Emerson returns with US$29bn bid for Rockwell

Article by Adam Duckett

EMERSON ELECTRIC has increased its offer for Rockwell Automation to US$29bn.

Rockwell has already rejected two offers, with the second valuing the firm at around US$28bn. The latest offer includes a higher proportion of cash as Emerson attempts to win shareholder support in the face of a resistant Rockwell board.

The Rockwell board of directors had previously said that both proposals were not in the best interest of its shareholders, with CEO Blake Moret adding that the directors are confident in the company’s strategic direction.

In response to the latest offer, Rockwell issued a statement saying the offer will be carefully reviewed.

In an open letter to Moret, Emerson’s counterpart David Farr wrote that the industrial logic for a merger is clear: “A combination of Emerson and Rockwell would create a leader in the US$200bn global automation market. Together, we could offer an unmatched technology portfolio that addresses customers’ current and future needs for a fully connected enterprise, where process, discrete, and hybrid [automation] work seamlessly together rather than relying on single, disparate platforms.”

He went on to say: “Competitors are already moving to provide integrated solutions. The combination of Emerson and Rockwell would accelerate our combined growth and position us for success for many years to come.”

Emerson estimates that the savings from the merger are worth more than US$6bn. If a deal is agreed, it has suggested calling the combined firm Emerson Rockwell and has committed to maintain a significant presence at Rockwell’s existing headquarters in Milwaukee, creating an “automation centre of excellence”.

In their analysis of the deal, financial publications have cited analysts who are at odds over the likelihood that the deal will prove successful. It is suggested that other large companies in the automation sector including ABB and Honeywell could now view Rockwell as a viable target.

Earlier analysis had highlighted the gulf in performance among the two firms. Over the past ten years, while Rockwell’s shares have climbed more than 151%, Emerson’s have risen just 27%. In the last three years the figures are starker as Rockwell has increased 79% while Emerson has achieved less than 1%.

“Emerson needs Rockwell Automation much more than Rockwell Automation needs Emerson,” said Jeffrey Sprague, an analyst with Vertical Research Partners. “In fact, Rockwell Automation probably does not need Emerson at all,” Bloomberg reported when the news of the earlier deals broke.

The sector is going through a period of flux as smart technologies are being introduced that enable manufacturers to connect their plant devices and analyse new streams of data to improve production processes, maintenance scheduling and in turn increase uptime and profitability.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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