Discursive strategizing as a vehicle for legitimation in a cross-border mergers and acquisition process

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
114 + 5
This thesis examines media discourses related to a mergers and acquisitions process concerning Finnish cranes and industrial lifting equipment manufacturer and service provider Konecranes. The focus is on investigating legitimation dynamics and various strategies utilized to discursively construct legitimacy in the media. Past research has examined legitimation strategies and dynamics in M&As but little is known of the evolution of such dynamics in times of strategic change. Therefore, particular attention is paid to the changes in these strategies over time when an intended merger is cancelled and an acquisition takes place. The objective of this study is to answer the following research questions: ““What are the discursive legitimation dynamics and strategies in a merger and acquisition process?” and “How do these dynamics evolve over time when a merger is cancelled and an acquisition takes place?”. By adopting discourse analysis as a qualitative research method, I examine the micro-level processual dynamics of legitimation in the media. My data consists of 201 media accounts covering the M&A process. These are gathered from four Finnish newspapers and a magazine. Through abduction, I identify five independent and one dependent discursive strategies utilized in the media to (de)construct legitimacy. Rationalization, authorization, normalization, moralization, narrativization and politicization are demonstrated to be utilized both intentionally and unintentionally to either legitimate or delegitimate organizational actions. My findings indicate that legitimation strategies are utilized in various ways during different periods of a M&A process. It is shown that rationalization and authorization function as primary strategies and that when a merger is cancelled and an acquisition takes place, intentional legitimation efforts focus on positive aspects of the new deal instead of comparison between the two. I also argue that the amount and nature of source material available for the media influences the relative prominence of legitimation strategies during the M&A process. Finally, it is concluded that organizational reality and concrete integration results are central in legitimating strategic changes.
Thesis advisor
Vaara, Eero
mergers and acquisitions, discourse analysis, legitimacy, legitimation strategies, discursive legitimation
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