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What is Design Thinking capable of?

Use the innovation method to initiate change-processes in companies.

Design Thinking covers various areas: idea finding, customer focus (user experience), new methods of co-working, agile working methods and prototyping. That's why this innovative method is a great opportunity to prepare and initiate change processes in a company.

Ute Hamelmann is Innovationsmanager at WestLotto and participated in WHU's Design Thinking Program in 2017. In the inetrview below, she gives helpful advice to managers and executives on how to successfully impliment Design Thinking to companies.

Read the interview here (German)


Mergers & Acquisitions: Determinants and value effects of early announcements in takeovers

Determinants and value effects of early announcements in takeovers

Professor Dr. Nihat Aktas holds the Chair of Mergers and Acquisitions at WHU since 2013 and is Faculty Director of the Mergers & Acquisitions in Practice Program for executives. In this interview, he gives insights into recent research results on M&A negotiations and early announcements in takeovers.

WHU Executive Education: We know that in most countries listed acquirers are obliged to disclose their takeover offer to investors when they have signed a definitive merger agreement with the target. Does it mean that companies have no discretion over the timing of an M&A deal announcement?

Professor Nihat Aktas (NA): Usually, when an M&A is announced to the public, the acquirer has already signed the merger agreement with the target; but interestingly, in a recent study that will appear in the Journal of Corporate Finance¹ , together with my co-authors Guosong Xu and Burcin Yurtoglu, we find that a significant proportion of the deals were actually announced before any agreement has been reached between the acquirer and the target.

WHU Executive Education: Well, this must be the rumors, right?

NA: Not exactly. In fact, we find that even excluding explicit rumored bids about 7% of the M&A transactions were disclosed by the bidders voluntarily before the merger agreement. In the paper, we call these M&A disclosures “early announcements”.

WHU Executive Education: Voluntary early announcements? But we know that merger negotiations are highly confidential, and that acquirer managers certainly do not want any rival to jump into the process and push up the bidding prices.

NA: Well, what you said is only partially true – In a friendly merger negotiation, we certainly expect the bidder and the target to peacefully negotiate the deal terms in private until a final agreement is signed, and that a public announcement follows. But what about a negotiation in which for some reason target managers resist? In this case, the bidders might resort to the market, hoping that investors are their “last straw”. Especially, bidders who perceive the deal as highly synergetic are willing to make such early announcements because they are able to offer a high premium and because they are confident that low-synergy bidders cannot afford the costly early publicity. This is what we call a “signal” in finance. In return, investors understand this signal sent out by the bidder, so they may exert pressure on the target managers and help the deal go through relatively more smoothly.

WHU Executive Education: Have you found support for this signaling hypothesis?

NA: Indeed. We find that negotiation frictions predict an early announcement. In particular, lengthier negotiations, unsolicited bids, and bids in which the target is talking with several bidders at the same time are more likely to be disclosed earlier; in contrast, sale processes initiated by the target are less likely to have early announcements. We also find that these early announced deals have higher announcement returns – to the bidder, target and at the deal level – suggesting that these transactions are value creating. Bidders who announce early also pay higher premium, but importantly their stock price reactions are not worse, indicating that there is no overpayment in early-announced transactions on average.

WHU Executive Education: Can acquirer managers learn something from these findings?

NA: I believe the main takeaway from these findings is that public announcements are actually a strategic tool at the bidder’s disposal. If bidder managers know how to smartly use public disclosure as a signal, they have an advantage – in the case of M&As, for example, we show that these signaling bidders indeed achieve higher deal consummation rates, in spite of higher public competition. From an investor’s perspective, the signal, or the strategic early announcement, also leads to a more efficient takeover market.

¹Aktas, Nihat, Guosong Xu, and Burcin Yurtoglu, “She Is Mine: Determinants and Value Effects of Early Announcements in Takeovers”. Journal of Corporate Finance, Forthcoming. Available at: or

WHU Mergers & Acquisitions in Practice Program

WHU and PwC offer a joint Executive Education program for managers and (senior) executives. The program equips participants with the necessary tools and methods to address the main challenges related to mergers and acquisitions.

The program gives practical insights into the M&A business and will take place at WHU Campus Düsseldorf from June 6-8, 2019.

More information and application


Interview with Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier on the effect of digitalization on the value chain of products

Interview with Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier

Digitalization can affect all steps of the value chain of products: Primary activities like inbound logistics, production, distribution and marketing & sales can be digitalized as well as secondary activities like procurement and human resource management. For every of those areas the question is: What does digitalization exactly mean and how can firms benefit? We asked Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier to provide a few case examples and to share his view on where the German industry stands in terms of digitalization.

Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeier:
Let me provide two interesting and current benchmarks. The first one is about digitalized manufacturing, the second one about customer retention.

