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In corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are transactions in which the ownership of companies, other business organizations, or their operating units are transferred or consolidated with other entities. As an aspect of strategic management, M&A can allow enterprises to grow or downsize, and change the nature of their business or competitive position.

From a legal point of view, a merger is a legal consolidation of two entities into one, whereas an acquisition occurs when one entity takes ownership of another entity's stock, equity interests or assets. From a commercial and economic point of view, both types of transactions generally result in the consolidation of assets and liabilities under one entity, and the distinction between a "merger" and an "acquisition" is less clear. A transaction legally structured as an acquisition may have the effect of placing one party's business under the indirect ownership of the other party's shareholders, while a transaction legally structured as a merger may give each party's shareholders partial ownership and control of the combined enterprise. A deal may be euphemistically called a merger of equals if both CEOs agree that joining together is in the best interest of both of their companies, while when the deal is unfriendly (that is, when the management of the target company opposes the deal) it may be regarded as an "acquisition".

Replica of an East Indiaman of the brand architecture.

Most histories of M&A begin in the late 19th century United States. However, mergers coincide historically with the existence of companies. In 1708, for example, the East India Company merged with an erstwhile competitor to restore its monopoly over the Indian trade. In 1784, the Italian Monte dei Paschi and Monte Pio banks were united as the Monti Reuniti.[35] In 1821, the Hudson's Bay Company merged with the rival North West Company.

The Great Merger Movement: 1895–1905

The Great Merger Movement was a predominantly U.S. business phenomenon that happened from 1895 to 1905. During this time, small firms with little market share consolidated with similar firms to form large, powerful institutions that dominated their markets, such as the Standard Oil Company, which at its height controlled nearly 90% of the global oil refinery industry. It is estimated that more than 1,800 of these firms disappeared into consolidations, many of which acquired substantial shares of the markets in which they operated. The vehicle used were so-called trusts. In 1900 the value of firms acquired in mergers was 20% of GDP. In 1990 the value was only 3% and from 1998 to 2000 it was around 10–11% of GDP. Companies such as DuPont, U.S. Steel, and General Electric that merged during the Great Merger Movement were able to keep their dominance in their respective sectors through 1929, and in some cases today, due to growing technological advances of their products, patents, and brand recognition by their customers. There were also other companies that held the greatest market share in 1905 but at the same time did not have the competitive advantages of the companies like DuPont and General Electric. These companies such as International Paper and American Chicle saw their market share decrease significantly by 1929 as smaller competitors joined forces with each other and provided much more competition. The companies that merged were mass producers of homogeneous goods

The Great Merger Movement was a predominantly U.S. business phenomenon that happened from 1895 to 1905. During this time, small firms with little market share consolidated with similar firms to form large, powerful institutions that dominated their markets, such as the Standard Oil Company, which at its height controlled nearly 90% of the global oil refinery industry. It is estimated that more than 1,800 of these firms disappeared into consolidations, many of which acquired substantial shares of the markets in which they operated. The vehicle used were so-called trusts. In 1900 the value of firms acquired in mergers was 20% of GDP. In 1990 the value was only 3% and from 1998 to 2000 it was around 10–11% of GDP. Companies such as DuPont, U.S. Steel, and General Electric that merged during the Great Merger Movement were able to keep their dominance in their respective sectors through 1929, and in some cases today, due to growing technological advances of their products, patents, and brand recognition by their customers. There were also other companies that held the greatest market share in 1905 but at the same time did not have the competitive advantages of the companies like DuPont and General Electric. These companies such as International Paper and American Chicle saw their market share decrease significantly by 1929 as smaller competitors joined forces with each other and provided much more competition. The companies that merged were mass producers of homogeneous goods that could exploit the efficiencies of large volume production. In addition, many of these mergers were capital-intensive. Due to high fixed costs, when demand fell, these newly merged companies had an incentive to maintain output and reduce prices. However more often than not mergers were "quick mergers". These "quick mergers" involved mergers of companies with unrelated technology and different management. As a result, the efficiency gains associated with mergers were not present. The new and bigger company would actually face higher costs than competitors because of these technological and managerial differences. Thus, the mergers were not done to see large efficiency gains, they were in fact done because that was the trend at the time. Companies which had specific fine products, like fine writing paper, earned their profits on high margin rather than volume and took no part in the Great Merger Movement.[citation needed]

Short-run factors

One of the major short run factors that sparked the Great Merger Movement was the desire to keep prices high. However, high

One of the major short run factors that sparked the Great Merger Movement was the desire to keep prices high. However, high prices attracted the entry of new firms into the industry.

