This is “Conglomerates”, section 5.6 from the book Managerial Economics Principles (v. 1.0).
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms.
This content was accessible as of December 29, 2012, and it was downloaded then by Andy Schmitz in an effort to preserve the availability of this book.
Normally, the author and publisher would be credited here. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. Additionally, per the publisher's request, their name has been removed in some passages. More information is available on this project's attribution page.
For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (1 MB) or just this chapter (129 KB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
As stated earlier, a conglomerate is a business enterprise that participates in multiple value chains that are different in nature. An example of a conglomerate is General Electric, which engages in the manufacture of appliances, construction of energy facilities, financing of projects, and media ventures, just to name a portion of its product portfolio.
One attraction of conglomerates is the ability to diversify so that the firm can withstand difficult times in one industry by having a presence in other kinds of markets. Beyond diversification, a conglomerate can move capital from one of its businesses to another business without the cost and difficulties of using outside capital markets. Often conglomerates will have some divisions that are cash cows in being profitable operations in mature markets, and other businesses that have great potential but require sizeable investment that can be funded by profits from the cash-cow businesses.The concept of cash-cow businesses is an aspect of the Boston Consulting Group matrix for corporate strategy (1970).
Another argument for conglomerates is that companies with very talented management staffs may be capable of excelling in more than one type of business. For instance, the former chairman of General Electric, Jack Welch, was widely praised as providing superior senior management for the wide range of businesses in which General Electric participated.