Accelerating Global M&A Deals by Transforming Language Translation

The increase in cross-border deals reveals a new challenge to the speed of global commerce: Language. In particular, the increase in Asian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern market activity present a unique obstacle, namely non-Western characters that make analysis of critical business documents even more impenetrable for the average individual.


19 April 2011

Those of you with about two decades in your career have witnessed and no doubt benefited from quantum changes in the speed of business information. From FedEx™ and fax machines to dial-up Internet and email to ubiquitous IM and handheld device video chat, information flows with increasing velocity in such a way that speed has become a competitive imperative for many firms. Similarly, from my corporate development days I remember my first transactions and making multiple flights across the Atlantic to physically sit in a data room to take notes from a bookcase of binders and boxes of files. The use of a Virtual Data Room (VDR) to support a deal was transformative – not just from the personal benefit of not traveling for diligence, but more importantly from the speed in which information can be reviewed, distributed to team members and analyzed in parallel fashion. The information now travels to the best possible resource regardless of location.

The increase in cross-border deals reveals a new challenge to the speed of global commerce: Language. In particular, the increase in Asian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern market activity present a unique obstacle, namely non-Western characters that make analysis of critical business documents even more impenetrable for the average individual.

Let me digress for a moment. Language translation is a very mature profession and today is a $26 Billion global industry growing at double-digit rates. Virtually every product you touch that is designed, manufactured or distributed from a country different than your own has some component touched by a professional translator. The manuals in your import car’s glove box, the instructions in the bottle of pharmaceuticals, the user-interface in a sophisticated machine tool, the packaging for your toddler’s new car seat, and even the equity analyst report on a company headquartered across the sea requires the original information to be translated to be consumed in other markets. However, the process and techniques for professional translation have not kept pace with the change in the speed of information.

For those taking the leap that I am about to discuss, the next generation improvement in Machine Translation (MT) – translation performed solely by computers – will be disappointed. While MT continues to make astounding improvements, for critical business information, and for information that has professional or consumer consumption, a professional translator will be required for a long time.

What role does innovation play with respect to language translation? Let me use an analogy to explain the philosophy of Elanex. When I took my first trip to Japan as a child the plane flew at pretty much the same speed as the flight I’m currently on to Australia as I write this blog. Airplanes, like translators, have not materially changed. What is different is up in the cockpit. Back in the late sixties, there were up to four professionals managing the aircraft systems - two pilots, a navigator and a flight engineer. Tonight, there are just the two pilots, and one is a backup for the other. All complex engine management and navigation calculations are performed by systems that present vital information to the pilots when they need it so they can focus on safely flying my airplane. By using automation and a technology approach to managing a complex system, it takes fewer professionals to accomplish the same task. This is precisely how we have architected our company - to use automation and systems thinking to make the translation process as efficient as possible both in the management of large projects and in reducing the amount of words to be translated by humans.

This is one of the reasons why we are so excited about our partnership with Intralinks. We both have a technology approach to the efficient management and delivery of critical business information.

Back on topic to global deal support, as any of you involved in transactions know, time is the enemy of the deal. Yet the complexity of global M&A requires even more thorough due diligence and with increasing frequency the documents are in a language that the majority of the deal team cannot read. Traditional methods, such as relying upon a local law firm to translate materials are too slow and often too costly. For example, we were recently involved with Intralinks on a project involving a US-based acquirer targeting a Chinese firm. The deal team identified approximately 100 documents including contracts, financial statements, technical materials and other documents that required translation to be analyzed for diligence. 400 pages of documents and over 300,000 Chinese characters represented nearly 100 translator days of work. By using technology to automate and streamline the management process, Elanex distributed the project to teams of up to 20 translators – each specialists in finance or law as required by the particular document -- working in parallel and around the globe. This enabled us to deliver the translations in less than 10 days after receiving the files from the VDR. This unprecedented speed helped to keep the deal on track and represents a level of global resource and coordination that is not typically available through traditional local firm resources.

Translation remains an art practiced by skilled professionals. By incorporating science to make the process more efficient, we are transforming language translation to help Intralinks users accelerate global M&A deals by using speed as a competitive advantage. 

Elanex

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Elanex is a global language services and solutions company. Combining our industry-leading technology solutions with our network of 32,000 linguists we rapidly deliver top-quality translations for critical business information. Elanex has specific expertise supporting the financial services industry. We servemany of the leading global investment banks, law firms and international corporations, providing equity research, cross-border M&A diligence, litigation support and similar time-sensitive, information-critical document translation services.  Elanex is headquartered in San Francisco, and with operations in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia delivers 24x7 global support. For more information about Elanex, visit http://www.elanex.com.