Mergers and acquisitions are two of the most misunderstood words in the business world and there is a distinct difference between mergers and acquisitions.

Merger vs Acquisition

Both terms often refer to the joining of two companies, but there are key differences involved in when to use them.

A merger occurs when two separate entities combine forces to create a new, joint organization. Meanwhile, an acquisition refers to the takeover of one entity by another.

Mergers and acquisitions may be completed to expand a company’s reach or gain market share to create shareholder value.

Legally speaking, a merger requires two companies to consolidate into a new entity with a new ownership and management structure with members of each firm.

The more common distinction to differentiating a deal is whether the purchase is friendly merger or hostile acquisition. Mergers require no cash to complete but dilute each company s individual power.

In practice, friendly mergers of equals do not take place very frequently.

It is uncommon that two companies would benefit from combining forces with two different CEOs agreeing to give up some authority to realize those benefits. When this does happen, the stocks of both companies are surrendered, and new stocks are issued under the name of the new business identity.

Typically, mergers are done to reduce operational costs, expand into new markets, boost revenue and profits. Mergers are usually voluntary and involve companies that are the same size and scope.

Due to the negative connotation, many acquiring companies refer to an acquisition as a merger even when it is clearly not.

In an acquisition, a new company does not emerge. Instead, the smaller company is often consumed and ceases to exist with its assets becoming part of the larger company.

Acquisitions, sometimes called takeovers, carry a more negative connotation than mergers. As a result, acquiring companies may refer to an acquisition as a merger even though it is clearly a takeover.

An acquisition takes place when one company takes over all the operational management decisions of another company.

Acquisitions require substantial amounts of cash, but the buyer’s power is absolute.

Company Merger vs Acquisition

Companies may acquire another company to purchase their supplier and improve economies of scale–which lowers the costs per unit as production increases.

Companies might look to improve their market share, reduce costs, and expand into new product lines.

Companies engage in acquisitions to obtain the technologies of the target company, which can help save years of capital investment costs and research and development.

Since ‘successful’ mergers are so uncommon and takeovers are viewed in a negative light, the two terms have become increasingly blended and used in conjunction with one another.

Contemporary corporate restructurings are usually referred to as merger and acquisition M&A transactions rather than simply a merger or acquisition.

The practical difference between mergers and acquisitions are slowly being eroded by the new definition of M&A deals.

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