Merge, Acquire, Or Be Acquired -- CEOs Sound Off

Compiled by Traci Purdum CEOs of North America's fastest growing technology companies are battening down the hatches and focusing on maintaining their growth and building profitability, according to a survey of CEOs whose companies are listed on the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 500. The Fast 500 is a ranking of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America, as determined by percentage revenue growth over five years (1995-1999). Among other findings, IPOs and acquisitions offer mixed emotions for CEOs. Thirty-seven percent of the CEOs surveyed said they have no plans to do an IPO, merge, acquire, or be acquired within the next 12 months. In fact, less than 10% said they planned to do an IPO in the next 12 months. This is a notable reduction from last year's survey in which 15% of the CEOs indicated they planned to go public within 12 months. "In today's market, CEOs can't count on building up their companies for a quick sale anymore," says Mark Evans, managing director of Deloitte & Touche's Technology & Communications Group, which is based in San Jose. "They're focusing on being as profitable as they can, making acquisitions, and strengthening their own companies with a vision toward long-term success." Plans to acquire another company, however, have increased dramatically. Thirty-two percent of the CEOs surveyed said they do plan to acquire another company in the next 12 months, up from just 3% in 2000. Despite their plans to make acquisitions, a lack of capital is cited by close to one-third of respondent CEOs as the biggest obstacle in growing their businesses. According to Evans, companies may need to be their own sources of funding for growth in tough economic times. "Company profits can be the best and most accessible resource for growth when capital is scarce," he says. The Fast 500 CEO Survey was conducted in the first quarter 2001 by Technology & Communications Group.

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