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THE JAUNDICED EYE : The Ultimate Merger: Indazil

October 01, 1995|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a regular contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — "Perfect fit!" "Unbelievable synergy!" "Both sides win!" Today's bombshell announcement that India and Brazil will merge to form the world's fourth-largest such entity is being greeted with hosannas by leading analysts on six continents.

"Just look how they line up," exults one New York geopolitical analyst. "Both are hot, both have big rivers running through them. India loves cows and Brazil's cattle industry currently has a 45% overcapacity. Brazil has jaguars but no elephants, India is up to here in elephants but has no jaguars. It goes on and on!!"

Meanwhile, a London telecommunications analyst points to the new entity's combined 500-million-plus cable-ready households. Reminded that electricity, much less cable TV, is scarce in most regions of both Brazil and India, he instantly responds, "OK, 500-million candle-ready households!"

A Tokyo analyst specializing in takeovers suggests a possible strategic reason for the Brazil-India fusion. "The book value of both is way below real value," he notes, "and China and the Russian Federation know it. But who's going to mount a hostile takeover when they look at the cost of carrying their combined debt? This outfit makes Time-Warner look flush!"

Unclear so far is the management organization of the new colossus. "It's a real clash," observes one Chicago cultural analyst. "Nobody anywhere near top management of either entity speaks both Hindu and Portuguese. The caste systems couldn't be more different. Will a sixth-caste Bengali be willing to take orders from a Brazilian army colonel?"

Unverified reports are already circulating that retired U.S. Gen. Colin L. Powell has been approached as a compromise candidate to lead the new organization if he can arrange to suspend his book tour for the several years needed to restructure and reposition it. Though rumored to be already restless for wider worlds to conquer, newly appointed Walt Disney Co. Vice Chairman Michael Ovitz is considered a long-shot choice. "He hurt his chances by having Ms. Bhutto (head of India's no-love-lost competitor Pakistan) as his date at the County Music awards show in Nashville last week," says one Hollywood high-roller analyst.

Speaking of Disney, a Phoenix, Ariz., entertainment industry analyst has disclosed that Chairman Michael Eisner has already declined an offer to buy New Delhi, former capital of the former India, and convert it to a theme park. "They released 'The Jungle Book' a while ago," he reasons, "so the turban-and-tiger bit is yesterday's news for them. But Brazil is different. There's a lot of Indians down there, and 'Pocahontas' is up and running. Stay tuned!"

Whoever assumes the reins of the new entity (alleged to be renaming itself either Brandia or Indazil), a Geneva management analyst maintains, "He'll have his hands full. India and Brazil both suffer from bloated personnel. Some drastic cutting will be necessary if they're going to trim overhead and increase their GNP. And just to raise badly needed cash, the new boss will have to look long and hard right away at spinning off assets. Brasilia, the Taj Mahal, Sugarloaf Mountain, Ipanema--it may be a fire sale."

In that connection, another wildfire rumor concerns the recently merged Time Warner-Turner monolith and its entrepreneurial vice chairman, Ted Turner. "Ted's salivating about buying up the Indian film industry," a source divulges. "They make more movies in a month than Hollywood makes in a year--and cheap. And besides, Jane's always wanted to direct."*

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