Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are both aspects of strategic management, corporate finance and management dealing with the buying, selling, dividing and combining of different companies and similar entities that can help an enterprise grow rapidly in its sector or location of origin, or a new field or new location, without creating a subsidiary, other child entity or using a joint venture.
M&A can be defined as a type of restructuring in that they result in some entity reorganization with the aim to provide growth or positive value. Consolidation of an industry or sector occurs when widespread M&A activity concentrates the resources of many small companies into a few larger ones.
The distinction between a "merger" and an "acquisition" has become increasingly blurred in various respects (particularly in terms of the ultimate economic outcome), although it has not completely disappeared in all situations. From a legal point of view, a merger is a legal consolidation of two companies into one entity, whereas an acquisition occurs when one company takes over another and completely establishes itself as the new owner (in which case the target company still exists as an independent legal entity controlled by the acquirer). Either structure can result in the economic and financial consolidation of the two entities. In practice, a deal that is an acquisition for legal purposes may be euphemistically called a "merger of equals" if both CEOs agree that joining together is in the best interest of both of their companies, while when the deal is unfriendly (that is, when the target company does not want to be purchased) it is almost always regarded as an "acquisition".
An acquisition or takeover is the purchase of one business or company by another company or other business entity. Such purchase may be of 100%, or nearly 100%, of the assets or ownership equity of the acquired entity. Consolidation occurs when two companies combine together to form a new enterprise altogether, and neither of the previous companies remains independently.
The documentation of an M&A transaction often begins with a letter of intent. The letter of intent generally does not bind the parties to commit to a transaction, but may bind the parties to confidentiality and exclusivity obligations so that the transaction can be considered through a due diligence process involving lawyers, accountants, tax advisors, and other professionals, as well as business people from both sides
After due diligence is completed, the parties may proceed to draw up a definitive agreement, known as a "merger agreement", "share purchase agreement" or "asset purchase agreement" depending on the structure of the transaction. Such contracts are typically 80 to 100 pages long and focus on five key types of terms
- Conditions which must be satisfied before there is an obligation to complete the transaction. Conditions typically include matters such as regulatory approvals and the lack of any material adverse change in the target's business.
- Representations and warranties by the seller with regard to the company, which are claimed to be true at both the time of signing and the time of closing. Sellers often attempt to craft their representations and warranties with knowledge qualifiers, dictating the level of knowledge applicable and which seller parties' knowledge is relevant. Some agreements provide that if the representations and warranties by the seller prove to be false, the buyer may claim a refund of part of the purchase price, as is common in transactions involving privately held companies (although in most acquisition agreements involving public company targets, the representations and warranties of the seller do not survive the closing). Representations regarding a target company's net working capital are a common source of post-closing disputes.
- Covenants which govern the conduct of the parties, both before the closing (such as covenants that restrict the operations of the business between signing and closing) and after the closing (such as covenants regarding future income tax filings and tax liability or post-closing restrictions agreed to by the buyer and seller parties).
- Termination rights, which may be triggered by a breach of contract, a failure to satisfy certain conditions or the passage of a certain period of time without consummating the transaction, and fees and damages payable in case of a termination for certain events (also known as breakup fees).
- Provisions relating to obtaining required shareholder approvals under state law and related SEC filings required under federal law, if applicable, and terms related to the mechanics of the legal transactions to be consummated at closing (such as the determination and allocation of the purchase price and post-closing adjustments (such as adjustments after the final determination of working capital at closing or earnout payments payable to the sellers), repayment of outstanding debt, and the treatment of outstanding shares, options and other equity interests).
The five most common ways to value a business are
- asset valuation
- historical earnings valuation,
- future maintainable earnings valuation,
- relative valuation COMPARABLE company and comparable transactions),
- discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation
Professionals who value businesses generally do not use just one of these methods but a combination of some of them, as well as possibly others that are not mentioned above, in order to obtain a more accurate value. The information in the balance sheet or income statement is obtained by one of three accounting measures: a Notice to Reader, aReview Engagement or an Audit.
Accurate business valuation is one of the most important aspects of M&A as valuations like these will have a major impact on the price that a business will be sold for. Most often this information is expressed in a Letter of Opinion of Value (LOV) when the business is being valuated for interest's sake. There are other, more detailed ways of expressing the value of a business. While these reports generally get more detailed and expensive as the size of a company increases, this is not always the case as there are many complicated industries which require more attention to detail, regardless of size.
As synergy plays a large role in the valuation of acquisitions, it is paramount to get the value of synergies right. Synergies are different from the "sales price" valuation of the firm, as they will accrue to the buyer. Hence, the analysis should be done from the acquiring firm's point of view. Synergy-creating investments are started by the choice of the acquirer, and therefore they are not obligatory, making them essentially real options. To include this real options aspect into analysis of acquisition targets is one interesting issue that has been studied lately
Mergers are generally differentiated from acquisitions partly by the way in which they are financed and partly by the relative size of the companies. Various methods of financing an M&A deal exist:
Payment by cash. Such transactions are usually termed acquisitions rather than mergers because the shareholders of the target company are removed from the picture and the target comes under the (indirect) control of the bidder's shareholders.
Payment in the form of the acquiring company's stock, issued to the shareholders of the acquired company at a given ratio proportional to the valuation of the latter.
There are some elements to think about when choosing the form of payment. When submitting an offer, the acquiring firm should consider other potential bidders and think strategically. The form of payment might be decisive for the seller. With pure cash deals, there is no doubt on the real value of the bid (without considering an eventual earnout). The contingency of the share payment is indeed removed. Thus, a cash offer preempts competitors better than securities. Taxes are a second element to consider and should be evaluated with the counsel of competent tax and accounting advisers. Third, with a SHARE DEAL the buyer's capital structure might be affected and the control of the buyer modified. If the issuance of shares is necessary, shareholders of the acquiring company might prevent such capital increase at the general meeting of shareholders. The risk is removed with a cash transaction. Then, the balance sheet of the buyer will be modified and the decision maker should take into account the effects on the reported financial results. For example, in a pure cash deal (financed from the company's current account), liquidity ratios might decrease. On the other hand, in a pure stock for stock transaction (financed from the issuance of new shares), the company might show lower profitability ratios (e.g. ROA). However, economic dilution must prevail towards accounting dilution when making the choice. The form of payment and financing options are tightly linked. If the buyer pays cash, there are three main financing options:
- Cash on hand: it consumes financial slack (excess cash or unused debt capacity) and may decrease debt rating. There are no major transaction costs
- Issue of debt: It consumes financial slack, may decrease debt rating and increase cost of debt. Transaction costs include underwriting or closing costs of 1% to 3% of the face value.
- Issue of stock: it increases financial slack, may improve debt rating and reduce cost of debt. Transaction costs include fees for preparation of a proxy statement, an extraordinary shareholder meeting and registration.
If the buyer pays with stock, the financing possibilities are:
- Issue of stock (same effects and transaction costs as described above).
- Shares in treasury: it increases financial slack (if they don't have to be repurchased on the market), may improve debt rating and reduce cost of debt. Transaction costs include brokerage fees if shares are repurchased in the market otherwise there are no major costs.
In general, stock will create financial flexibility. Transaction costs must also be considered but tend to have a greater impact on the payment decision for larger transactions. Finally, paying cash or with shares is a way to signal value to the other party, e.g.: buyers tend to offer stock when they believe their shares are overvalued and cash when undervalued.
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