mega-mergers in

the industry first began. Therefore the informed reader has a pretty

good idea of the reasoning behind the deals and has bought into the

logic.



Secondly, the strategies, products, markets and management of both

companies have also been widely reported in the quality press - in fact

you could say that both of them are seldom out of the news.



Both companies have vigorous leaders and both have a significant

commitment to the highest possible standards of professionalism in their

investor and media relations. This is a continual effort which reaps

dividends in these circumstances in terms of high familiarity and

favorability.



My conclusion is that the financial audience has been well handled. The

area which one could say has been neglected is the employee audience -

although one does not know the detail of any employee communications

programme undertake internally. However it cannot do much for morale to

read in the press that 10 per cent of the combined workforce, that is

about 11,000 people, stand to lose their jobs.



However, having been in these situations myself as an in-house PR, I

know just how impossible it is to balance City requirements with the

needs of employees in these circumstances. All things considered, my

verdict would be well done to both companies.



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