In an online-offline world, every retailer faces high turnover in its customer base: the next shop is just one click away. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, companies can zoom in on their most loyal customers or customers that are about to defect. A lapsed customer is quite costly for firms to reactivate and may never come back. In retail, it is common practice to use relatively inexpensive give-aways for all of the company’s customers, but this is rather an in-effective means of driving retailer loyalty. The response rates of such blind action, as one would have guessed, are close to zero. Consequently, we have helped a major German hypermarket retailer to identify their most valuable shoppers and target only those indicating a behavior typical of a churner for a series of valuable coupons.

Brown-field manufacturing plants are all exposed to high demands on product customization and product innovation. This is a direct consequence of a customer-focused and enabled value chain. For example, the Daimler plant in Bremen with an annual output of more than 430k vehicles will also produce the new e-vehicle EQ as of 2019. The fixed tact assembly lines needs to be adjusted to cope with higher work demands and high volatility in customer orders for that matter. Building a greenfield factory is not an option, when assembly systems can easily cost up to 1B € due to software installations. We found that it is possible to conceptually modify such lines to effectively cope with both types of requirements for enhanced worker flexibility.

WHU Executive Education:
In the Industrial Excellence Award, you get deep insights how companies deploy and execute their digital strategy. How is the German industry prepared to tackle this challenge?

Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeir:
No question, there are numerous excellent and leading-edge companies in Germany that are really pushing for highly automated and flexible production systems. This does often come with the opening of newly designed plants though which is not an option for, e.g., small and medium-sized enterprises. Based on this insight, we conducted interviews on company’s shop floor and tested the subjective and objective strategy understanding of employees. “Subjective” in this context means that employees feel being “informed” about the operating unit’s key objectives, whereas “objective” refers to being able to explain it in words and to identify key actions taken to achieve the goals. On the positive side, most employees feel that they understand their business unit’s strategic objectives; on the negative side, the large majority cannot report on any existing action plan to achieve these objectives. Of course, the latter also strongly correlates with inaction regarding continuous improvement activities by many. This impediment to productivity through digital strategy deployment is highly regrettable; however, it can easily be fixed.

WHU Executive Education:
Professor Huchzermeier, you are teaching in our Digital at Scale Program. Will you cover some of this in the program?

Professor Dr. Arnd Huchzermeir:
Certainly. I am very eager to discuss these management issues with our participants.

What is the Digital at Scale Program?

WHU and McKinsey & Company offer the “Digital at Scale - Steering Your Business Into a Digital World Program” which is designed for managers and executives in digital roles or executives with roles in commercial, operations, or HR functions who want to transform their business unit/function. The 4-day program addresses why, how and in which areas companies should digitally transform.

The Executive Education Program will take place in April and May 2018.

Learn more about the Program


Executive Education Workshop

The upcoming Campus for Finance – WHU Private Equity Conference 2018, revolving around the topic “Falling Apart or Growing Together – Is Crisis-Shattered Europe Still Worth the Investment?” will take place on March 22 & 23, 2018 at WHU Campus Vallendar.

Professionals with at least two years of work experience may apply for the Professional Program, in which they get the chance to participate in a high-quality and exclusive Executive Education workshop on the topic “Private Equity and Corporate Transformation”!

For more information on the conference program and to apply, please visit the conference website: or contact the team personally:


Interview with Professor Dr. Nihat Aktas on Mergers & Acquisitions

Prior studies indicate that a large number of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) fail to generate the expected return for acquirer shareholders, and that some of them even lead to substantial value destruction. We talked to Professor Dr. Nihat Aktas, who holds the Chair of Mergers and Acquisitions at WHU since 2013, about reasons and implications for companies.

Professor Dr. Aktas, can you explain why a large number of mergers and acquisitions fail?

A high share of mergers and acquisitions transactions fail because opportunities and risks are not analyzed and managed rigorously. M&As are an important growth strategy for firms. Since opportunities and risks are closely connected, M&As need to be strategically planned and carefully executed.

What do you recommend to companies to face these challenges?

First, companies need to have a clear strategy and well established merger motive. Then, they need to be able to master the mergers and acquisitions process – from idea origination through post-merger integration. Each step of the process (i.e., target screening, modeling synergies, valuation, negotiation, bidding, due diligence, deal closing, post-merger integration) is key to deliver shareholder value in the long run.

How can you achieve this?

For example, WHU offers an Executive Education program, in which executives and managers can learn about these aspects. The focus is first on understanding why it is important to implement M&As, and in which contexts M&As are a value-creating response to a firm’s growth challenges. The next step is to understand how to effectively and efficiently implement M&As.

Do I need any M&A experience to participate?

No, participants do not need to have prior M&A experience to join this program. The program is designed for board members that would like a quick refresher on M&A topics or for young talents and experienced managers who want to boost their career by advancing into a position with greater focus on strategy and corporate development in their firms. Our program is also well suited for senior executives whose firms are potential acquirers or targets for acquisition by another firm.

The "Mergers and Acquisitions in Practice Program" will take place on June 7-9, 2018 at WHU Campus Düsseldorf.

Learn more!


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