A major catalyst behind the Great Merger Movement was the Panic of 1893, which led to a major decline in demand for many homogeneous goods. For producers of homogeneous goods, when demand falls, these producers have more of an incentive to maintain output and cut prices, in order to

A major catalyst behind the Great Merger Movement was the Panic of 1893, which led to a major decline in demand for many homogeneous goods. For producers of homogeneous goods, when demand falls, these producers have more of an incentive to maintain output and cut prices, in order to spread out the high fixed costs these producers faced (i.e. lowering cost per unit) and the desire to exploit efficiencies of maximum volume production. However, during the Panic of 1893, the fall in demand led to a steep fall in prices.

Another economic model proposed by Naomi R. Lamoreaux for explaining the steep price falls is to view the involved firms acting as monopolies in their respective markets. As quasi-monopolists, firms set quantity where marginal cost equals marginal revenue and price where this quantity intersects demand. When the Panic of 1893 hit, demand fell and along with demand, the firm's marginal revenue fell as well. Given high fixed costs, the new price was below average total cost, resulting in a loss. However, also being in a high fixed costs industry, these costs can be spread out through greater production (i.e. higher quantity produced). To return to the quasi-monopoly model, in order for a firm to earn profit, firms would steal part of another firm's market share by dropping their price slightly and producing to the point where higher quantity and lower price exceeded their average total cost. As other firms joined this practice, prices began falling everywhere and a price war ensued.[36]

One strategy to keep prices high and to maintain profitability was for producers of the same good to collude with each other and form associations, also known as cartels. These cartels were thus able to raise prices right away, sometimes more than doubling prices. However, these prices set by cartels provided only a short-term solution because cartel members would cheat on each other by setting a lower price than the price set by the cartel. Also, the high price set by the cartel would encourage new firms to enter the industry and offer competitive pricing, causing prices to fall once again. As a result, these cartels did not succeed in maintaining high prices for a period of more than a few years. The most viable solution to this problem was for firms to merge, through horizontal integration, with other top firms in the market in order to control a large market share and thus successfully set a higher price.[citation needed]

In the long run, due to desire to keep costs low, it was advantageous for firms to merge and reduce their transportation costs thus producing and transporting from one location rather than various sites of different companies as in the past. Low transport costs, coupled with economies of scale also increased firm size by two- to fourfold during the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition, technological changes prior to the merger movement within companies increased the efficient size of plants with capital intensive assembly lines allowing for economies of scale. Thus improved technology and transportation were forerunners to the Great Merger Movement. In part due to competitors as mentioned above, and in part due to the government, however, many of these initially successful mergers were eventually dismantled. The U.S. government passed the Sherman Act in 1890, setting rules against price fixing and monopolies. Starting in the 1890s with such cases as Addyston Pipe and Steel Company v. United States, the courts attacked large companies for strategizing with others or within their own companies to maximize profits. Price fixing with competitors created a greater incentive for companies to unite and merge under one name so that they were not competitors anymore and technically not price fixing.

The economic history has been divided into Merger Waves based on the merger activities in the business world as:

The economic history has been divided into Merger Waves based on the merger activities in the business world as:

During the third merger wave (1965–1989), corporate marriages involved more diverse companies. Acquirers more frequently bought into different industries. Sometimes this was done to smooth out cyclical bumps, to diversify, the hope being that it would hedge an investment portfolio.

Starting in the fifth merger wave (1992–1998) and continuing today, companies are more likely to acquire in the same business, or close to it, firms that complement and strengthen an acquirer's capacity to serve customers.

In recent decades however, cross-sector convergence[38] has become more common. For example, retail companies are buying tech or e-commerce firms to acquire new markets and revenue streams. It has been reported that convergence will remain a key trend in M&A activity through 2015 and onward.

Buyers aren't necessarily hungry for the target companies’ hard assets. Some are more interested in acquiring thoughts, methodologies, people and relationships. Paul Graham recognized this in his 2005 essay "Hiring is Obsolete", in which he theorizes that the free market is better at identifying talent, and that traditional hiring practices do not follow the principles of free market because they depend a lot upon credentials and university degrees. Graham was probably the first to identify the trend in which large companies such as Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft were choosing to acquire startups instead of hiring new recruits,[39&

Starting in the fifth merger wave (1992–1998) and continuing today, companies are more likely to acquire in the same business, or close to it, firms that complement and strengthen an acquirer's capacity to serve customers.

In recent decades however, cross-sector convergence[38] has become more common. For example, retail companies are buying tech or e-commerce firms to acquire new markets and revenue streams. It has been reported that convergence will remain a key trend in M&A activity through 2015 and onward.

