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Acquisition as a growth strategy

Strategic Management and Leadership Assignment

Author: Sameh Nassar Student ID: M1005955 MBA Intake 9 2/24/2012 Tutor: Nauman Ali Module: Strategic management and Leadership

Acquisition as a growth strategy

Table of Contents

1. 2. 3. 4.

Executive Summary ............................................................................................................................... 3 Mission .................................................................................................................................................. 3 Introduction .......................................................................................................................................... 4 Task 1 Virgin Money acquisition analysis ........................................................................................... 4 4.1. SWOT Analysis............................................................................................................................... 4 Strengths ............................................................................................................................... 5 Weaknesses........................................................................................................................... 6 Opportunities ........................................................................................................................ 6 Threats .................................................................................................................................. 6

4.1.1. 4.1.2. 4.1.3. 4.1.4. 4.2.

PESTEL Analysis ............................................................................................................................. 7 Political .................................................................................................................................. 7 Economical ............................................................................................................................ 7 Social ..................................................................................................................................... 7 Technological ........................................................................................................................ 8 Environmental ....................................................................................................................... 8 Legal ...................................................................................................................................... 8

4.2.1. 4.2.2. 4.2.3. 4.2.4. 4.2.5. 4.2.6. 4.3. 4.4.

Ansoff Matrix ................................................................................................................................ 9 Critical analysis of Northern Rock acquisition ............................................................................ 10 Benefits ............................................................................................................................... 10 Potential problems.............................................................................................................. 11

4.4.1. 4.4.2. 5.

Task 2 An Alternative strategic approach ........................................................................................ 11 5.1. Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses ................................................................................... 12 Acquisition Strengths .......................................................................................................... 12 Joint venture Strengths ....................................................................................................... 12 Acquisition Weaknesses...................................................................................................... 13 Joint Venture Weaknesses .................................................................................................. 14

5.1.1. 5.1.2. 5.1.3. 5.1.4. 6.

Task 3 Critical commentary .............................................................................................................. 14 1|Page

Sameh Nassar M100 5955

Acquisition as a growth strategy 6.1. The 4 corner stones of competence ........................................................................................... 14 Valuable .............................................................................................................................. 14 Rare ..................................................................................................................................... 15 Difficult to imitate ............................................................................................................... 15 Non-Substitutable ............................................................................................................... 15

6.1.1. 6.1.2. 6.1.3. 6.1.4. 6.2. 7. 8.

Recommendation........................................................................................................................ 16

Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 16 Bibliography ........................................................................................................................................ 18

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Acquisition as a growth strategy

1. Executive Summary
As of January 2012, The UK Government announced the official sale of the Northern Rock bank to the Virgin Money bank, the bank was last nationalized by the government in 2008, as they bailed it out of the financial crisis in 2008 with almost 1.4billion out of the tax payers pockets, meanwhile the bank was sold to virgin with 747 million which is almost half its value. The government said The sale is in the best interests of the taxpayer, secures the long-term future of the company and will increase competition in the banking sector and many other doubt whether this sale was of much value to the public. The Virgin Groups has a successful history in the market, in fact the brand Virgin itself was chosen to represent the strategic direction of the company in entering virgin market without the knowhow and instead, apply their own innovative strategies to compete with their rivals in the market, this deal is a part of this strategy and within this report, various business techniques are used to critically analyse the strategic approach of the acquisition of the Northern Rock, in addition to highlighting all the benefits and drawbacks of the deal, and discussing further another strategic direction that Virgin Money could have pursued instead of the acquisition and compare each of the strategies aspects to identify the most effective and suitable decision.

2. Mission
Their mission statement simply describes their strategy by quoting We are aiming to make everyone better off with Virgin Money, in other words they are aiming to get the balance right by offering good value for customers, deliver a fair profit, while leaving a positive impact on the world around them.

