First edition of Vlerick M&A Challenge proved to be of outstanding quality

In the first half of 2014, global M&As accounted for $1.83 trillion. In M&A, every area of the business is involved, and it’s the most intense and complex decision a firm can make. So what better area to select for the first edition of a new and challenging competition aimed at final year Masters students looking to get a taste of business life as well as the Vlerick experience. The M&A Challenge also allowed participants to network with reputed companies involved in the competition.

According to Professor in Corporate Finance Wouter De Maeseneire the 48 participants were definitely up to the challenge: “We received over 100 applications, so there’s certainly no lack of emerging business talents. Ultimately 48 top students were selected, 38 of which were Belgian. Given the topic of the Challenge, it was no surprise that mainly economists and commercial engineers applied, but we had quite some interest from law students, civil engineers and bio-engineers as well. There were even two aerospace engineers! Overall we were very impressed by the quality of the applicants and the maturity they displayed during their case presentations.”

On 22 November the day kicked off at our Brussels campus with a short introduction to M&A and a presentation of the case they had to crack: “Was the buyout of Hilton Hotels by Blackstone in 2007 (which was exited by a 2013 IPO) a nightmare or a fairy tale?”. The 48 participants were split up into eight groups of six. Although Vlerick professors Wouter De Maeseneire and Mathieu Luypaert were at their service for coaching and guidance they mainly had to work independently. At the end of the day they were asked to present their case to a jury consisting of 10 representatives from our corporate partners, being Allen&Overy, Bain & Co, Bencis, Deloitte, Gimv, KBC, Lazard, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland and Roland Berger. Each member of the winning team was granted a 10% scholarship for a Vlerick Masters programme as well as an exclusive lunch/dinner invitation with a high profile executive active in the field of M&A.

The key to success was threefold, according to Professor Mathieu Luypaert who’s an expert in M&A: “Coming prepared, displaying excellent time and project management skills, and being able to pour a sound analysis into a coherently structured presentation. And of course it helped if you were able to keep your nerves under control in front of the jury, especially when the questions got tougher and tougher.”

Since the event was such a huge success a second edition is bound to follow, adds Wouter: “We heard nothing but positive feedback. Everybody felt that the case was challenging and hard, even economists with a major in finance. They all learned quite a bit and it was a Saturday very well spent, in the presence of highly motivated peers. They were also impressed by our campus’ facilities and the way they could interact with faculty, staff and business professionals.

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