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Apple's confidence, acquisitions strategy stand in the way of large takeovers

Apple has been unable to pull off large acquisitions because it often feels it doesn't need to, but also because of its hesitant approach to the process, a report suggested on Wednesday.

The company tries to avoid risk, and is reluctant to cooperate with third-party advisers like investment banks, according to Bloomberg sources said to have worked on past Apple deals. The company is also noted to have little experience in buying and merging large businesses. Its biggest takeover was the 2014 Beats deal, costing $3 billion — even then, a small fraction of its global cash reserves.

Instead of investment bankers appointed by a seller, Apple often prefers to talk directly to a target company's management, the sources said. It's also claimed to dictate terms in a take-it-or-leave-it manner, working on the assumption that the promise of later development support and appearing in Apple products will be attractive enough to overcome concerns.

An example of this is said to be Apple's Metaio takeover in 2015, in which the latter's bankers — appointed to negotiate — weren't actually allowed to get involved. Metaio also accepted what its executives considered a lowball offer because of Apple's vision for its augmented reality technology.

The difficulty with direct talks is that third parties can potentially smooth over conflicts, something that may be especially important when trying to buy a company that doesn't need Apple's money.

Apple is, "probably more than most," confident in the idea that it can build things itself rather than buy them, according to Eric Risley, a managing partner at Architect Partners who has previously negotiated deals with the iPhone maker. He added that Apple is used to being able to "muscle" its way into favorable deals.

The company's acquisitions team is said to include roughly a dozen people, led by former Goldman Sachs banker Adrian Perica. Notably acquisitions are often instigated by Apple engineers, and every month product managers meet with Perica's team to point out targets with useful technology or staff.

Analysts have sometimes suggested that Apple could go after many large companies, like Tesla, Netflix, or even Disney, which currently has a $175.5 billion market cap. At one point Apple was rumored to be interested in Time Warner prior to AT&T's $85 billion deal, but talks are thought to have stopped at the preliminary level.