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3. Introduction
This Report is conducted to critically analyse the acquisition approach as a growth strategy, in reference to the recent acquisition of Virgin Money to the Northern Rock bank in January 2012, throughout the first section a critical analysis is presented to provide a detailed view of the strategic decision taken by Virgin Money to acquire the Northern Rock bank, by using SWOT analysis to identify the 4 factors of the deal in the current economic and global situation, followed by an analysis for the internal and external factors affected by the acquisition using PESTEL and Ansoff matrix. Followed by an analysis of the Joint Venture approach that virgin Money could have pursued as an alternative strategy for the acquisition, an analysis for all aspects of this strategy is discussed, in addition to a comparison between both approaches to highlight the most suitable option that would generate more value to the taxpayers, the government and on the other side Virgin Money. Finally, an analysis is provided using the four corner stones of competence to identify the processes and techniques that is used or should be developed by Virgin Money to gain a competitive advantage in the UKs high street banks industry.

4. Task 1 Virgin Money acquisition analysis


The recent acquisition of Northern Rock by Virgin Money raised a lot of debates whether it was the right decision to take in the favour of the tax payers and the shareholders of the company, throughout this section a critical analysis for the acquisition is conducted using different techniques to highlight all the details of this deal, and the benefits generated in addition to highlighting on the future problems that might arise as a result of this acquisition.

4.1. SWOT Analysis


The SWOT analysis summarises the key issues from the business environment and the strategic capability of an organization that can have an impact strategy development, meanwhile it can assist in generating strategic options, and asses a future course of action. (Johnson, Scholes and Whittington, 2008)

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Acquisition as a growth strategy 4.1.1. Strengths Northern Rock existing resources: The existing resources of the Northern Rock is a great strength point for Virgin group that will greatly assist them as new entrant to the high street banking market, as a part of this acquisition more than 75 branches that are nationally spread over the UK are now to be under Virgin Money name, such expansion would have been much more difficult to achieve from scratch. In addition to the existing one million Northern Rock clients that was transferred as a part of the deal along with 14 billion mortgage book, and retail deposits which worth around 16 billion. The last resource, yet one of the most important is the 2,500 existing trained bank employees that will be ready to go into operation right away, but only under the name of the new organisation, this is one of the most important strength point that will make Virgin Money ready for competition in the market way faster than having to build such a work force. (Barrow, 2011) Virgins brand name: The Virgin organisation is a well trusted brand name and is one of the UKs largest private companies. The group includes over 63 businesses as diverse as airlines, health clubs, music stores and trains, upon research it showed that the Virgin brand name is associated with words such as fun, innovative, daring and successful, in addition to being well known for their high quality of service. Having a trustable new bank in the market with such reputation will attract new clients to the join the bank, while on the other hand an unknown bank entering the market will take time to gain the publics trust. Good deal in recession: Although the Northern rock was estimated to worth 1.4 billion when it was bailed out by the government and nationalized b in 2008, Virgin Money paid for the recent acquisition 747 million, which caused the loss of at least 400 million of the taxpayers money. But on the other hand it is considered to be a very good deal in such global economic situation, and as mentioned by the government and many financial analysts to be a very profitable deal in favour of the taxpayer in the current recession. (Barrow, 2011) 5|Page Sameh Nassar M100 5955

Acquisition as a growth strategy 4.1.2. Weaknesses Lack of trust: Considering Virgin Money being a new entrant to this segment of the market will reflect on many clients with lack of trust on joining the bank at the moment, and they will either prefer joining a more solid and stable bank or waiting for feedbacks on the banks performance. Poor experience in high streets banks market: Virgin Money will be facing tough competition in the market, being a fresh opposition against the existing big banks will be a hard challenge for them to coop with the same level of services and modern banking techniques that their competitors are offering and well trained for, it will require determination from Virgins management on developing their services to gain a proper market share. 4.1.3. Opportunities Market share potential: Although it is mentioned as a weakness being a new entrant to the market, but on the other hand if Virgin is able to prove their high quality and value services, it will generate a huge potential to increase their customer base allowing them to start making massive profits to make up for their initial investments in acquiring the bank. 4.1.4. Threats High expectations in the market: This recent acquisition by Virgin has gained a proper share of publicity and debate in the market, as a result high expectation from the public from Virgin, considering their usual success in most of their businesses, If Virgin were to fail to keep up with the markets expectation, it would affect the banks name in the market, and taxpayers will not be pleased with this performance.

