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Mergers vs. Acquisitions: What is the Difference?



The term “mergers and acquisitions” is often referred to as a single, unified area of business activity — as a result, the nuances between the two aren’t always clear. 

A merger is a strategic partnership where two companies voluntarily unite to form a new entity. Both parties pool resources and operate as shared owners, aiming for mutual growth and benefits. In contrast, an acquisition involves one company absorbing another, typically signifying a shift in control and strategic direction.

Here, we will explore the key differences between mergers and acquisitions and how they offer our clients two distinct strategies for corporate growth and success. 


Understanding Mergers

A merger occurs when two companies, often of similar size and scope, come together to form an entirely new entity. This collaborative effort is driven by a mutual decision, where both companies dissolve their individual identities to create a unified organization with shared goals and strategies. Several primary elements characterize the merger process:


Understanding Acquisitions

In contrast, an acquisition involves one company (the acquirer) taking over another (the target). This process does not result in the formation of a new entity. Instead, the target company becomes a part of the acquirer; the target company often maintains its operational presence but under new ownership and control. Critical aspects of acquisitions include:


The Role of M&A Advisors in Successful Transactions

Navigating a merger, particularly one of near equals, requires meticulous planning and execution to realize its full potential. A trusted M&A advisory firm like Freeman Logan is crucial to navigating this complex process successfully. From performing due diligence — including quality of earnings and valuation recommendations — to developing transition and communication plans, our firm ensures that our clients achieve their strategic and financial goals.

Here is an overview of the typical merger process (for relative equals) and the mergers and acquisitions advisory firm’s role at each stage.


Successfully Completing an Acquisition

Though similar to mergers in some steps, acquisitions differ significantly in their focus and execution. In this process, an acquiring company takes over a target company, leading to a notable shift in control and strategic direction. Again, the expertise of a merger and acquisition consulting company is invaluable in guiding this process effectively.


Post-Deal: Ensuring Success Beyond the Transaction

In both mergers and acquisitions, the transition and integration phase is critical. According to McKinsey & Company, “most leaders bring limited integration experience…boosting their integration leadership readiness is a critical success factor for pre-close integration planning, a flawless day one, and maximum value capture and integration in the first few years post-close.”

Navigating Complexities of Integration
At this stage, merger integration consultants can be indispensable. Not only does their expertise help ensure a smooth and efficient blending of companies, but the consultants can also mentor company leaders for potential future integration challenges. Fusing two corporate cultures in mergers and acquisitions requires a deep understanding of both entities to create a cohesive new organization. Integration consultants focus on assimilating the target company into the acquirer’s structure, aligning business strategies, integrating employee teams, and consolidating technologies and processes.

Strategic Planning and Execution
Consultants assist in developing a strategic integration plan that addresses both short-term and long-term goals. They ensure that the combined entity or the newly structured company post-acquisition operates effectively and capitalizes on the synergies identified.

Change Management and Communication
Effective change management is crucial in mergers and acquisitions. Consultants help craft and implement communication strategies to address the concerns of stakeholders, mitigate resistance, and foster a positive outlook toward the new changes. They play a crucial role in ensuring that employees from both companies understand the vision and objectives of the merged or acquired entity, promoting a smooth transition and minimizing disruption to operations.

“Integrations are really different. You don’t know what you don’t know. You need capabilities that you’re unlikely to have in your organization.”

Steve Kaufman, former CEO and chairman of Arrow Electronics

Furthermore, merger integration consultants do more than just facilitate the technical aspects of a merger or acquisition — they also:

While some firms have dedicated merger integration consultants, Freeman Logan includes integration planning in our comprehensive suite of M&A services. Doing so allows us to deliver a cohesive and informed service throughout the entire merger or acquisition process.


Your Long-Term Success is Our Top Priority

Both mergers and acquisitions are pathways to growth and competitive advantage but necessitate different approaches, planning, and execution strategies. Your path forward should be based on your company’s strategic goals, market position, and long-term vision for sustainable growth — all areas where Freeman Logan can provide expert advice and support. Mergers and acquisitions, when executed with precision and foresight, become strategic moves that can redefine your business’s future. Let’s get started today.

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