Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Selling Home Depot Supply

This article describes critics who think Home Depot should not be selling its Supply unit, which serves contractors. The critics argue that the firm is forsaking the potential growth in that segment simply because it wants to "exorcise Nardelli's ghosts." The critics argue that the private equity firms will make a great deal of money on the Supply unit.

The critics are missing a crucial point. The issue is NOT whether the Supply unit is an attractive and potentially quite profitable business. This issue is whether the Supply unit is BETTER OFF as an independent company vs. within Home Depot. Moreover, the issue is whether Home Depot's retail business is better off on its own or when combined with the Supply unit.

This example demonstrates a larger point. When firms consider diversification, they must not only look at whether a new business unit will provide higher growth and profits... they must also consider whether that new unit will perform optimally as part of the diversified firm, or whether it will be better off on its own or as part of some other corporation. Shareholders benefit most when a business unit is located in an organizational situation in which it can perform best.