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4.2. PESTEL Analysis


The PESTEL framework provides a comprehensive list of influences on the possible success or failure of a particular strategy, hereafter is the analysis of each of the six environmental factors in accordance to Virgin Money recent acquisition of the Northern Rock bank. (Johnson, Scholes and Whittington, 2008) 4.2.1. Political This merge is equally important politically as financially, the government went through with the sale hoping to have a fresh high street bank to compete in the market with the current market leaders, which in their perspective would finally be a benefit to the taxpayers , meanwhile the merge raised many debates on whether it is for the sake of the taxpayers or the bank was under evaluated for Virgin, however the government insured in many statements that this was the best option in favour of the taxpayers first, and it was clearly stated by George Osborne, chancellor, as he said that the deal offered value for money, adding: It was clear to us that this was the best deal for the British taxpayer. We were getting more money back than any other deal on the table. 4.2.2. Economical The Government lost over 400 million of the taxpayers money, which was estimated to 13 for each of the nations taxpayer, selling the bank for the 747 million paid by virgin might seem to be a great loss, however considering the current economic state it was the best decision in the favour of the government, Virgin Money, and most important the taxpayers, and yet still Virgin is committed to make future payments raising the final price tag to 1billion if certain conditions are met, such as a stock market flotation. (Barrow, 2011) 4.2.3. Social Recently the Northern Rock bank was struggling to survive in the market, with a huge amount of debt and other financial responsibilities; it was publicly known that the bank is facing a financial crisis. As a result many of their customers were urged to withdraw their deposits and transfer to a more secure

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Acquisition as a growth strategy And stable bank, meanwhile the bank was taking actions to lower their cost, relatively the main approach was cutting as many jobs they can, which would have negatively affected the society as a whole, however this acquisition would not only prevent such approach, but also generate more opportunities for both the bank and employment. 4.2.4. Technological Technology can positively influence this acquisition, considering Virgins group international presence, and a wide range of its subsidiaries serving in many other segments of the market, with the help of technology this will support Virgin group in offering its client many joint services with these sister companies to the bank clients that no other competitor can offer. While, by the help of systems and modern banking machines, virgin money can have a wide network to serve their clients which can be as effective and useful as the 75 branches they acquired in the deal. In order to spread their services to the reach of their client at ease anywhere. 4.2.5. Environmental From the nature of the bank operations, it is dependant and fragile to any factors affecting the market, as a result any environmental changes or natural disasters that might affect the country will definitely have an impact on Virgin Moneys operations, however it is still a major concern to the industry as a whole and it will equally affect other banks in the market. 4.2.6. Legal As a part of the acquisition, Virgin Money legally made future Commitments to the government. Including New Castle to be the headquarters for operation, and restricting any further compulsory redundancies other than those already announced by Northern Rock, for at least three years from completion, in addition to maintain the number of branches currently operated by Northern Rock, and last is to keep maintaining and extending support for the Northern Rock Foundation for a further year. (HM Treasury, 2011)

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4.3. Ansoff Matrix


The Ansoff growth matrix is a tool for mapping the strategic market growth, by considering four key factors, Market Penetration, Product development, market development, and diversification, yet it is important to consider other factors such as, the condition of the banking market and weather it is growing or facing a recession, while also taking in consideration the level competition in the market.

Products
Present New

Present

Market Penetration

Product Development

Markets

Market Penetration As a result of the acquisition Virgin Money will start competing in the high street bank industry, and by penetrating the market by offering valuable and competitive services they will be a serious competitor to the "big four" banks Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland; gaining their share of the market, which is one of the reasons the government made the sale in the first place. Product Development The Virgin brand is famously known for offering creative and valuable products, if they were to compete in the industry against the other big banks, they will have to apply this strategy by offering modern banking services that will attract clients to join the bank. 9|Page Sameh Nassar M100 5955

New

Market Development

Product/Market Diversification

Acquisition as a growth strategy Market Development In order to survive in such a competitive market, Virgin Money will have to improve and tailor their products and services to generate demand in the market. Right after the take-over the company launched two new saving accounts products which are offering great value for the customers. Such approach is vital in order gain a competitive advantage in the industry. Product/Market Diversification Virgin Money was joined in the banking industry since 1995, throughout these years they have gained experience and they are familiar with the nature of the banking segment which prevents them from facing any diversification while entering the high street banking segment.

