Final Project

Since the interdependence of corporate and financial structure is one of the course's central themes the final group project (max 4 to 5 students) will study a recent contested M&A transaction (e.g., the Oracle-PeopleSoft saga), buyout or spin-off of a joint venture (e.g., bn.com or QVC), corporate retrenchment and divestiture (auction of Vivendi Universal Entertainment), or outright failure (e.g., Global Crossing) from a corporate finance perspective. Given the recent signs of life in the high-tech and entertainment segment, the transaction needs to be drawn from such intellectual-property intensive industries ("new economy").

  1. Contested bid and takeover defenses: Oracle-PeopleSoft.

  2. Auctions and acquisitions: the bidding for ATT Wireless (AWE) by initially six companies, later only Cingular and Vodafone (focus on auction design, bidding strategies, and swiping).

  3. Corporate resurrection, DIP finance, and the power of undervalued assets: the acquisition of Sears by Kmart.

  4. Consolidation in the software and wireless industries: Symantec and Veritas, Sprint and Nextel, etc.

The final submission should conform to the typical format of case studies (case with exhibits, teaching note, student instructions, note to instructor, wrap-up slides) and will be turned in both by email and in hardcopy (including research material and URLs). Detailed instructions for researching and writing a case study together with background materials on case studies are available from the course website.Taking a company or transaction recently in the news the analytic focus should be on:

  1. recent performance and financial challenges;

  2. rationale for merger, acquisition or hostile takeover both from a company and industry perspective;

  3. transaction details, milestones in executing the deal, and bidding strategy (contested bid?);

  4. valuation, real options, acquisition premium, bid evaluation;

  5. optionalities in the transaction (growth, synergy, restructuring, etc.);

  6. market reaction to key events and announcements (event study);

  7. investment recommendation, future outlook and post mortem.

Resources

In order to help you in the development process and, in particular, with finding the right tone and expositional approach, you will receive two sample cases with teaching notes that are related to the themes of our class. They are both very different in terms of length, scope and analytic challenges and illustrate different aspects of case writing. Needless to say, you should not slavishly copy them but rather treat them as templates and a source of inspiration for both the phrasing of the issues and their exposition.

As an additional resource, I posted several pieces on developing cases on our course website. Start with the Kashani (1995) piece to get into the right mindset and then focus on the excellent Schreyer Institute and Abell pieces. Abell (1997) is the most important article as it provides the criteria for grading the cases. The O'Cinneide (1998) piece provides the typical workplan for case development but is somewhat idiosyncratic regarding the importance of the teaching note. Less crucial but still informative background reading are Bob Bruner's contributions on writing cases and how students should study and prepare for cases. They are full of insights and nicely set out what is required of a successful case study.

  1. Hauswald (2002), "Writing Case Studies," KSB-AU. Required reading.
  2. Case Writing Materials: various cited articles.
  3. Sample Cases: highlights from past courses.
  4. Kogod Case and TN Templates (MS Word).

Deliverables

The deliverables comprise the case itself together with its accompanying teaching note, the wrap-up presentation and your research materials in electronic form as a zip file containing analyst reports, SEC filings, company documents, press reports, etc. Submission of the case and its teaching note should be both in hardcopy and electronic form (MS Word, Powerpoint and Excel files) by the deadline specified in the syllabus. In addition, you may have to present your case to the class at which point you also submit the presentation in electronic and hardcopy format.

Additional (optional) materials could consist of a Powerpoint presentation containing opposing perspectives on the case (essentially the assigned student roles), a note to the professor (synopsis and abstract of the case), data files for additional analysis, and case instructions for the students. Should you chose to include these optional items, you will be awarded bonus points.

Time Line

The case study is to be completed by the date specified in the syllabus, typically around the university-allotted final exam date. Working backward from this date, I would suggest the following work plan:

  1. Two months before submission: start looking for possible deals or issues that could form the basis of your case study; discuss possible topics with your group. Also, do some preliminary search for materials to see how far it will get you.

  2. One month before submission: select a topic and write an outline with a detailed explanation of the issues involved and a work plan.

  3. As specified in the syllabus: submit the case outline to obtain feedback during office hours.

  4. Two weeks before final submission: come to office hours for a progress report and a detailed outline for the case and teaching note.

  5. One week before final submission: submit a draft of the case and an outline for the teaching note.

  6. As stated in the syllabus prior to the group presentations: project submission (all deliverables including research materials). Final project presentation materials are due at the very latest on the day of the scheduled class presentation in hardcopy and electronic form before the presentations take place.

The syllabus contains the precise dates by which the milestones have to be met with specific interim deliverables so that I can provide feedback and help you in the development process.

References

  1. Abell, D. (1997), "What makes a good Case?" ECCHO: The Newsletter of European Case Clearing House 17: 4-7. Required reading.

  2. Bruner, R. (2001), "How to Study and Discuss Cases. Note to the Student," mimeo, University of Virginia.

  3. "Guidelines for Case Writing," mimeo, The Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning. Required reading.

  4. Kashani, K. (1995), "Living with a Case Study," ECCHO: The Newsletter of European Case Clearing House 11: 9-10.

  5. O'Cinneide, B. (1998), "Teaching Notes Should Be Front-Loaded," ECCHO: The Newsletter of European Case Clearing House 18: 4-6.