Mergers may be effected to increase profits and reduce losses through the reduction of competition, to diversify production, to protect against the liabilities of concentration in a single area, or to revive or rejuvenate failing businesses by the infusion of new management and personnel. Mergers for monopolistic purposes were among the unfair practices that the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and, more especially, the Clayton Antitrust Act (1914) attempted to correct. The international nature of many modern corporations now also subjects mergers to antitrust scrutiny overseas, particularly in the European Union.
The end of the 20th cent. witnessed a great increase in mergers; in the United States alone, 60,375 mergers involving a total of over $4.5 trillion occurred between 1980 and 1996. Among the largest recent U.S. mergers are those between America Online and Time Warner (2000; $165 billion, but worth significantly less after the bubble in Internet-related stocks collapsed), Exxon and Mobil (1999; $81 billion); Citicorp and Travelers Corp. (1998; $72.6 billion), AT&T and Bell South (2006; $67 billion), SBC Communications and Ameritech (1998; $60.1 billion), and AT&T and TCI (1999; $48 billion).
See also conglomerate.
Combination of two or more independent business corporations into a single enterprise, usually involving the absorption of one or more firms by a dominant firm. The dominant firm may purchase the other firm's assets with cash or securities, purchase the other firm's stock, or issue its own stock to the other firm's stockholders in exchange for their shares in the acquired firm (thus acquiring the other company's assets and liabilities). In horizontal mergers, both firms produce the same commodity or service for the same market. In vertical mergers, a firm acquires either a supplier or a customer. If the merged business is not related to that of the acquiring firm, the new corporation is called a conglomerate. The reasons for mergers are various: the acquiring firm may seek to eliminate a competitor, to increase its efficiency, to diversify its products, services, and markets, or to reduce its taxes.
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A de facto non-merger is when the merger takes the form of a merger but in substance it is a non-merger. It is done to avoid some of the liabilities and responsibilities that go along with an asset sale or other non merger transactions. A shareholder will argue de facto non merger and claim that although the transaction took the form of a merger in actually the corporation wished to effectuate a transaction other than a merger and therefore the corporations owes the shareholders the rights they hold under those non merger requirements