4.4. Critical analysis of Northern Rock acquisition


As of January 2012, the government announced the official sale of the Northern Rock bank to Virgin Money; the Northern Rock was split in two parts after the takeover. Virgin Money purchased the part known by the good bank This contains customers saving accounts and new mortgages. While the other part Northern Rock (Asset Management plc.) which contains the banks bad debt of existing mortgages and unsecured loans remain in public ownership. (HM Treasury, 2011) Virgin Money paid 747 million in cash on the closing of the sale, with the potential of making future payments expected to reach around one billion pounds, however it is depending on certain achievements to be accomplished. The government agreed on this sale in the best interest of the tax payers and to increase the competition in the banking sector; reflecting to the best interest of the customer at the end. 4.4.1. Benefits Many benefits can be found out of this deal for the sake of all parties, the public, the government, and Virgin money of course. For the sake of Virgin group they got along with the acquisition over one million of Northern Rock clients, in addition to 75 of their branches, being nationally spread over the UK counts as a great benefit for a company that is entering a new market with a valuable brand name, as they will be able to supply a lot of demand starting their launch date. As for the government and taxpayers, they did benefit from the 747 million that Virgin money paid for the acquisition, as most of the financial analyst mentioned that it is a great deal considering the current 10 | P a g e Sameh Nassar M100 5955

Acquisition as a growth strategy economic situation, while the government consider this a significant positive step in order to returning the public sector stakes in banks to the private sector. The sale is in the best interests of the taxpayer, secures the long-term future of the company and will increase competition in the banking sector. This is a part of the Government's wider strategy for the banking sector with safer ring-fenced banks and more competition for the customers sake. (HM Treasury, 2011) 4.4.2. Potential problems The most significant problem that might face the company is not being able to commit to the extra payments they promised to follow the initial payment at the sale of the bank, which the Treasury said that the rise in the sale price will come with an expected 50million of extra cash within six months of completion, a further 150million will be paid in the form of a capital instrument and 50million to 80million more in cash will come if a profitable share issue or sale arrives in the next five years. However, in case Virgin Money was not able to perform and compete in the market; gaining the expected profits it will fail to make such payments which makes the total deal even more doubtable to the public that the sale was a total waste of the taxpayers money. (Barrow, 2011)

5. Task 2 An Alternative strategic approach


Within this section, we discuss an alternative solution that Virgin Money could have pursued rather than the acquisition of the Northern Rock bank; in fact the only other possible strategy was for both companies to partner up offering both their services dependently while competing together against the big banks in the market. However, pursuing such approach would not have made a great impact for neither the government owned bank nor Virgin money, looking over the strength and weaknesses of each approach will clearly justify the reason the full acquisition of the bank was the best strategic decision for everyone.

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5.1.Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses


5.1.1. Acquisition Strengths Easy entry to the market: The full acquisition of the northern bank eased the entry of Virgin Money into the UK core banking market, which would have been a much more difficult approach if they were to pursue on their own, and would have required a great investment in time and money to overcome various economic, monetary, regulatory, social, and infrastructural complications. As a result gaining such an easy entry to the market under the respected and trusted brand name of Virgin in the UK is considered as a major strength for the acquisition strategy. Northern Rock resources: Along with the acquisition of the Northern Rock bank, Virgin Money acquired extremely valuable resources that would have taken years for them to accomplish on their own. The 75 acquired branches allowed them to spread nationally across the UK, in addition to 2,500 well trained employees and over 1 million of Northern Bank customers. As a result of this advantage Virgin Money do not to make major investments neither in their infrastructure nor in building a working force to operate the wide spread branches, and they can focus on developing valuable and innovative products, which would attract customers and position the bank directly in competition with other banks in the market. 5.1.2. Joint venture Strengths Joint experiences: Virgin Money is well known for being experts in personal services and online products; with over 3 million customers before the acquisition of the extra one million of northern rock has a good. However they didnt engage other segment of the market, for instance, the mortgage and current accounts. On the other hand, Northern Rock acquires a long experience in these products and with a respectable share of the market.

