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Mergers & Acquisitions

M&As, in simple terms, are a consolidation of companies through various financial transactions. In these transactions, one company typically combines with another company or acquires a significant portion of its assets, stocks, or ownership. Usually, this process involves a lot of money! M&A activities can have a profound impact on the business landscape, reshaping industries, creating synergies, and driving growth.

Merger: In a merger, two companies combine to form a new entity. The assets, liabilities, and operations of both companies are merged, and shareholders of both companies usually receive shares in the new entity.

Acquisition: Here, one company (the acquirer) buys a controlling stake in another company (the target). The target company may retain its name, but it becomes a subsidiary of the acquirer.

What to know about M&As

  • Synergies ensure the combined value of the two companies to be greater than the sum of their individual values. Synergies can come from cost savings, increased market power, or complementary resources.
  • Market Expansion is created when acquiring companies gain access to new markets, customer bases, or distribution channels (view examples below).
  • Diversification of products or service offerings reduce reliance on a single revenue stream.
  • Economies of Scale is created when combining operations lead to cost savings due to increased efficiency and reduced duplication of resources.

Strategic Planning is a major step as businesses identify potential targets or partners that align with their strategic goals.
Due Diligence includes in-depth investigation of the target’s financial, legal, operational, and other aspects to assess risks and opportunities.
Valuation is figuring out the value of a target company through various methods such as financial analysis, market comparisons, and discounted cash flow analysis.
Negotiation of the terms include price, payment methods, and any contingencies.
Legal and Regulatory Approval ensures the deal to comply with antitrust laws, regulatory requirements, and obtaining necessary approvals.
Integration is the aftermath where post-merger integration involves merging operations, systems, cultures, and processes of the two companies.

  • Cultural Differences looks out for integrating different corporate cultures, which can lead to conflicts and operational challenges.
  • Financial Risks such as overpaying for the target company or underestimating integration costs can negatively impact the acquiring company’s financial health.
  • Regulatory Hurdles occur when regulatory authorities scrutinize the deal for antitrust concerns or other legal issues.
  • Employee Concerns may arise in M&As as they potentially lead to job losses, changes in management, and uncertainty among employees.

Historic M&As

Officially known as the “21st Century Fox Acquisition,” this deal involved Disney acquiring a substantial portion of 21st Century Fox‘s assets. The acquisition was announced on December 14, 2017 with a total transaction value of approximately $71.3 billion. That included the acquisition of the 20th Century Fox Film Studio and Television, which is known for producing major film franchises, including AvatarX-Men, and Deadpool, as well as popular TV shows like The SimpsonsFamily Guy, and Modern FamilyThe deal also gave Disney ownership of several international media assets, expanding its global reach. Disney acquired several cable networks, including FX Networks and National Geographic.

This acquisition is a good example of a major consolidation of entertainment assets, reshaping the industry’s landscape and influencing the streaming and content distribution strategies of major players.

These acquisitions positioned Facebook (now Meta Platforms, Inc.) as a tech giant with a broad range of social media and communication services, reshaping the way people interact, share content, and communicate in the digital age.

Facebook announced its acquisition of Instagram on April 9, 2012 with an initial transaction value of approximately $1 billion in cash and stock. Instagram had gained immense popularity for its user-friendly interface and visual-focused content sharing. The acquisition allowed Facebook to tap into the younger demographic that was particularly drawn to Instagram’s platform. It also enabled Facebook to strengthen its mobile presence, as Instagram was already thriving on mobile devices.

  • Facebook announced its acquisition of WhatsApp on February 19, 2014 with an initial transaction value of approximately $19 billion, including cash and stock. WhatsApp has been a widely-used messaging app with a strong global user base, especially in regions where mobile messaging was more popular than traditional SMS. Facebook aimed to enhance its position in the messaging landscape and gain access to WhatsApp‘s large user base. The acquisition of WhatsApp provided Facebook with a dominant position in the global messaging space. WhatsApp‘s end-to-end encryption and focus on privacy also aligned with the growing user demand for secure communication.

This corporate transaction was announced on November 23, 2015. However, it’s important to note that this merger ultimately did not proceed as initially planned due to changes in tax regulations. The Pfizer-Allergan merger attempted to capitalize on strategic and financial synergies, but the regulatory environment and changes in tax regulations ultimately led to the abandonment of the deal. This proposed merger serves as an example of how the regulatory landscape and government actions can play a pivotal role in shaping the outcomes of large-scale corporate transactions. 

The deal was structured as a “inversion” transaction, where Pfizer, a U.S.-based company, planned to merge with Allergan, an Ireland-based company, and was valued at approximately $160 billion. The primary motivation behind the merger was to create one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies with a diverse portfolio of products, including prescription medicines, vaccines, and consumer healthcare products. This inversion structure was aimed at benefiting from Ireland’s lower corporate tax rates.

The inversion structure sparked debates about corporate tax avoidance and led to scrutiny from U.S. regulators. In April 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department issued new regulations that aimed to curb the financial benefits of corporate inversions, making it more difficult for companies to engage in such tax-driven mergers.

As a result of these regulatory changes and the challenges they posed, Pfizer and Allergan mutually decided to terminate the merger agreement on April 6, 2016. The termination of the deal was described as a “mutual decision driven by the actions announced by the U.S. Department of Treasury.”

We learn from these examples that M&As can be a wonderful tool to build new engines for growth in the business world. However, as seen in the attempted Pfizer merger, there are many regulations that may prevent a merger or acquisition. Therefore, companies put years of research into their target business before making any major decision that involves lots of money and responsibility. 

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