This is an audio version of the Wikipedia Article:
00:03:10 1 International
00:07:28 2 Advantages and disadvantages of Conglomerates
00:07:39 2.1 Advantages
00:08:46 2.2 Disadvantages
00:10:00 3 Media conglomerates
00:13:06 3.1 Internet conglomerates
00:13:43 4 Food conglomerates
00:14:09 5 See also
00:14:18 6 Notes
00:14:27 7 Bibliography
00:15:05 8 External links
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A conglomerate is the combination of two or more corporations operating in entirely different industries under one corporate group, usually involving a parent company and many subsidiaries. Often, a conglomerate is a multi-industry company. Conglomerates are often large and multinational.
Conglomerates were popular in the 1960s due to a combination of low interest rates and a repeating bear-bull market, which allowed the conglomerates to buy companies in leveraged buyouts, sometimes at temporarily deflated values. Famous examples from the 1960s include Ling-Temco-Vought, ITT Corporation, Litton Industries, Textron, Teledyne. Because of low interest on the loans, the overall return on investment of the conglomerate appeared to grow. Also, the conglomerate had a better ability to borrow in the money market, or capital market, than the smaller firm at their community bank.For many years this was enough to make the company's stock price rise, as companies were often valued largely on their return on investment. The aggressive nature of the conglomerators themselves was enough to make many investors, who saw a "powerful" and seemingly unstoppable force in business, buy their stock. High stock prices allowed them to raise more loans, based on the value of their stock, and thereby buy even more companies. This led to a chain reaction, which allowed them to grow very rapidly.
However, all of this growth was somewhat illusory and when interest rates rose to offset inflation, conglomerate profits fell. Investors noticed that the companies inside the conglomerate were growing no faster than before they were purchased, whereas the rationale for buying a company was that "synergies" would provide efficiency. By the late 1960s they were shunned by the market, and a major sell-off of their shares ensued. To keep the companies going, many conglomerates were forced to shed the industries they had recently purchased, and by the mid-1970s most had been reduced to shells. The conglomerate fad was subsequently replaced by newer ideas like focusing on a company's core competency.
In other cases, conglomerates are formed for genuine interests of diversification rather than manipulation of paper return on investment. Companies with this orientation would only make acquisitions or start new branches in other sectors when they believed this would increase profitability or stability by sharing risks. Flush with cash during the 1980s, General Electric also moved into financing and financial services, which in 2005 accounted for about 45% of the company's net earnings. GE formerly owned a minority interest in NBCUniversal, which owns the NBC television network and several other cable networks. In some ways GE is the opposite of the "typical" 1960s conglomerate in that the company was not highly leveraged, and when interest rates went up they were able to turn this to their advantage. It was often less expensive to lease from GE than buy new equipment using loans. United Technologies has also proven to be a successful conglomerate.
With the spread of mutual funds (especially index funds since 1976), investors could more easily obtain diversification by owning a small slice of many companies in a fund rather than owning shares in a conglomerate. Another example of a successful conglomerate is Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, a holding company which used surplus capital from its in ...