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Acquisition as a growth strategy As a result, the combination of the two banks services will allow them to offer wide range of products to all different segments of the market; giving them a competitive edge within the industry, while generating more profits and expanding their market share for both partners. Also, the joint venture approach would greatly decrease the capital expenses for Virgin Money, since the Northern Rock already has an established infrastructure to operate through, while in the meantime Virgin Group also can support through Virgin Group other subsidiaries which exists throughout many industries in the UK and global markets. (slack, stuart and johnson, 2010) Lower risk: As a result of the on-going recession, the Joint venture approach would have been of much lower risk instead of the acquisition, as they would still offer their products to the Northern Bank clients through their branches and their employees, but without going through the full acquisition, however they would have faced some issues in branding their products, and problems in case of offering any products that might fit as a replacement with the Northern Rock products which will put both partners in a direct competition 5.1.3. Acquisition Weaknesses Waste of taxpayers money: The northern rock was bailed out of their financial crisis during the recession in 2008, by 1.4billion of taxpayers money; Virgin initial payment for the acquisition is 747million while the final price tag will rise to 1billion if certain conditions are met, such as a stock market flotation. But still it does not cover the initial investment placed by the taxpayer bailing out the Northern Rock at the first place, and it resulted in around 400million loss which is the equivalent of 13 for each of the nations 30.6million taxpayers. However, George Osborne welcomed the sale, saying it was an important first step in getting the British taxpayer out of the business of owning banks. But the loss-making sale increase the doubts of the taxpayer getting back its money from similar bigger bailouts for Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds and The UK Treasury insisted that sale was in the best interests of the taxpayer, in addition it formed a high street competitor for the big banks in the market.

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5.1.4. Joint Venture Weaknesses Conflict of interest: Both banks has been operating in the market for years, they already acquires their dependant customer base, which they developed over the years based on their effective strategies, valuable products, and other techniques, for instance Virgin Money is well known for their distinctive customer service in addition to continually offering innovative products that is tailored according to the different demand they perceive from the market, and these strategies has proven to be very successful over the years. While on the other hand, Northern Rock was following a different strategy, by focusing on providing products that proved the customers with maximum value, and ease in payments. Considering it was a nationalized bank it was backed by the government in order to keep up with this strategy as it proven to be helpful to many customer in the mid of a global financial crisis. Finally, although both strategies are diverse yet they both proven to be successful throughout the years and both banks developed their customer base to almost 4 million clients. As a result, in case of partnership conflict might arise in the strategies that they should approach that could greatly affect their operations, and might also result in internal competition between them (Brown, 2004)

6. Task 3 Critical commentary


6.1. The 4 corner stones of competence
6.1.1. Valuable The most important competency that Virgin Money need to focus on is to offer valuable products to the customers in the market, considering the current economic state value for money is the first factor considered by the customers since basically most banks provide the same services, and one of the main factor that customers consider when joining a bank is choosing the highest value they can get followed by the quality of service and other factors. It is a crucial corner stone of competition in the market and Virgin Money should give it the first priority if they want to hold a respectable market share.

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Acquisition as a growth strategy However, it seems to be one of their main strategies, as they started offering many high value products right after finalizing the acquisition, by launching two new savings accounts that offers competitive interest rates and high value for their customers. Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money, said: "These new savings products are designed to be simple, fair and transparent. Such approach is already attracting many customers and emphasizes the powerful entry of Virgin Money to the UK market. 6.1.2. Rare Virgin is mostly famous for their superior Credit cards and Insurance services offerings while the Northern Rock secures a solid presence in the segments of Mortgage and savings account, combining both together will definitely generate a lot of profits and will give Virgin Money a rare and leading position in the banking market. In addition to Virgin group being famous for their new and innovative products in all different types of business they operate, as a result for Virgin Money to keep an edge over their competitors they will have to continue defining innovative products, expanding itself in this economic crisis and defining the strategic direction of the banking market. 6.1.3. Difficult to imitate The Virgin Money bank is a part of one of the UKs largest private companies, with over 63 different businesses, from airlines, Health clubs, music stores, and one of the major companies in the rail industry. If Virgin money starts integrating their services with these companies and offer valuable services and packages. Such approach would create a lot of product that offers enormous value for the customers, and will attract a lot of new clients to the bank, while in the meantime it would be difficult to imitate by the other competitors in the market as none of the big banks have such opportunity. 6.1.4. Non-Substitutable The Virgin brand is substitutable; upon research it was most famous to be associated with words such as fun, innovative, daring and successful. the international brand image has been developed upon years of providing high quality services to clients and valuable an innovative services, such image cannot be gained unless be showing success and value to the clients, and Virgin Group was successful in 15 | P a g e Sameh Nassar M100 5955

