2 mergers are using the one word that should make employees scared

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It’s another huge Merger Monday as multi-billion deals have been announced in the oil and communications businesses.

General Electric announced a deal to combine its oil and gas business with oil field services firm Baker Hughes, while CenturyLink said it will acquire Level 3 Communications for $34 billion.

In both of the deals, it appears that cost cutting will be the order of the day.

As part of both deals, the companies emphasised one word in their press releases that should get employees at the combining firms a little nervous: synergies.

The word was used by Baker Hughes and GE while announcing the reasons behind their combination. From the press release:

“The combination produces substantial synergies through combined efficiency and growth. The companies expect to generate total run rate synergies of $1.6 billion by 2020, which has a net present value of $14 billion. While this is primarily driven by cost out, we believe that the new company is positioned for growth as the industry rebounds.”

It was also used by L3 and CenturyLink, from their release:

“Both companies have a proven ability to integrate and meet or exceed synergy targets. The increased scale afforded by the combined company is expected to generate $975 million of annual run-rate cash synergies, primarily from the elimination of duplicate functions, systems consolidation, and increased operational and capital efficiencies.”

Synergies are typically areas that the companies, or their investment banking advisors, have identified as redundancies within the combined company that can be eliminated to save the firm money.

Put another way, people will probably be laid off.

While synergies can also mean cutting redundancies in things like software and machinery, a large chunk of the savings typically comes from reduced employee headcounts.

If the newly combined companies have two teams doing the same job, they can decide to cut one. This saves the firm money, but also means that people find themselves out of work.

As we’ve pointed out, these synergies often aren’t what they’re cracked up to be and don’t help earnings after mergers. Many of these cost-cutting measures may never come to fruition.

That may come as little relief, however, for employees of the combining companies.

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