What Are Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and How They Work (+ Types and Examples)

Mergers and acquisitions represent the most far-reaching and transformative corporate actions any company can take. 

M&A transactions affect the careers and lives of employees, tilt the balance of power in the industry market, and redefine the capital structure and stock value.

The mergers and acquisitions industry is exceptionally prolific, as the value of global M&A deals reached its peak of nearly six trillion U.S. dollars in 2021. 

Although often used interchangeably, the terms merger and acquisition denote distinct methods of company consolidation. 

This article will clarify the differences between mergers and acquisitions, explain how these transactions work, and outline some of the leading M&A types and well-known examples.

Mergers Vs. Acquisitions


As we’ve already mentioned, the concepts of mergers and acquisitions are frequently used synonymously. As both terms refer to the act of consolidation of multiple companies to form a new business entity, using them interchangeably is not a fundamental error.

However, if you’re thinking of taking part in an M&A deal or simply want to gain a better understanding of corporate events, you ought to know the intricacies between the definitions of mergers and acquisitions.

The principal difference between the two transactions is that a merger indicates two companies forming a new business, whereas an acquisition represents the purchase of one company by another without creating a new corporate entity. 

However, each instance of an acquisition or a merger is unique, so it is sometimes challenging to make a clear-cut differentiation between the two concepts.

The following table outlines the main differences between mergers and acquisitions:

  • voluntarily agreements
  • companies join into a new business entity with combined assets belonging to the new entity
  • take place between companies identical in size, profits, and industry
  • stocks are merged and issued under the name of the new company
  • shares distributed to existing shareholders of both businesses
  • amicable takeovers
  • can remain separate in terms of name and structure, but all assets belong to the buyer company
  • take place between disproportionally sized companies
  • stocks become the buyer’s and cease to be issued under the old name
  • 50% or more of a target company’s shares belong to the buyer company

Mergers: Definition, Operations, Types & Examples

What is a Merger?

A merger represents a voluntary consolidation of assets of two separate companies into a single, new business entity. This business transaction usually takes place between two companies roughly equal in size, target customers, and scale of operations. 

Corporate mergers usually ensue for the mutual advantages of both companies. Joining forces and operating as a single company through a merger can yield benefits such as:

  • increasing the financial and operational strengths
  • production and operational costs-savings
  • expanding to new markets
  • gaining market share
  • increasing shareholder value
  • growing profits

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How do Mergers Work?

As defined earlier, mergers occur between two identical business entities that form a new company. In a merger, both companies’ stocks will be issued under the new entity’s name, whereas shares are distributed to present shareholders of both merging businesses.

Types of Mergers

There are five types of mergers: horizontal, vertical, conglomerate, congeneric, and market extension.

Horizontal Mergers

A horizontal merger represents a merger between companies that provide similar services, operate in the same industry, and target identical customers. 

Horizontal mergers frequently occur among competitors who want to claim a larger market share and unite production operations. 

An example of a concentric merger would be a merger between tire manufacturers.

Vertical Mergers

Vertical mergers are identical to horizontal ones, except merging companies are in different stages of production. 

In other words, businesses sell different products but share supply chains. A vertical merge generally aims to improve production efficiency. 

An example of a concentric merger would be a tire manufacturer merging with a car production business.

Conglomerate Mergers

Conglomerate mergers occur between two completely different businesses operating in distinct industries. These mergers most commonly aim to reduce risks, combine assets, access new markets, or expand product lines. 

An example of a conglomerate merger would be a tire factory merging with a rubber-products manufacturer.

Concentric Mergers

A concentric merger refers to a merger between two businesses that share a customer base but offer unique products and services that complement each other. This merger type is also known as a product extension merger. 

An example of a concentric merger would be a tire-manufacturing company merging with a rim-making company.

Market Extension Mergers

Market extension mergers represent the merging of two companies that operate in the same industry but in different markets. The goal of these mergers is to widen the client base. 

An example of a market extension merger would be a merger between two tire manufacturing companies operating in, e.g., the USA and Canada.

Examples of Mergers

Exxon & Mobile Merger into ExxonMobile

In 1999, Exxon Corp. and Mobil Corp., the first and second-largest U.S. oil producers, blended into ExxonMobil in an $80 million merger. ExxonMobil thus became the most significant oil company globally, whose investors have since quadrupled their money.

