A de-merger is a corporate restructuring in which a business is broken into components, either to operate on their own, or to be sold or to be liquidated as a divestiture. A de-merger (or “demerger”) allows a large company, such as a conglomerate, to split off its various brands or business units to invite or prevent an acquisition, to raise capital by selling off components that are no longer part of the business’s core product line, or to create separate legal entities to handle different operations.
De-mergers are a valuable strategy for companies that want to refocus on their most profitable units, reduce risk, and create greater shareholder value. Analysts tend to discount parent companies that hold multiple subsidiaries by roughly 15-30% due to less than transparent capital allocation. De-merging also affords companies the ability to have specialists manage specific business units or brands rather than generalists. It is also a good strategy for separating out business units that are underperforming and creating a drag on overall company performance. De-mergers can create some complicated accounting issues but can be used to create tax benefits or other efficiencies. Government intervention, such as to break up a monopoly, can spur a de-merger.
Individually, de-mergers can happen for a variety of reasons, one of them being that management knows something that the market is unaware of and wants to address an issue before it finds out. This is evident in that corporate insiders tend to profit from de-mergers.
One of the most common ways for a de-merger to be executed is a “spinoff,” in which a parent company receives an equity stake in a new company equal to their loss of equity in the original company. At that point, shares are bought and sold independently, and investors have the option of buying shares of the unit they believe will be the most profitable. A partial de-merger is when the parent company retains a partial stake in a de-merged company.
An International Transaction or Cross Border Transaction can be defined as a transaction in an international trade between two or more entities beyond the territorial limits of a country or a transaction in a domestic trade in which at least one of the party is located outside the country of the transaction.
In a simple acquisition, the acquiring company obtains the majority stake in the acquired firm, which does not change its name or alter its organizational structure. An example of this type of transaction is Manulife Financial Corporation’s 2004 acquisition of John Hancock Financial Services, wherein both companies preserved their names and organizational structures.
Consolidation creates a new company by combining core businesses and abandoning the old corporate structures. Stockholders of both companies must approve the consolidation, and subsequent to the approval, receive common equity shares in the new firm. For example, in 1998, Citicorp and Travelers Insurance Group announced a consolidation, which resulted in Citigroup.
In a tender offer, one company offers to purchase the outstanding stock of the other firm at a specific price rather than the market price. The acquiring company communicates the offer directly to the other company’s shareholders, bypassing the management and board of directors. For example, in 2008, Johnson & Johnson made a tender offer to acquire Omrix Biopharmaceuticals for $438 million. Though the acquiring company may continue to exist—especially if there are certain dissenting shareholders—most tender offers result in mergers.
In an acquisition of assets, one company directly acquires the assets of another company. The company whose assets are being acquired must obtain approval from its shareholders. The purchase of assets is typical during bankruptcy proceedings, wherein other companies bid for various assets of the bankrupt company, which is liquidated upon the final transfer of assets to the acquiring firms.
In a management acquisition, also known as a management-led buyout (MBO), a company’s executives purchase a controlling stake in another company, taking it private. These former executives often partner with a financier or former corporate officers in an effort to help fund a transaction. Such M&A transactions are typically financed disproportionately with debt, and the majority of shareholders must approve it. For example, in 2013, Dell Corporation announced that it was acquired by its founder, Michael Dell.
Mergers can be structured in a number of different ways, based on the relationship between the two companies involved in the deal:
Mergers may also be distinguished by following two financing methods, each with its own ramifications for investors.
As the name suggests, this kind of merger occurs when one company purchases another company. The purchase is made with cash or through the issue of some kind of debt instrument. The sale is taxable, which attracts the acquiring companies, who enjoy the tax benefits. Acquired assets can be written up to the actual purchase price, and the difference between the book value and the purchase price of the assets can depreciate annually, reducing taxes payable by the acquiring company.
With this merger, a brand new company is formed, and both companies are bought and combined under the new entity. The tax terms are the same as those of a purchase merger.