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M&A meaning and classification: An in-depth look at M&A types
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M&A meaning and classification: An in-depth look at M&A types

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Companies that seek corporate restructuring, revenue growth, or market expansion opt for various types of transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, or partnerships. Today, we discuss mergers and acquisitions, and M&A transaction meaning, in particular. 

The economic impact of mergers and acquisitions is hard to overestimate. In 2023, the global M&A deal volume reached about $2.5 billion. And though this is a 25% decline compared to the previous year, the numbers still speak about the M&A demand among business makers.So, what is an M&A transaction? Is there a difference between a merger and an acquisition? And what are the main types of mergers and acquisitions? Find answers in this article.

Understanding mergers and acquisitions

Let’s go through the key points of mergers and acquisitions to understand better the M&A notion and how it can boost your business.

Mergers and acquisitions definition

Mergers and acquisitions is the general term that refers to the consolidation of two or more companies. 

In the business world, mergers and acquisitions are often used synonymously. However, there’s a clear mergers and acquisitions difference — these are two different deals.

A merger describes the process of two privately held companies or public companies uniting into one completely new entity to face strong prospects in the industry or conquer new markets. These two companies are of comparable size and have similar growth goals. A new legal entity gets unique branding, and a new stock price is formed.

An acquisition describes process where one company takes over another, becomes its only owner, and obtains a controlling interest. The acquiring company is usually a larger organization that acquires a smaller one — the target company.

Note: The mergers and acquisitions process doesn’t end with its closure, since then a post-merger integration process begins, which is no less important.

Mergers and acquisitions types

Now, let’s review the main types of mergers and acquisitions. 


During the merger deal, the board of directors of the target company approves the deal. They also require regulatory approval from the stakeholders to form a combined company and establish a completely new entity. 

A good example of the merger is the deal between T-Mobile and Sprint, that took place in 2020.


The acquisition deal is always about one company acquiring a selling company, its intellectual property, or the biggest share of its stakes. In this case, the name of the target firm and legal issues are not changed.

Based on our experience, a good example of an acquisition is the deal between AOL and Time Warner in 2000.


Consolidation deals refer to the process when two companies form a completely new entity, integrating core businesses and leaving the old structures behind. Consolidation requires shareholders of both the buyer and seller to approve the deal. After this, they get a common equity share in the newly established firm. 

Drawing on our observations, consolidations typically take place when a larger company acquires a smaller company.

Asset purchase

During the asset purchase, an acquiring company purchases the assets of the target company. The selling company must get the stakeholders’ approval to enter the deal. This type of acquisition is common for the target companies that face bankruptcy. In this case, public and private companies bid for asset purchase of the bankrupt company, and after the final transaction, the target company is liquidated.

Management acquisitions

This type of mergers and acquisitions deal takes place when a company’s management team executives purchase a stake in their own company or another target firm, thus making it private.

Tender offers

During the tender offer, one company offers to purchase an exceptional stock of another company at a purchase price that differs from the market price. To enter the deal, an acquiring company has to negotiate the offer with the stakeholders of the target company. The board of directors and the management team of the selling company are bypassed.

Reverse mergers

This kind of mergers and acquisitions deal takes place when a private company purchases a public firm with limited assets and no legitimate business operations — a so-called publicly listed shell company. This is helpful when an acquiring company faces strong prospects and wants to go public in a short time period. As a result of a reverse triangular merger, a new public company with tradable shares appears.

Based on our knowledge, a good example of a reverse merger is the deal between Muriel Seibert and J. Michaels that took place in 1996.

Types of acquisitions and mergers based on their nature

Depending on the nature of the business acquisition, an M&A transaction can be friendly or hostile. 

A friendly acquisition happens when an acquiring firm and an acquired firm negotiate M&A prospects to gain new financing options for the business.

On the contrary, hostile takeovers take place without the approval of the target company’s board. In this case, a target business does not want to be purchased. It is a deal that usually happens when an acquiring firm makes an M&A offer to the target company’s shareholders, but the board of directors doesn’t approve it. 

Such a negotiation takes place in a so-called “confidentiality bubble” where the parties involved follow confidentiality agreements.

The main difference between a friendly and hostile M&A deal is the way it is negotiated with the target company’s board of directors, shareholders, and management.

Structure of mergers and acquisitions

The structure of M&A can be different depending on the relationship between the two companies that are involved in the deal:

  • Horizontal

A horizontal merger takes place when two business entities operate in the same markets and have similar business goals. A horizontal merger usually means that a selling company merges with a rival. The best example is the integration of Meta (then Facebook), Instagram, and Messenger.