Buyers aren't necessarily hungry for the target companies’ hard assets. Some are more interested in acquiring thoughts, methodologies, people and relationships. Paul Graham recognized this in his 2005 essay "Hiring is Obsolete", in which he theorizes that the free market is better at identifying talent, and that traditional hiring practices do not follow the principles of free market because they depend a lot upon credentials and university degrees. Graham was probably the first to identify the trend in which large companies such as Google, Yahoo! or Microsoft were choosing to acquire startups instead of hiring new recruits,[39] a process known as acqui-hiring.

Many companies are being bought for their patents, licenses, market share, name brand, research staff, methods, customer base, or culture. Soft capital, like this, is very perishable, fragile, and fluid. Integrating it usually takes more finesse and expertise than integrating machinery, real estate, inventory and other tangibles.

The top ten largest deals in M&A history cumulate to a total value of 1,118,963 mil. USD. (1.118 tril. USD).[40]

Period Name Facet [37]
Date announced Acquiror name Acquiror mid-industry Acquiror nation Target name Target mid-industry Target nation Value of transaction ($mil)
11/14/1999 In a study conducted in 2000 by Lehman Brothers, it was found that, on average, large M&A deals cause the domestic currency of the target corporation to appreciate by 1% relative to the acquirer's local currency. Until 2018, around 280.472 cross-border deals have been conducted, which cumulates to a total value of almost 24,069 bil. USD.[41]

The rise of globalization has exponentially increased the necessity for agencies such as the Mergers and Acquisitions International Clearing (MAIC), trust accounts and securities clearing services for Like-Kind Exchanges for cross-border M&A.[citation needed] On a global basis, the value of cross-border mergers and acquisitions rose seven-fold during the 1990s.[42] In 1997 alone, there were over 2,333 cross-border transactions, worth a total of approximately $298 billion. The vast literature on empirical studies over value creation in cross-border M&A is not conclusive, but points to higher returns in cross-border M&As compared to domestic ones when the acquirer firm has the capability to exploit resources and knowledge of the target's firm and of handling challenges. In China, for example, securing regulatory approval can be complex due to an extensive group of various stakeholders at each level of government. In the United Kingdom, acquirers may face pension regulators with significant powers, in addition to an overall M&A environment that is generally more seller-friendly than the U.S. Nonetheless, the current surge in global cross-border M&A has been called the "New Era of Global Economic Discovery".[43]

In little more than a decade, M&A deals in China increased by a factor of 20, from 69 in 2000 to more than 1,300 in 2013.

In 2014, Europe registered its highest levels of M&A deal activity since the financial crisis. Driven by U.S. and Asian acquirers, inbound M&A, at $320.6 billion, reached record highs by both deal value and deal count since 2001.

Approximately 23 percent of the 416 M&A deals announced in the U.S. M&A market in 2014 involved non-U.S. acquirers.

For 2016, market uncertainties, including Brexit and the potential reform from a U.S. presidential election, contributed to cross-border M&A activity lagging roughly 20% behind 2015 activity.

In 2017, the controverse trend which started in 2015, decreasing total value but rising total number of cross border deals, kept going. Compared on a year on year basis (2016-2017), the total number of cross border deals decreased by -4.2%, while cumulated value increased by 0.6%.[44]

Even mergers of companies with headquarters in the same country can often be considered international in scale and require MAIC custodial services. For example, when Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas, the two American companies had to integrate operations in dozens of countries around the world (1997). This is just as true for other apparently "single-country" mergers, such as the 29 billion-dollar merger of Swiss drug makers Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis).

In emerging countries

M&A practice in emerging countries differs from more mature economies, although transaction management and valuation tools (e.g. DCF, comparables) share a common basic methodology. In China, India or Brazil for example, differences affect the formation of asset price and on the structuring of deals. Profitability expectations (e.g. shorter time horizon, no terminal value due to low visibility) and risk represented by a discount rate must both be properly adjusted.globalization has exponentially increased the necessity for agencies such as the Mergers and Acquisitions International Clearing (MAIC), trust accounts and securities clearing services for Like-Kind Exchanges for cross-border M&A.[citation needed] On a global basis, the value of cross-border mergers and acquisitions rose seven-fold during the 1990s.[42] In 1997 alone, there were over 2,333 cross-border transactions, worth a total of approximately $298 billion. The vast literature on empirical studies over value creation in cross-border M&A is not conclusive, but points to higher returns in cross-border M&As compared to domestic ones when the acquirer firm has the capability to exploit resources and knowledge of the target's firm and of handling challenges. In China, for example, securing regulatory approval can be complex due to an extensive group of various stakeholders at each level of government. In the United Kingdom, acquirers may face pension regulators with significant powers, in addition to an overall M&A environment that is generally more seller-friendly than the U.S. Nonetheless, the current surge in global cross-border M&A has been called the "New Era of Global Economic Discovery".[43]

In little more than a decade, M&A deals in China increased by a factor of 20, from 69 in 2000 to more than 1,300 in 2013.

