The Global Rush To Find Partners

Companies worldwide are building myriad bridges to each other. The resulting alliances may not always work. But they may well represent the new shape of global business

To David Ernst, the world is just a whirl of alliances. Take a typical day for this consulting partner at McKinsey & Co. in Washington, D.C. The gas pumped into his car is the product of an alliance between Shell and Texaco Inc. Payment for the gas is thrown on a credit card co-branded by Royal/Dutch Shell Group and Mastercard. A cup of Starbucks Corp. coffee that Ernst grabs as he careens through an airport is sold through a partnership with Host Marriott. The airline that whisks Ernst to his destination is part of a grouping of several international carriers. Says Ernst, an alliance expert: "For most companies, the basis of competition has shifted to groups of companies competing against groups of companies."

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