  • Vertical

A vertical merger happens when a particular company merges with its customer or supplier. It’s a common type of merger for technology companies. Apple is considered a perfect example of vertical integration since they not only produce software products but also hardware and components used in their electronic devices.

  • Conglomeration

This type of merger (conglomerate integration) happens when two companies from totally different markets unite. It’s often done to increase the market share, improve cross-border selling, and take advantage of synergies. Conglomeration mergers also take place for diversification reasons. The brightest example is the eBay and PayPal merger that happened in 2002. 

  • Congeneric mergers

Such a mergers and acquisitions deal is about the integration of two companies that operate in different business industries but serve the same consumer base. For example, a TV manufacturer acquires a cable company.

  • Product-extension merger

This type of merger is about synergies between two companies that sell different but related products and operate in the same industry. The best illustration of a product-extension merger is when two food suppliers unite. 

  • Market-extension merger

Such a merger takes place when two public companies or private companies that produce the same products but in different markets integrate. Such type of deal focuses on the expansion of the market. A good example is the acquisition of Eagle Bancshares Inc. by RBC Centura

Business motivations behind M&A

Cost savings and value creation in M&A are obviously the most common motivations behind deal-making. However, there are other advantages of mergers and acquisitions. Below are the common reasons why private and public companies consider M&A deals:

  • Unlocking synergies

The majority of M&A transactions happen when two companies unite to raise their economic value and gain a higher market power. This way, the newly created combined company has a higher stock price than the two companies individually. Explore successful M&A synergies examples, such as revenue synergies and cost synergies, in our dedicated article.

  • Diversification

Two companies that operate in cyclical markets need to diversify their cash flows to avoid serious losses in case of a financial crisis in the industry. 

  • Stronger market power

This is the logical outcome companies expect when entering a horizontal type of merger and acquisition. However, the companies get the same result in a vertical merger. Acquiring the market power, a selling or acquiring company unlocks new financial opportunities.

  • Higher growth

Mergers and acquisitions deal is a chance for a company to grow inorganically and faster. By merging with another company, it boosts its market share.

  • Tax benefits

M&A deals for a tax benefits reason take place when one company suffers from a significant tax loss and another experiences a notable taxable income. By acquiring the company with tax losses, an acquirer can use those losses to lower its tax liability. In other words, such a deal helps to arrange legal issues.

Valuation methods during mergers and acquisitions

The valuation process is an integral part of any merger or acquisition deal and is conducted by both the acquiring and selling sides. 

An acquiring company wants to close the deal at the lowest price, while the best interest of the sell-side is to close the deal at the highest price. 

To outline the final deal value, both parties usually use the following methods:

  • Discounted cash flow (DCF) method

Discounted cash flow method determines the company’s working capital and the estimated future cash flows. Based on that information, the final deal value is calculated.

  • Comparable transaction analysis

All the past comparable transactions in the industry are analyzed to determine the target deal value.

  • Comparable company analysis

This method presupposes a relative valuation of comparable public companies to determine the deal price.

M&A documents 

The due diligence process can’t start without a letter of intent and does not oblige parties to commit to the transaction yet. Still, it binds them to specific confidentiality liability.

After this, the due diligence process begins with attorneys, accountants, tax consultants, and other professionals involved.

When the due diligence is complete, M&A process participants prepare a final agreement. The type of agreement depends on the transaction structure.

Such a contract always focuses on the following terms:

  • Conditions

These should be satisfied before the obligation to complete the transaction. Conditions often include regulatory approvals.

  • Representations and warranties

These are provided by a selling company to prove its credibility and usually include knowledge qualifiers.

  • Covenants

These regulate the conduct of the parties involved in the M&A before the deal and after its closure. Covenants typically include future income tax filings, tax liability, or post-closing restrictions that are agreed upon by the parties.

  • Termination rights

These cover the conditions under which the deal may be terminated and fees that parties are obliged to pay in case of contract termination.

Key takeaways

  • Mergers and acquisitions deals are common for companies seeking growth and new financial opportunities. It allows for exploring new industries and gaining a more significant market share.
  • M&A definition is generally the consolidation of two or more companies.
  • M&A deals can be of various types and have different structures based on the goals parties involved pursue. 
  • It’s important to understand various types and structures of M&A deals to choose the one that suits your business needs the best.


What is the M&A definition in simple words?

M&A is a process of combining two or more companies into one.

Why do companies do M&A?

The most common business motivation behind M&A is growth. However, growth can be realized in many ways: market share, revenue growth, geographic expansion, product diversification, and knowledge transfer.

What is an example of M&A?

One of the biggest examples of M&A is a deal between Vodafone and Mannesmann in 2000, Google’s acquisition of Android in 2005, and Exxon and Mobile merger in 1998.