In 2014, Europe registered its highest levels of M&A deal activity since the financial crisis. Driven by U.S. and Asian acquirers, inbound M&A, at $320.6 billion, reached record highs by both deal value and deal count since 2001.

Approximately 23 percent of the 416 M&A deals announced in the U.S. M&A market in 2014 involved non-U.S. acquirers.

For 2016, market uncertainties, including Brexit and the potential reform from a U.S. presidential election, contributed to cross-border M&A activity lagging roughly 20% behind 2015 activity.

In 2017, the controverse trend which started in 2015, decreasing total value but rising total number of cross border deals, kept going. Compared on a year on year basis (2016-2017), the total number of cross border deals decreased by -4.2%, while cumulated value increased by 0.6%.[44]

Even mergers of companies with headquarters in the same country can often be considered international in scale and require MAIC custodial services. For example, when Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas, the two American companies had to integrate operations in dozens of countries around the world (1997). This is just as true for other apparently "single-country" mergers, such as the 29 billion-dollar merger of Swiss drug makers Sandoz and Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis).

M&A practice in emerging countries differs from more mature economies, although transaction management and valuation tools (e.g. DCF, comparables) share a common basic methodology. In China, India or Brazil for example, differences affect the formation of asset price and on the structuring of deals. Profitability expectations (e.g. shorter time horizon, no terminal value due to low visibility) and risk represented by a discount rate must both be properly adjusted.[45] In a M&A perspective, differences between emerging and more mature economies include: i) a less developed system of property rights, ii) less reliable financial information, iii) cultural differences in negotiations, and iv) a higher degree of competition for the best targets.

  • Property rights:[46] the capacity to transfer property rights and legally enforce the protection of such rights after payment may be questionable. Property transfer through the Stock Purchase Agreement can be imperfect (e.g. no real warranties) and even reversible

    If not properly dealt with, these factors will likely have adverse consequences on return-on-investment (ROI) and create difficulties in day-to-day business operations. It is advisable that M&A tools designed for mature economies are not directly used in emerging markets without some adjustment. M&A teams need time to adapt and understand the key operating differences between their home environment and their new market.

    Failure

    Despite the goal of performance improvement, results from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are often disappointing compared with results predicted or expected. Numerous empirical studies show high failure rates of M&A deals. Studies are mostly focused on individual determinants. A book by Thomas Straub (2007) "Reasons for frequent failure in Mergers and Acquisitions"[49] develops a comprehensive research framework that bridges different perspectives and promotes an understanding of factors underlying M&A performance in business research and scholarship. The study should help managers in the decision making process. The first important step towards this objective is the development of a common frame of reference that spans conflicting theoretical assumptions from different perspectives. On this basis, a comprehensive framework is proposed with which to understand the origins of M&A performance better and address the problem of fragmentation by integrating the most important competing perspectives in respect of studies on M&A. Furthermore, according to the existing literature, relevant determinants of firm performance are derived from each dimension of the model. For the dimension strategic management, the six strategic variables: market similarity, market complementarities, production operation similarity, production operation complementarities, market power, and purchasing power were identified as having an important effect on M&A performance. For the dimension organizational behavior, the variables acquisition experience, relative size, and cultural differences were found to be important. Finally, relevant determinants of M&A performance from the financial field were acquisition premium, bidding process, and due diligence. Three different

    Despite the goal of performance improvement, results from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are often disappointing compared with results predicted or expected. Numerous empirical studies show high failure rates of M&A deals. Studies are mostly focused on individual determinants. A book by Thomas Straub (2007) "Reasons for frequent failure in Mergers and Acquisitions"[49] develops a comprehensive research framework that bridges different perspectives and promotes an understanding of factors underlying M&A performance in business research and scholarship. The study should help managers in the decision making process. The first important step towards this objective is the development of a common frame of reference that spans conflicting theoretical assumptions from different perspectives. On this basis, a comprehensive framework is proposed with which to understand the origins of M&A performance better and address the problem of fragmentation by integrating the most important competing perspectives in respect of studies on M&A. Furthermore, according to the existing literature, relevant determinants of firm performance are derived from each dimension of the model. For the dimension strategic management, the six strategic variables: market similarity, market complementarities, production operation similarity, production operation complementarities, market power, and purchasing power were identified as having an important effect on M&A performance. For the dimension organizational behavior, the variables acquisition experience, relative size, and cultural differences were found to be important. Finally, relevant determinants of M&A performance from the financial field were acquisition premium, bidding process, and due diligence. Three different ways in order to best measure post M&A performance are recognized: synergy realization, absolute performance, and finally relative performance.

    Employee turnover contributes to M&A failures. The turnover in target companies is double the turnover experienced in non-merged firms for the ten years after the merger.[[citation needed]