The train ride from Berlin to Koblenz was one that many were not looking forward to; the sense of belonging in Berlin was taken away from us as we went to the train station for the next stop in the trip.
During the train ride, we went to the lunch cart section of the train while also enjoying the broad view that the train offered us during our transition. The train ride served to be a time in which we were able to slow down a bit and relax when compared to our busy schedule in Berlin, and give most of us a much needed break for the rest of the trip going forward.
On Monday, May 9th, we spent the majority of the day at Merck. We were first provided an overview of their operations and their products. They also explained their emphasis on R&D activities in the company. We then met with the head of capital markets who explained his team’s role within the treasury group and within the overall firm. This was quite an interesting presentation as he went into quite a significant amount of detail on the financing and investments. We then went to their corporate museum to look at the history and various artifacts.
The pension investment management strategy was briefly discussed. In their management of foreign exchange and operational risks, the desire to effectively minimize those risks were discussed. In financing investments and acquisitions, the capital structure and vehicles used was thoroughly examined. There were many exotic instruments used, although mostly debt-based and were interesting from a finance perspective. Additionally, the role of the treasury group to support the entire firm’s success was useful in understanding the firm and its management perspectives.
Afterwards, we were given a tour of the entire facility, which was the size of a small town. Since it was so large, we did the tour by bus and it was explained that the facility was essentially self-sufficient with an independent energy, electricity, and water supply. Finally, we were in a presentation with the family board chairman, who explained the history of the company and the role of the family in the firm, which was the last activity at Merck.
After Merck, we went to the family owned vineyard Lunnebach and tested different kinds of German wines. There were several different wines that were very popular with everybody who attended. There were also some tasty snacks for us to have which paired nicely with our wine. We also had a great question and answer session with the owner and his father-in-law who taught us more about their family business.
Lunnebach is a family owned vineyard that has grown over the years. They have six hectares of land to grow grapes. In order to grow wineries in Germany, one cannot buy new land and expand. There is a set amount of land that can only be used to grow grapes so that there is a competitive amount of wines in Europe. We had a great experience and look forward to continuing on with our trip.
Blog post written by Europe Study Tour participants Ermin, Patrick & Tom.