Discursive struggles between bidding and target companies: an analysis of press releases issued during hostile takeover bids
What are the types of interactions in the discursive struggles between the two parties involved in a hostile takeover bid? How is the legitimacy of the bid (de)constructed by both the bidding and target companies during their discursive struggles? This paper aims at addressing these research questions. Discursive struggles between the bidding and target companies are studied in a sample of 66 press releases related to seven hostile takeover bids approved by the French Market Regulator between December 2006 and December 2014. A study of the sequence followed by each party in issuing their press releases confirms the existence of strong interactions in all the hostile takeover bids studied. Using a manual content analysis methodology, we find that the disclosures made by the bidding and target companies consist of a series of attacks and defenses in which target companies are particularly offensive. We also give evidence that the two companies use legitimation, (de)legitimation and (re)legitimation arguments during discursive struggles, revealing the reciprocity of the communication between the two protagonists. We underline the symbolic or strategic dimensions of these legitimacy strategies in the view of the outcome of bids. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for regulators and make suggestions for future research. Based on the metaphor of ventriloquism, our research highlights the importance of considering disclosures as a dynamic and mutual influence process.