Mining the Discourse: Strategizing During BHP Billiton's Attempted Acquisition of Rio Tinto


Address for reprints: Maurizio Floris, Work and Organisational Studies, The University of Sydney Business School, Rm. 203, Institute Building (H03), The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia (


Using a discourse-analytic approach, we examine the strategizing that occurred during an attempted acquisition in 2007/08 of Rio Tinto by BHP Billiton. In doing so, we contribute to discursive studies of mergers and acquisitions in two significant respects. First, we show the importance of studying how actors external to, as well as those internal to BHP, exerted influence over the acquisition process and outcome. Their influence can be attributed, in part, to their use of rhetorical strategies during the negotiation of the meanings of three constructs that were central to the acquisition discourse. Second, our study shows how these rhetorical strategies were put into effect using not only linguistic, but also non-linguistic modes of discourse such as imagery, indicators, and location. We conclude that obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the role of discourse in relation to a strategic activity – in this case an attempted acquisition – requires consideration of the multi-modal rhetorical strategies brought to bear by both external and internal actors.