Case Studies

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Focus Media Holding Ltd. (2014)

by Dr Emir Hrnjić, Ms Lianting Tu and Assoc Prof Pedro Matos (Darden School of Business)

Publication Date: 19/12/2014

In November 2011, Muddy Waters, a U.S. short-seller fund, accused Focus Media of overstating the size of its business. Focus Media's stock price fell sharply at first but then rebounded as the company countered the attacks. In March 2012, however, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own investigation and pressured Focus Media to amend some of its filings. A few months later, CEO Jiang partnered with a group of private equity (PE) firms, to take Focus Media private in a deal valued at more than $3.7 billion, China's largest-ever buyout. In the following months, several Chinese companies followed suit and delisted from the NASDAQ. In mid-2014, the PE firms in the consortium wanted to cash out of their equity positions, and Jiang faced the difficult decision of what to do next.

Alibaba's IPO Dilemma: Hong Kong or New York?

by Dr Emir Hrnjić 

Publication Date: 04/12/2014

In April 2014, Alibaba’s impending initial public offering (IPO) projected to be among the world’s largest IPOs. Alibaba faced many choices regarding ownership structure, trading location, IPO pricing and IPO timing. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange seemed like a natural fit for its IPO due to geographical, cultural and language proximity. Furthermore, 86.7 per cent of Alibaba’s revenues originated within China. However, Alibaba insisted on “partnership governance,” while the Hong Kong Stock Exchange did not allow listing of companies with dual-class share structure. In contrast, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ did not object to Alibaba’s proposed ownership structure. While the Hong Kong investors knew Alibaba’s business better, the New York exchanges provided more liquidity and visibility. Against this backdrop, Alibaba needed to make difficult decisions regarding its IPO.

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GlaxoSmithKline: Rebalancing Excessive Workloads

by Mr Ronald Kleer (participant, Asia-Pacific Executive MBA Intake 23) and Assoc Prof Singfat Chu

Publication Date: 21/11/2014

End-of-month account closure at many firms often requires long work hours, which may lead to staff fatigue and attrition that will affect productivity and quality of work. This is true for GlaxoSmithKline’s Record to Report Finance team in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 2014. The company is a science-led global business that researches and develops a broad range of innovative products in three primary areas: pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer health care. The team in Malaysia has 40 employees who provide services including month-end accounts closure, financial reporting and analytics to business units operating in the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. At the end of every month, the team must perform within five days a sequence of 17 activities requiring varying man-hours. The activities must follow a specific flow according to information availability and must, for internal efficiency and quality control reasons, start and end on the same day. Is there a method by which management can help the team achieve work balance or minimize the number of work hours per day?

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Sheng Siong Supermarket: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage

by Mr Yi Rong Loh (former BBA exchange student), Mr Ye Jun Lee (former BBA exchange student) and Assoc Prof Marleen Dieleman

Publication Date: 24/10/2014

Sheng Siong was the third-largest supermarket chain in Singapore. Its chief executive officer co-founded it with his two brothers in 1985. Sheng Siong’s business model was well suited to cater to the price-sensitive and more traditional customer segment in Singapore, with a dominant presence in suburban areas called “heartlands.” It also had a unique corporate philosophy, which was influenced by the personal values of its founding family. However, the market became increasingly saturated, competitors were aggressive and costs were rising. The key question was whether Sheng Siong’s original competitive advantage was sustainable and how it could grow.

Yamato Transport: Part-time Employment of Housewives

by Mr Joo Yong Lowe, Mr Fumiyuki Kosugi (MBA graduated student), Ms Teng Hwee Ng (MBA graduated student) and Mr Andre Chun Mun Wai (MBA graduated student)

Publication Date: 08/10/2014

Yamato Transport Co., Ltd. innovatively used the field cast model of housewives as part-time employees to meet the increasing delivery demands of morning peak-load hours. The housewives provided Yamato with a cost-efficient source of human resources and the nimbleness to adjust its staff deployment to respond reliably and quickly to customers' needs. A series of recruitment, training, and compensation and appraisal processes was designed for the field cast model.

The case outlines the challenges with the implementation of the field cast model and the decision facing Yamato's managers of whether to expand it throughout the company's Japanese operations. Yamato's managers were largely satisfied with the progress of the field cast model; although field casts made up less than 2 per cent of the delivery manpower at Yamato, they played a crucial role in improving customer satisfaction levels and lowering parcel delivery costs. However, the implications of the expansion plan were multi-dimensional. At an operational level, the inconsistency in the field casts' performance could be magnified as the number of field casts continued to increase over the coming months. As well, the sales drivers might struggle to cope with the additional responsibility to train and supervise field casts. More broadly, the sustainability of the field cast model was unknown because of Japan's changing social structure. In addition, with the improvement of the global economy since 2010, the supply of part-time employees was threatened by competition from alternative employment opportunities.