Acquisition as a growth strategy show these qualities throughout all their companies and thats why they earned such reputation in the market, which they care for maintaining this image now more than ever. (Johnson, Scholes and Whittington, 2008)

6.2.Recommendation
As per the analysis conducted in their report for each of the strategies Virgin money could have went through, there was advantage and disadvantages for each. The joint venture would not have been the best option for neither Virgin Money nor the taxpayers as a result of the conflict of interest that may occur between both companies during operations and live competition in the market. While on the other hand, the acquisition approach will give Virgin Money full management control for the bank strategic direction in the market and given their expertise they would manage the bank on their own, applying their successful strategies to bring the bank to the high street banking industry with direct competition with the other banks, while on the other hand the government will not have to interfere or face any of the issues of the performance and financial situation of the bank. Finally, in the third section out of the 4 corner stones of competency, It is recommended they focus their most attention on the valuable part and offer very competitive products to expand their market share upon their entry to the markets many clients will be attracted by such approach and they are ready to switch banks in case of any opportunity of a better value with a trusted and familiar brand.

7. Conclusion
Considering the analysis in this report, it shows in most situations from the business point of view that the acquisition strategy is a more effective and the most profitable than joining venture with the Northern Rock bank, based on multiple key points, starting from providing Virgin Money with a massive infrastructure and resources to expand in the market, also the governments decision was in best interest of the taxpayers in such recession, and is a step to get the taxpayers out of investments in the banking market. On the other hand, the joint venture approach was not preferable for the risk of encountering any conflict of interest between the two banks management, and its preferable to have one only in control of the strategic direction, and Virgin Money would be the better choice; being a well trusted brand over 16 | P a g e Sameh Nassar M100 5955

Acquisition as a growth strategy years serving customers in the market. Moreover, in the case of joint venture the Virgin Group would not have paid 747 million in cash to the government. This is a much worse deal for the taxpayers, whereas the acquisition would give them much more value. So being the best approach in the favour of Virgin Money, the tax payers, the market and the government, it is now more obvious they took the right decision, yet theyll still start the fight in the market and work on gaining a respectable market share in the industry.

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8. Bibliography
Barrow, B. (2011) Northern Rock Sale to Virgin, 18 November, [Online], Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2062616/Northern-Rock-sale-Virgin-Money-costs-taxpayer400m-Were-shortchanged.html [30 January 2012]. Brown, S. (2004) Strategic Operations Management, 2nd edition, UK: Taylor & Francis Routledge. HM Treasury (2011) Chancellor announces sale of Northern Rock plc, 17 November, [Online], Available: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/press_129_11.htm [13 February 2012]. Johnson, G., Scholes, K. and Whittington, R. (2008) Exploring Corporate Strategy, 8th edition, Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. slack, N., stuart, c. and johnson, r. (2010) Operations Management, 6th edition, London: Financial Times Prentice Hall. Virgin Money (2012) About Virgin Money, 1 February, [Online], Available: http://uk.virginmoney.com/virgin/about/index.jsp [1 February 2012]. Ansoff, Igor, 2004, Corporate Strategy McGraw Hill, New York Barney, J., 2001, Firm Resources and Sustainable Competitive Advantage, Journal of Management, vol 17, no 1, 1991. Chaffee, E., 2005, Three models of strategy, Academy of Management Review, vol10, no. 1 Christensen, Clayton, 2007, "The Innovator's Dilemma," Harvard Business School Press, Boston Crosby, P, 2007, Quality is Free, McGraw Hill, New York, 2nd edition, Pg. 122-232 Liebeskind, J. P., 2006, Knowledge, Strategy, and the Theory of the Firm, Strategic Management Journal, vol 17 Mintzberg, H. Ahlstrand, B. and Lampel, J., 2005, Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Strategic Management, the Free Press, New York Woo, C. and Cooper, A., 1998, The surprising case for low market share, Harvard Business Review, pg. 106113.

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