M&A Services

- Mergers & Acquisitions


Value = Income x Risk
For a seller to achieve the anticipated result from the sale of their business the transaction process must be professionally orchestrated. Deal risk must be carefully assessed. The process will rarely allow a second opportunity to get it right.  The brokerage process constantly evolves, particularly during the negotiating, deal making, and document preparation stages.  The highest price offer amount may not be the best overall deal.  An objective opinion on our part serves the best interest of a seller.  Our overall approach and brokerage skills are dedicated exclusively to the benefit of our client. 


An acquisition, also known as a takeover or a buyout or "merger", is the buying of one company (the ‘target’) by another. An acquisition may be friendly or hostile. In the former case, the companies cooperate in negotiations; in the latter case, the takeover target is unwilling to be bought or the target's board has no prior knowledge of the offer. Acquisition usually refers to a purchase of a smaller firm by a larger one. Sometimes, however, a smaller firm will acquire management control of a larger or longer established company and keep its name for the combined entity. This is known as a reverse takeover. Another type of acquisition is reverse merger, a deal that enables a private company to get publicly listed in a short time period. A reverse merger occurs when a private company that has strong prospects and is eager to raise financing buys a publicly listed shell company, usually one with no business and limited assets. Achieving acquisition success has proven to be very difficult. The acquisition process has many dimensions influencing its outcome.


The buyer buys the shares, and therefore control, of the target company being purchased. Ownership control of the company in turn conveys effective control over the assets of the company, but since the company is acquired intact as a going concern, this form of transaction carries with it all of the liabilities accrued by that business over its past and all of the risks that company faces in its commercial environment. The buyer buys the assets of the target company. The cash the target receives from the sell-off is paid back to its shareholders by dividend or through liquidation. This type of transaction leaves the target company as an empty shell, if the buyer buys out the entire assets. A buyer often structures the transaction as an asset purchase to "cherry-pick" the assets that it wants and leave out the assets and liabilities that it does not. This can be particularly important where foreseeable liabilities may include future, unquantified damage awards such as those that could arise from litigation over defective products, employee benefits or terminations, or environmental damage. A disadvantage of this structure is the tax that many jurisdictions, particularly outside the United States, impose on transfers of the individual assets, whereas stock transactions can frequently be structured as like-kind exchanges or other arrangements that are tax-free or tax-neutral, both to the buyer and to the seller's shareholders. The terms "demerger", "spin-off" and "spin-out" are sometimes used to indicate a situation where one company splits into two, generating a second company separately listed on a stock exchange.

It really depends on whether the purchase is friendly or hostile and how it is announced. In other words, the real difference lies in how the purchase is communicated to and received by the target company's board of directors, employees and shareholders. It is quite normal though for M&A deal communications to take place in a so called 'confidentiality bubble' whereby information flows are restricted due to confidentiality agreements (Harwood, 2005).

Distinction between mergers and acquisitions
Although often used synonymously, the terms merger and acquisition mean slightly different things.

When one company takes over another and clearly establishes itself as the new owner, the purchase is called an acquisition. From a legal point of view, the target company ceases to exist, the buyer "swallows" the business and the buyer's stock continues to be traded.

In the pure sense of the term, a merger happens when two firms agree to go forward as a single new company rather than remain separately owned and operated. This kind of action is more precisely referred to as a "merger of equals". The firms are often of about the same size. Both companies' stocks are surrendered and new company stock is issued in its place. For example, in the 1999 merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham, both firms ceased to exist when they merged, and a new company, GlaxoSmithKline, was created.

In practice, however, actual mergers of equals don't happen very often. Usually, one company will buy another and, as part of the deal's terms, simply allow the acquired firm to proclaim that the action is a merger of equals, even if it is technically an acquisition. Being bought out often carries negative connotations, therefore, by describing the deal euphemistically as a merger, deal makers and top managers try to make the takeover more palatable. An example of this would be the takeover of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz in 1999 which was widely referred to in the time.

A purchase deal will also be called a merger when both CEOs agree that joining together is in the best interest of both of their companies. But when the deal is unfriendly - that is, when the target company does not want to be purchased - it is always regarded as an acquisition.

Specialist M&A advisory firms
Although at present the majority of M&A advice is provided by full-service investment banks, recent years have seen a rise in the prominence of specialist M&A advisers, who only provide M&A advice (and not financing). These companies are sometimes referred to as Transition companies, assisting businesses often referred to as "companies in transition." To perform these services in the US, an advisor must be a licensed broker dealer, and subject to SEC (FINRA) regulation. More information on M&A advisory firms is provided at corporate advisory.

Motives behind M&A
The dominant rationale used to explain M&A activity is that acquiring firms seek improved financial performance. The following motives are considered to improve financial performance:

Economy of scale: This refers to the fact that the combined company can often reduce its fixed costs by removing duplicate departments or operations, lowering the costs of the company relative to the same revenue stream, thus increasing profit margins.
Economy of scope: This refers to the efficiencies primarily associated with demand-side changes, such as increasing or decreasing the scope of marketing and distribution, of different types of products.