Sirius Satellite Radio & X.M. Satellite Radio into Sirius XM

In 2008, rivals Sirius Satellite Radio and X.M. Satellite Radio joined forces in a $3.3 billion merger. Thanks to the radio’s celebrity roster, including Oprah, Howard Stern, and Martha Stewart, the merger was a success.

Acquisitions: Definition, Operations, Types & Examples

What is an Acquisition?

Acquisition refers to purchasing the entirety or a portion of corporate shares – generally more than 50% of the target firm’s stocks and other assets. 

Two businesses participate in an acquisition – the buying company and the target company. The buying company can proceed with the acquisition with or without the target business’s approval, though less amicable transactions are usually dubbed takeovers.

The acquired business gains access to additional capital and expertise that the buying company can provide, whereas the acquirer leverages added resources and technologies. 

Common reasons why corporate acquisitions take place are:

  • achieving significant company growth based on the target company’s strengths
  • increasing market share
  • leveraging new technologies
  • controlling underutilized assets
  • gaining access to thorough distribution channels

How do Acquisitions Work?

In most cases, the target company’s board of directors approves the acquisition, and contracts are crafted to work toward the mutual benefit of both the acquiring and target companies. 

Once the target company is acquired by another, it legally ceases to exist. However, the acquisition does not necessarily equal the disappearance of the target company; rather, acquisition permeates the questions of branding, incorporation, and taxes.

Upon acquiring assets of another company, the buying firm has the decision-making power over and can use the newly acquired assets without the permission of the target company’s shareholders. As a result, the acquired business’s stocks become the buyer’s and, therefore, cease to exist under the target company’s name.

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Types of Acquisitions

There are five major types of acquisitions: consolidating, value-creating, accelerating, speculating, and resource-acquiring.

Consolidating acquisitions

Consolidating acquisition is when an acquiring company purchases another company to decrease its competition. 

An example of a consolidating acquisition would be a purchase between two tire manufacturing companies operating in the same market.

Value-creating acquisitions

A value-creating acquisition is a transaction where the purchasing entity aims to profit by enhancing the acquired company’s performance and later selling it to another company. 

An example of a value-creating acquisition would be a purchase between two tire manufacturing companies, with the buyer company trying to boost the other’s profits and upsell it to another buyer.

Accelerating acquisitions

An accelerating acquisition refers to a bigger company buying a smaller business to expand the purchased company’s market access. 

An example of an accelerating acquisition would be a purchase between larger and smaller tire manufacturing companies.

Speculating acquisitions

A speculating acquisition is an instance of a larger entity purchasing a smaller business to leverage the acquired company’s potential growth. 

An example of a consolidating acquisition would be a purchase between two tire manufacturing companies, of which one develops a prospective technology, such as an innovative tire thread or unique rubber compound.

Resource-acquiring acquisitions

A resource-acquiring acquisition involves a company buying another company to access the acquired company’s resources such as intellectual property, skills, personnel, or market access to save money and time. 

An example of a resource-acquiring acquisition would be a purchase between two tire manufacturing companies, of which one develops an innovative tire solution.

Examples of Acquisitions

Disney’s Acquisition of Pixar and Marvel

The Walt Disney Company has made over 20 acquisitions, spending over $89.21B. The two most significant acquisitions happened in 2006 when Disney acquired Pixar for $7.4 billion, and in 2009, the company acquired Marvel for $4 billion. Other notable acquisitions by Disney were Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.

Google’s Acquisition of Android

In 2005, Google acquired, at the time, an unknown mobile startup Android for around $50 million. The acquisition enabled Google to compete in the phone market against Microsoft and Apple. 

Google and Android joined forces signified redefining the Internet and gave a renewed description of the World Wide Web.


What are mergers and acquisitions with examples?

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) refer to corporate strategies where one company combines with or takes over another. Examples include Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, forming a powerful entertainment conglomerate, and the merger of Exxon and Mobil, creating ExxonMobil, a dominant player in the oil and gas industry. M&A can drive growth, synergy, or market expansion.

What are the 4 types of mergers and acquisitions?

The four types of mergers and acquisitions are horizontal (same industry), vertical (different production stages), conglomerate (unrelated industries), and congeneric (related but not competing industries).

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