In a move that had many analysts shaking their heads, it was announced yesterday that a merger-of-equals will take place between Ally Bank, an Internet financial institution based in Utah, and the makers of Alli, a leading anti-obesity drug.
The new firm, to be called “Alliy Consolidated,” will attempt to achieve a unique corporate synergy by bringing together two companies that seemingly have little in common. Ally Financial is the former banking arm of GMAC, involved primarily in automobile loans but trying now to attract savers by offering simple banking products at competitive interest rates. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline distributes Alli, the medication known generically as tetrahydrolipstatin, which uses fecal incontinence in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet to promote weight loss.
“This is a great day for our customers interested in saving for retirement while looking to trim down in time for bathing-suit season,” said Joseph Crouse, who will become president of the combined firm. “We’ll be using economies of scale and the power of two well-known brands to stake out an innovative niche in two growing markets. Alliy will offer one-stop shopping for tubby clients interested in leveraging the convenience of online banking with the inconvenience of steatorrhea, a condition characterized by oily, loose stools and excessive flatus.”
The similarity of the two companies’ names had long confused many potential customers. People who logged onto Ally.com in search of urgent or frequent bowel movements instead found themselves reading about no-penalty certificates of deposit (CDs) and money market accounts. Meanwhile, those looking for modern financial products offered over the Internet were encountering information about controversial aversion therapy techniques that associated eating fat with unpleasant “treatment effects.”
“We’re taking the negatives associated with that confusion and turning them into a positive,” Crouse said. “Now, people will have time to be constantly in and out of the bathroom because they are spending less time and effort managing their personal finances.”
Crouse said the new business, which he called the “first bankaceutical,” will hit the ground running once federal regulators approve the merger later this spring. He said a management team is already in place that “will use that same sense of urgency that Alli consumers feel on a daily basis and apply it to the creation of the world’s greatest online depository institution.”
“We’re redefining the whole concept of ‘making a deposit,'” Crouse told reporters.
Observers of the mergers and acquisitions market expressed reservations that the new company could succeed. They cited the well-known failure last year of an effort by the makers of Flomax, who tried to pick up remnants of the collapsed investment bank Lehman Brothers. Despite a lavishly financed marketing campaign featuring the tag line “Piss Your Money Worries Away,” that attempt was abandoned in the wake of the recession.
“I’m just not sure they can make it work,” said Eric Royster, an analyst from Bank of America. “Their offer of transparent financial products may or may not be successful with a customer base that is constantly shitting itself.”
Crouse said he hoped the new name will blur negative memories some may have of Alli. In 2007, the consumer group Prescription Access Litigation awarded the medicine its “Bitter Pill Award,” asking the question “with allies like this, who needs enemas?”
“Our attorneys are already working with the FDA to include new safety information on our packaging about the risk of severe liver injury,” Crouse said. “We think that’s a small price to pay for no-fee ATMs.”
Crouse said the new Alliy will continue to offer FDIC insurance for deposits up to $10,000, while limiting its customers to “no more than five withdrawals per day.”
“Ally Financial has long been known for its liquidity, even during the height of the 2008 banking crisis,” Crouse said. “I think this merger will take that reputation to the next level.”
Meanwhile, speculation grew that yet another company could be snatched up in this current round of merger mania in corporate America. The makers of All laundry detergent were said to be in preliminary discussions with the new Alliy. That combination would result in the biggest player yet in the lucrative field of firms whose names start with “All”.
“There’s more synergy there than one might think at first glance,” said a financial reporter from The Wall Street Journal. “It may seem counterintuitive, but loose, oily stools can actually be processed into a very effective cleanser. It’s an all-natural alternative to the processed phosphates that All is using now. If they get the go-ahead from regulators, I see the board at Alliy being so flushed with success that they just may try to make this play.”