Increased revenue or market share: This assumes that the buyer will be absorbing a major competitor and thus increase its market power (by capturing increased market share) to set prices.

Cross-selling: For example, a bank buying a stock broker could then sell its banking products to the stock broker's customers, while the broker can sign up the bank's customers for brokerage accounts. Or, a manufacturer can acquire and sell complementary products.

Synergy: For example, managerial economies such as the increased opportunity of managerial specialization. Another example are purchasing economies due to increased order size and associated bulk-buying discounts.

Taxation: A profitable company can buy a loss maker to use the target's loss as their advantage by reducing their tax liability. In the United States and many other countries, rules are in place to limit the ability of profitable companies to "shop" for loss making companies, limiting the tax motive of an acquiring company. Geographical or other diversification: This is designed to smooth the earnings results of a company, which over the long term smoothens the stock price of a company, giving conservative investors more confidence in investing in the company. However, this does not always deliver value to shareholders (see below).

Resource transfer: resources are unevenly distributed across firms (Barney, 1991) and the interaction of target and acquiring firm resources can create value through either overcoming information asymmetry or by combining scarce resources. Vertical integration: Vertical integration occurs when an upstream and downstream firm merge (or one acquires the other). There are several reasons for this to occur. One reason is to internalise an externality problem. A common example is of such an externality is double marginalization. Double marginalization occurs when both the upstream and downstream firms have monopoly power, each firm reduces output from the competitive level to the monopoly level, creating two deadweight losses. By merging the vertically integrated firm can collect one deadweight loss by setting the downstream firm's output to the competitive level. This increases profits and consumer surplus. A merger that creates a vertically integrated firm can be profitable. However, on average and across the most commonly studied variables, acquiring firms' financial performance does not positively change as a function of their acquisition activity. Therefore, additional motives for merger and acquisition that may not add shareholder value include:

Diversification: While this may hedge a company against a downturn in an individual industry it fails to deliver value, since it is possible for individual shareholders to achieve the same hedge by diversifying their portfolios at a much lower cost than those associated with a merger. Manager's hubris: manager's overconfidence about expected synergies from M&A which results in overpayment for the target company. Empire-building: Managers have larger companies to manage and hence more power.
Manager's compensation: In the past, certain executive management teams had their payout based on the total amount of profit of the company, instead of the profit per share, which would give the team a perverse incentive to buy companies to increase the total profit while decreasing the profit per share (which hurts the owners of the company, the shareholders); although some empirical studies show that compensation is linked to profitability rather than mere profits of the company. Effects on management A study published in the July/August 2008 issue of the Journal of Business Strategy suggests that mergers and acquisitions destroy leadership continuity in target companies’ top management teams for at least a decade following a deal. The study found that target companies lose 21 percent of their executives each year for at least 10 years following an acquisition – more than double the turnover experienced in non-merged firms.

The Great Merger Movement
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. 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. To truly understand how large this movement was—in 1900 the value of firms acquired in mergers was 20% of GDP. In 1990 the value was only 3% and from 1998–2000 it was around 10–11% of GDP. Organizations that commanded the greatest share of the market in 1905 saw that command disintegrate by 1929 as smaller competitors joined forces with each other. However, there were companies that merged during this time such as DuPont, US Steel, and General Electric that have been able to keep their dominance in their respected sectors today due to growing technological advances of their products, patents, and brand recognition by their customers. The companies that merged were mass producers of homogeneous goods that could exploit the efficiencies of large volume production. 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 Great Merger Movement.

Short-run factors
One of the major short run factors that sparked in The Great Merger Movement was the desire to keep prices high. That is, with many firms in a market, supply of the product remains high. During the panic of 1893, the demand declined. When demand for the good falls, as illustrated by the classic supply and demand model, prices are driven down. To avoid this decline in prices, firms found it profitable to collude and manipulate supply to counter any changes in demand for the good. This type of cooperation led to widespread horizontal integration amongst firms of the era. Focusing on mass production allowed firms to reduce unit costs to a much lower rate. These firms usually were capital-intensive and had high fixed costs. Because new machines were mostly financed through bonds, interest payments on bonds were high followed by the panic of 1893, yet no firm was willing to accept quantity reduction during that period.

Long-run factors
In the long run, due to the 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. This resulted in shipment directly to market from this one location. 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 U.S. versus Addyston Pipe and Steel Co., 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.

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

Period Name Facet
1889 - 1904 First Wave Horizontal mergers
1916 - 1929 Second Wave Vertical mergers
1965 - 1989 Third Wave Diversified conglomerate mergers
1992 - 1998 Fourth Wave Congeneric mergers; Hostile takeovers; Corporate Raiding
2000 - Fifth Wave Cross-border mergers

© 2005 - 2010 Christopher S. Whitener CPA. All rights reserved.

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