Executives negotiate a merger and acquisition around a conference table.

7 Types of Mergers and Acquisitions + Examples

Table of Contents

‘Mergers and acquisitions’ (M&A) refers to any business transaction in which two or more entities consolidate company ownership and assets and move forward as a single entity.

M&As are powerful inorganic growth vehicles that fast-track domestic and international expansion, facilitating increased market share, expertise, competitiveness, stability, and cost savings overnight.

Business leaders use different mergers to achieve different goals, from diversifying product lines to quickly accessing the public market. Understanding each approach can help you determine if an M&A is a wise growth strategy for your company.

This guide details the seven main types of mergers and acquisitions and provides examples, from horizontal and vertical mergers to product extensions and acquihires. Plus, find answers to commonly asked questions. 

7 types of mergers and acquisitions

While there are multiple variations of mergers and acquisitions, we can divide them into the following seven categories:

  • Horizontal
  • Vertical
  • Conglomerate
  • Market extension
  • Product extension
  • Reverse merger
  • Acquihire

Each approach varies slightly in its method, purpose, and results. The best type of merger for any business depends on its individual circumstances.

For instance, if an organization wanted to expand globally while increasing its reach within the same market, it would undergo a market extension. However, it would choose a conglomerate if it wanted to enter a new market and diversify its existing product line with new offerings.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the different mergers, with examples. 

Horizontal

A horizontal M&A occurs when companies operating in the same industry or sector, often at the same level in the value chain, join together to form one entity. The companies are usually direct competitors with similar product lines.

Companies undergo horizontal integration to achieve market expansion, grow in size and revenue, attain economies of scale, increase market share, or eliminate competition. Horizontal mergers also allow mature companies that have reached their peak to continue growing and maintain relevance—for instance, by merging with smaller players in their industry with newer product variants.

Example of a horizontal merger/acquisition

The Disney+ Hotstar merger is a perfect example of a horizontal merger. Disney+ is the Walt Disney Company’s online subscription streaming platform, while Hotstar is Star Network’s streaming platform in India.

After Disney’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acquired Star India in 2019, Disney integrated Hotstar into its Disney+ platform, rebranding it as Disney+ Hotstar. Disney then removed much of its content from competing platforms like Netflix to gain a larger market share.

Disney+ Hotstar now holds 29% of the streaming market share in India, outpacing top competitors like Amazon and Netflix.

Vertical 

Vertical M&As involve companies operating at different production or distribution stages along the supply chain within the same industry for the same good or service. By merging, they gain more control over the supply chain, improve operational efficiency, reduce production costs, and increase revenue. 

Example of a vertical merger/acquisition

An example of a vertical acquisition is the eBay-PayPal integration. eBay is an online platform that allows people to sell items, while PayPal lets consumers pay for these items.

At the time of the merger, eBay transactions were responsible for two-thirds of PayPal's payment volume. PayPal became a wholly-owned subsidiary of eBay in 2002, expanding both companies’ networks and reducing operational costs.  

A changing competitive landscape led eBay to spin off from PayPal in 2015, and the two companies became independent again. 

Conglomerate

Conglomerates involve companies that operate in unrelated industries or business lines. Unlike horizontal and vertical mergers, which focus on synergies within the same sector, companies usually form conglomerates to achieve diversification.

The goal may be to spread risk, access new markets, or leverage complementary strengths. 

Example of a conglomerate merger/acquisition

An example of a conglomerate is Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017. Amazon is an online marketplace, while Whole Foods is a health food supermarket chain. By acquiring Whole Foods, Amazon expanded its grocery offerings and increased its Prime membership benefits.

Market extension

Market extensions involve companies operating in different geographic markets with similar products or services. By merging, they expand their market reach and customer base. 

Example of a market extension merger/acquisition

An example of a market extension is InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in 2008 and its later acquisition of SABMiller in 2017. InBev was a Belgian-based international brewing company and Anheuser-Busch was an American brewing company headquartered in St Louis, Missouri, known for creating the Budweiser brand.

When InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008 and formed Anheuser-Busch InBev, the acquisition resulted in one of the top five consumer product companies worldwide. They acquired SABMiller in 2017, establishing a 500-brand portfolio across 50 countries. 

Product extension

Product extensions occur when companies in related industries with similar products or services merge to expand their offerings.

The goal is to boost their product line, reduce costs, cross-sell products or services to each other's customer bases, and achieve economies of scale. Some people call product extensions ‘concentric mergers’. 

Example of a product extension merger/acquisition

A key example of a product extension is PepsiCo’s acquisition of Pizza Hut. PepsiCo, a leading global soft drink brand, understood it could drastically expand its consumer base by acquiring the growing pizza chain.

When Pizza Hut became a division of PepsiCo in 1977, everyone who bought a pizza from Pizza Hut could only buy drinks from Pepsi’s line. Within a year of the acquisition, sales reached roughly US$436 million.

Reverse merger

Some people call reverse mergers reverse takeovers (RTO) or reverse initial public offerings.

In a reverse merger, a private company with strong prospects that’s eager to go public acquires a dormant or inactive publicly traded shell company with few or no operations and limited assets. The private company then gains access to the public market while forgoing the standard initial public offering (IPO) process.

Example of a reverse merger

A perfect example of a reverse merger is Burger King’s 2012 acquisition of Justice Holdings, a publicly traded shell company. The move brought Burger King back onto the New York Stock Exchange after a two-year hiatus in which it operated as a private company.