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Insights Analytics: Technology for a Knowledge Management Program

by Dr Rohit Nishant (ESC Rennes School of Business), Assoc Prof Thompson S.H. Teo, Assoc Prof Mark Goh and Mr Sameer Agarwal (LinkedIn).

Publication Date: 29/08/2014

Leading analytics firm, Insights Global Analytics, handled many analytics processes and projects requiring extensive domain and statistical expertise. Employees with prior analytics experience had skill-sets that could be utilized for other projects. Analysts and consultants working on business research projects had strong domain knowledge about various technological trends. However, sometimes one team did not know about the rich skills possessed by another team. To build a knowledge-sharing culture that would facilitate the incubation of new ideas, spread different skills across the organization, break the silos among teams and promote free exchange of ideas among employees the company decided to implement a knowledge management (KM) program. A team was appointed with the challenge of selecting an appropriate cost-effective technology that would achieve the objective of fostering a knowledge-sharing culture.

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Putien: The Road to the Unexplored

by Assoc Prof Jane W. Lu

Publication Date: 21/08/2014

Started in 2001, Putien, a full-service Chinese restaurant, has grown successfully in Singapore. By the end of 2011, it has nine restaurants in Singapore, one in Jakarta, Indonesia and one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Except for the one in Jakarta, which is a joint venture, all the other restaurants are fully owned by the company. From the beginning, Putien has differentiated itself from its competition by focusing on its unique cuisine, based on fresh and flavourful food from Fujian Province, China and by its creation of a home-like atmosphere with fine furnishings and tableware, elegant décor and a serving staff that is warm and sincere. The company keeps in touch with its customers through requesting feedback and answering queries on Facebook and Twitter. Now, the founder and chief executive officer is considering growth by expanding into international markets. With limited international experience, he needs to consider carefully where to go and how to enter these markets without jeopardizing the quality standards that have made Putien so successful.

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Denka Chemicals

by Ms Chia Miaw Ling Elly (participant, Asia-Pacific Executive EMBA Intake 22) and Assoc Prof Singfat Chu

Publication Date: 27/06/2014

A manufacturer of over 75 grades of styrenic resins — used to make DVD cases, refrigerator trays, packaging materials and auto parts — faces a "transition loss" each time it switches production from one grade to another. A transition loss for each grade arises from the initial 16 metric tons produced, which are sub-standard and unsuitable for usage by customers. To the company, this implies a loss of resources (raw material and production cost) and a disposal fee ($10,000) to remove each sub-standard production.

The case illustrates a sample of 15 grades for which data on their requirements for machine time usage, raw materials and labour hours are provided, as well as their production cost, selling price and market demand. Some of these grades must also be sold jointly in specific ratios. A newly hired sales executive must present an optimization template that would meet the company's production constraints and maximize its profitability. Which grades of styrenic resins should be produced? Furthermore, how much of each grade should be produced?

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Financing Alibaba's Buyout: Syndicated Loan in Asia

by Dr Emir Hrnjić and Professor David Reeb

Publication Date: 04/06/2014

Alibaba is the world's largest online trading platform, with higher revenues than Amazon and eBay combined. Its 2012 syndicated loan was the first sizable loan for a Chinese technology company with few tangible assets. Creative loan covenants stated that the subsidiaries would repatriate 100 per cent of the distributable profits for debt service. The loan was partially used for the buyback of Yahoo!'s stake in Alibaba. In the agreement, Yahoo! would sell half of its stake back to Alibaba immediately and an additional 10 per cent during Alibaba's IPO in the next few years, and divest the remainder sometime after that. Now, Alibaba thinks it is time to tap the debt market in order to pay off the $4 billion in loans it received in 2012 and to finish the payments owed to Yahoo! for the stock repurchase.

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Rodamas Group: Designing the Portfolio

by Assoc Prof Marleen Dieleman

Publication Date: 07/05/2014

This is a supplement to Rodamas Group: Designing Strategies for Emerging Realities in Emerging Economies (9B09M049). The original case was set in 2009 and reflected on the strength of Rodamas's core competence — a local partnership role in a difficult emerging market - Indonesia. This second case is set in 2013 and gives an update on the group's diversified portfolio and asks where attention should be focused. It offers an opportunity to perform a portfolio (BCG matrix/GE business screen) exercise. 

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