Acquisition describes a transaction in which one company purchases another company. It is a common practice in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and can take various forms, such as mergers, stock purchases, or asset sales. The acquiring company aims to gain control over the target company’s assets, operations, and resources through the acquisition.

What is Acquisition and Example?

An acquisition is a business transaction where one company buys another company. For example, when Company A purchases all the shares of Company B, it gains control over Company B and its operations, which can involve acquiring the target company’s assets, customer base, market share, or specialized technology. Acquisitions can help companies expand their market presence, diversify their offerings, or eliminate competition.

Mergers and Acquisitions: What Sets Them Apart?

Mergers and acquisitions, though often used interchangeably, hold a subtle yet vital distinction. In a merger, two entities unite, forging a brand-new powerhouse by melding assets, operations, and resources. Both original companies fade, birthing a fresh identity. Conversely, an acquisition unfolds as one company buys out another, allowing the purchased entity to persist as a subsidiary under the wing of the acquiring behemoth.

Why Opt for Acquisition Over Merger?

The grand scheme of business strategies unveils distinct pros and cons for acquisitions and mergers. Opting for an acquisition can offer a trove of advantages. It grants the acquiring entity more fantastic reins over the target’s operations and decision-making. Swift and efficient, it acts as a shortcut to penetrate new markets or fortify existing market dominance. Most notably, acquisitions pave the way to coveted expertise, technology, or resources that the acquiring entity might lack, adding a potent arrow to its quiver.

Navigating an Acquisition: A Brief Overview

An acquisition starts with the acquirer and target company settling pivotal terms: price, timing, and legal structure. Diligent scrutiny follows, delving into the target’s financial, legal, and operational facets. Post-due diligence, negotiations heat up over the acquisition agreement’s specifics. The deal culminates in the closing process, ushering in a transition period where assets, practices, and personnel are integrated into the acquiring company’s fabric.

Facebook’s Instagram Move

In 2012, Facebook made waves by acquiring Instagram, the beloved photo-sharing app, for a cool $1 billion. This strategic move broadened Facebook’s social media dominion and tapped into Instagram’s burgeoning user community. The acquisition unfolded as a triumph, propelling Instagram into global stardom under Facebook’s stewardship.

What are All Types of Acquisition?

There are different acquisitions, each serving a specific purpose for the acquiring company. Some common types include:

  • Horizontal Acquisition: 

The acquiring company buys a competitor operating in the same industry and at the same point in the supply chain.

  • Vertical Acquisition:

The acquiring company purchases a company that is either a supplier or a customer in its existing supply chain.

  • Congeneric Acquisition: 

The acquiring company buys a company that offers different products or services but caters to the same customer base.

  • Conglomerate Acquisition: 

The acquiring company buys a company from a completely unrelated industry or sector.

  • Reverse Acquisition: 

A smaller company acquires a larger company, becoming the smaller company’s controlling entity in the transaction.

Mastering Acquisitions: Key Considerations

  • Price Precision: 

Ensuring the acquisition cost aligns with the target company’s value and financial performance.

  • Debt Analysis: 

They scrutinize the target’s debt load to assess potential liabilities and associated risks.

  • Legal Lens: 

Checking for ongoing or potential legal disputes that impact financial stability.

  • Financial Forensics

Reviewing the target’s financial statements for transparency and post-acquisition preparedness.

Acquisitions Pros and Cons


  • Market Momentum: Turbocharge market entry and expand share swiftly.
  • Cost Cutting: Unlock scale-driven savings via consolidation and resource optimization.
  • Resource Riches: Tap into specialized resources, tech, or expertise through acquisition.
  • Diversification: Broaden offerings or customer base, reducing dependence on a single market.


  • Time and Tangles: Navigate extensive due diligence, negotiations, and legal processes.
  • Financial Footing: Commit substantial resources, covering purchase, legal, and potential restructuring costs.
  • Cultural Challenges: Blend differing work environments and cultures, potentially affecting morale.
  • Risk Realities: Face integration hurdles, regulatory checks, and potential match shortfalls.

Why Do Acquisitions Happen?

Companies pursue acquisitions for various reasons, including

  • Market Expansion: 

Acquisitions can help companies enter new markets or expand their existing presence.

  • Competitive Advantage: 

Acquiring a competitor can eliminate competition and strengthen the contracting company’s market position.

  • Effectiveness and Efficiency: 

Combining resources, operations, and expertise through acquisitions can create alliances and improve efficiency.

  • Access to New Technology:

 Acquiring companies with advanced technology can accelerate innovation and improve competitive capabilities.

  • Diversification: 

Acquisitions can diversify a company’s product portfolio, customer base, or geographic reach.

Acquisition vs. Takeover vs. Merger

While acquisition and merger are often used interchangeably, the two have distinct differences. Acquisition refers to one company purchasing another, with the acquired company becoming a subsidiary or integrated into the acquiring company. Conversely, a takeover implies a more hostile acquisition, where the acquiring company gains control against the wishes of the target company’s management. In contrast, a merger involves combining two companies to form a new entity, with both companies ceasing to exist independently.

What Was the 1990s Acquisitions Frenzy?

Economic growth in the 1990s, favorable market conditions, and increased globalization propelled large-scale acquisitions and mergers. This period witnessed numerous high-profile acquisitions, such as AOL’s acquisition of Time Warner, creating a media conglomerate. The 1990s acquisitions frenzy was marked by ambitious deals, often driven by the desire to expand market presence, diversify business portfolios, and capitalize on emerging technologies.

Acquisition FAQs

Q1: What is the difference between an acquisition and a merger?

A: In an acquisition, one company purchases another, allowing the acquired entity to operate as a subsidiary. In a merger, two companies combine to form a new entity, and both companies cease to exist independently.

Q2: What are the different types of acquisitions?

A: There are several common types of acquisitions, including horizontal acquisitions (buying a competitor), vertical acquisitions (buying a supplier or customer), congeneric acquisitions (acquiring a company with different products but the same customer base), and conglomerate acquisitions (buying a company from a different industry).

Q3: What are the advantages and disadvantages of acquisitions?

A: The pros of acquisitions include market share expansion, cost reductions, resource access, and diversification. The cons encompass time and complexity, financial costs, cultural integration challenges, and execution risks.

Q4: Why do companies pursue acquisitions?

A: Companies pursue acquisitions for various reasons, including market expansion, competitive advantage, cohesion and efficiency, access to new technology, and diversification.

Q5: What is the primary purpose of an acquisition?

A: The purpose of an acquisition can vary, but common objectives include market expansion, cohesion, efficiency, diversification, access to new technology or expertise, and eliminating competition.

Bottom Line

Acquisitions are complex business transactions in which one company purchases another. They can take various forms, such as mergers, stock purchases, or asset sales. Acquisitions serve different purposes, including market expansion, cohesion and efficiency, diversification, and access to new technology.

While acquisitions offer benefits such as increased market share and cost reductions, they also come with challenges, such as cultural integration and execution risks. Understanding the differences between acquisitions, mergers, and takeovers is essential for companies considering strategic growth opportunities.

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