Another example is Tesla’s acquisition of solar panel installation company SolarCity in 2016. While Tesla was already a publicly traded company, acquiring SolarCity allowed it to diversify its product offering and expand into the solar energy sector without undergoing an IPO. The move also facilitated lower hardware and installation costs and improved manufacturing efficiency.

Acquihire 

The term "acquihire" is a combination of "acquisition" and "hire." In an acquihire, an organization is primarily interested in obtaining the skills and expertise of another organization’s employees rather than its products, services, or other assets. One company buys a smaller company, such as a startup, to add the smaller company’s talented employees to its own workforce.

While this approach can involve unique global compliance challenges, it allows the acquiring company to quickly onboard a team with specialized skills or domain expertise, often in technology, product development, design, or engineering.

Example of an acquihire

Facebook’s acquisition of many startups since its foundation are great examples of acquihires. For instance, the social media giant acquired Chai Labs in 2012 for US$10 million primarily for their skilled team. Facebook’s owner Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that he rarely buys companies for the companies themselves, but rather for their people. 

Types of mergers and acquisitions: FAQ

Below, you can find answers to commonly asked questions about different mergers and acquisitions. 

What is the difference between a merger and an acquisition?

The main difference between a merger and an acquisition is that in a merger, two companies combine operations to form a new entity, though one entity may survive. In an acquisition, one company absorbs another company's talent and assets into its own structure without creating a separate entity.

Consider the Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz merger, for instance. The two companies joined in early 2015 to form a separate entity called Kraft Heinz Company. At the time, Kraft Heinz became the fifth-largest food and beverage business worldwide and the third-largest in the U.S.

Conversely, Pfizer’s purchase of Warner-Lambert in 2000 was a typical acquisition. Pfizer absorbed all of Lambert’s operations and assets, including their rights to the popular drug Lipitor, and continued operating under the same name while Warner-Lambert ceased to exist.   

What is the difference between a merger and consolidation?

Although mergers and consolidations are methods for combining companies, they have different characteristics and legal implications. In a merger, one or more companies may survive as the new business; however, consolidations dissolve all original companies and form a new entity.

In a merger, previous owners maintain a proportionate ownership stake, and their financial statements include the results of the individual merged entities. Conversely, a consolidation forms a new entity with a unique ownership structure and combined financial statements.

Remember, the term ‘merger’ is an umbrella term that people often use to refer to different types of M&As. However, when comparing a merger with a consolidation, the differentiating factor is that a consolidation always forms a new entity, whereas with a merger, one or more entities may survive.

Google’s purchase of Android is a perfect example of a merger. Since Google bought the small, unknown mobile startup company in 2005, both companies have continued to exist as separate entities with unique branding.

Conversely, when Raytheon Company joined forces with United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in 2020, they underwent consolidation. Both companies dissolved to create Raytheon Technologies, a new aerospace and defense giant with a larger portfolio and enhanced market reach.

What is a friendly merger and acquisition?

Friendly mergers and acquisitions occur when the participating companies agree to the transaction’s terms and conditions. The target company’s shareholders and board of directors approve the deal based on the offer details and work cooperatively with the acquiring company to complete the transfer.

A friendly merger is the opposite of a hostile takeover, where one company takes control of another against its will. 

What is a hostile takeover?

In a hostile takeover, one company tries to take control of another company without approval from the target company's board of directors. Organizations usually initiate hostile takeovers by directly approaching an entity’s shareholders with a tender offer or convincing the stockholders to replace management with a board that would permit the takeover.

In other words, the target company’s board of directors doesn’t willingly approve the acquisition, hence the term “hostile.”

Simplify your next merger and acquisition with an employer of record

M&As can expand your market share overnight. They are also highly complex and involve serious compliance risks. Streamline growth and mitigate risk by partnering with an employer of record (EOR).

An EOR is a third-party legal entity that can serve as your international HR team, simplifying every aspect of global expansion, including the complex employment-related issues of M&A transactions. They handle everything from compliance, onboarding, and contractual term matching to facilitating agility and scalability throughout the transfer.

For instance, an EOR can serve as a bridge solution for delayed entity set-up populations, keeping your team running smoothly and compliantly through the transition. They also serve as a single benefits source, offering affordable benefits matching via their own economies of scale and simplifying administration for distributed teams.  

As a tenured EOR, Velocity Global offers cost-savings, risk mitigation, and expert guidance and support, turning the overwhelming task of undergoing different mergers into stress-free ventures.

Let us handle the heavy lifting of your M&A so you can focus on your team’s day-to-day tasks as you expand—contact us today to get started.

 

Share via:

Related resources

Sunset reflecting off a skyrise building in a city downtown
Blog

Understanding Organic vs. Inorganic Growth: A Guide for Growing Businesses

Business leaders use a combination of two overarching strategies when expanding an organization
Read this Blog
View of Shanghai’s World Financial Center in Shanghai, China.
Blog

VAT Compliance: Complete Guide for Global Businesses

A key part of global compliance involves navigating value-added tax (VAT) regulations in foreign
Read this Blog
Traffic in downtown city interstate with large skyscrapers on either side at dusk.
Blog

The Risks of Expanding a Business Internationally + How to Avoid Them

If your business has hit its stride domestically, you may be considering expanding overseas. Global
Read this Blog