Mergers and Acquisitions are vital tools of business strategy to facilitate organizational and economic growth of a business. The terms are often used inter-changeably, however both offer different legal implications. Mergers mean the unification of two players into a single entity, while acquisitions are situations where one player buys out the other to combine the bought entity with itself. Mergers can take place in the form of a purchase in which one business buys another, or they can be a management buyout, in which the business is bought by the management from the owner.
With reference to the legal process of initiating an M&A strategy, the businesses are required to undergo a long drawn and tedious process of sanctioning the initiation of the M&A process by the High Court. At different stages various provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 have to be complied with. Further, the involvement of the central government through the appointment of an Official Liquidator (OL) or the Regional Director of the Ministry of Company Affairs also has to be dealt with. All of the compliances should be carried out to the satisfaction of the Court, resulting in unavoidable delays that may sometimes render the M&A irrelevant or detrimental to the business by the time it is concluded.
However, the serpentine legal process is not the only factor that contributes to an unfavorable M&A. This article aims to analyze the various reasons that add to the failure of M&A deals and enable businesses to mitigate the related risks in the future.
Analysis and Reasons for Failed M&A Deals
Mergers and acquisitions gained significant popularity after 2015. Nearly 3,600 deals worth more than $310 billion were associated with mergers and acquisitions.  They are lengthy and complex processes, so a lot can go wrong when negotiating a deal. As per a recent article by Harvard business review, nearly 70% to 90% of the mergers and acquisition deals were deemed to be a failure.
Adhering to the legal mandates of the relevant jurisdiction is necessary. There is a chance that the shareholders of an organization may cause legal difficulties by dissenting from the approval of the mergers or by disagreeing with the business’s decision to merge. This would significantly slow down the functioning of the company, forcing it to pay appraisals to the shareholders as a remedy.
Example: HDFC and Max Life Merger Deal:
HDFC Life and Max Life had announced their merger plans in August 2016 through a three-step merger process, under which Max Life would first merge with its parent company Max Financial Services, and subsequently the life insurance business would be demerged from Max Financial and would be merged into HDFC Life. This merger transaction would have led to the automatic listing of HDFC Life through a reverse merger process and would enable HDFC Life to hold a majority stake in the combined entity. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDA) denied permission for the proposed merger of Max Life Insurance Co. Ltd and HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd (HDFC Life), and observed that the structure of the deal violates Section 35 of the Insurance Act, 1938, which barred the merger of an insurance company with a non-insurance firm.
Mistakes in Negotiation and Overrated Synergies
In various mergers and acquisitions, there are cases of overpayment for the purpose of breach of agreement. Acquiring a company based on money without knowing the working format, procedure, structure of the company and going through the due diligence process will lead to a failed merger.
Mergers and acquisitions are considered significant tools for increasing revenue, reducing net working capital, and improving venture power. Overvalued synergies go hand in hand with transfer overpayment. Overvaluation of exchange synergies is often the initial stage of overpayment. While the prospect of numerous costs remaining largely equivalent between the two combined organizations is attractive, it is also decidedly harder to achieve in practice than most directors admit. Also, energy cooperative income is no less confusing. M&A practitioners would therefore be encouraged to look at the expected cooperation from the exchange through a deeply traditionalist contact point.
Lack of Due Diligence
The importance of due diligence can never be emphasized enough. One of the main problems that arise during the process is that the acquirer depends on the target company to provide information that is not always suitable for their management. This creates obvious problems with agency.
Example: Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Group
In 1998, German automaker Daimler Benz merged with Chrysler Group for $36 billion. This was seen as a win-win situation for both companies as it was essentially a merger between equals. However, after a few years, Chrysler’s value dropped to just $7.4 billion. The merger proved unsuccessful. Many reasons contributed to this, but all experts agree that Daimler Benz never did proper due diligence before merging with Chrysler. In other words, it overestimated the value of the target company, which led to the failed merger.
Hence, even though an M&A deal may seem lucrative on paper, it is essential for the respective businesses to carry out thorough due diligence and research on predicted profitability trends and projected growth patterns of the proposed merger or acquisition.
Deficiency in Strategic Plan
A good “why” is an essential part of all successful M&A transactions. This means that without a good motive for the transaction, it is doomed from the start.
The academic M&A literature is replete with studies of managers engaged in “empire building” through M&A and research on how hubris is a common trend in M&A.
Difficulty with Integration and Swap Ratio Differences
Integration difficulties that are mostly faced by companies when a new company has to follow or accept a new set of challenges and regulations to position itself in the market. It is very difficult for society to adapt to new conditions. Various plans are created in the form of strategies to help the company adapt to the new environment. This integration sometimes becomes the reason for the failure of the merger due to insufficient effort and imprecise planning.
Example: IDFC Group and Shriram Group deal:
IDFC Group and Shriram Group called off their talks of a merger after failing to agree on a swap ratio. A swap ratio is the ratio at which the acquiring company offers its shares in exchange for the target company’s shares during a merger or acquisition.
The two parties had, on July 8, 2019, entered into a 90-day agreement to evaluate a strategic combination of their relevant financial services. Shriram Employee Trust, Piramal Group and Sanlam Group were set to become the largest shareholders in IDFC and drive the business, but the deal would have hurt the government, which owned a 16.38 per cent stake in IDFC. So due to the difficulty in integration and swap ratio differences this deal was called off. This was the reason for the failure of this deal.
Lack of Involvement of Top Management:
Management involvement is a catch-all answer that also includes many of the abovementioned reasons within its ambit.
No phase of the M&A process can successfully sustain itself without proper involvement of the management, from the search for a suitable target company to the integration of both companies into a newly created entity.
When managers consider other tasks in their company more important than successful M&A implementation, they should not be surprised when their business is ultimately considered a failure.
Lack of Adequate Communication
Proper communication is one of the most important features of any agreement or contract. If the purpose of closing the deal is unclear, the intent of the buyers and sellers is also unclear, then communication is poor. If there is a lack of synergy and the buyer and seller are unable to articulate the desired results, this is a sign of poor communication. Not only that, but poor communication can also include a lack of communication between key managers and employees. Whenever a company enters into a merger or acquisition, there should be an honest and clear disclosure of the motive and intent. All doubts should be clarified at the initial stage. All levels of society should be given the opportunity to have their say. Messages should be interpreted in a general sense and according to common sense.
Culture mismatch is another significant factor that causes merger failures. If companies have different cultural aspects, then there is a chance of low employee productivity, which leads to lower profits. Culture includes the willingness of employees to collaborate, share, support and team together with a single motive. Company culture is shaped by company founders, but it was also influenced by company managers and employees.
Example: Facebook and WhatsApp
Facebook bought messaging platform “WhatsApp” in 2014 for $22 billion. However, companies quickly realized that the corporate cultures were clashing. There are some memorable articles about table size and toilet stall arguments, but there have been discrepancies in values. WhatsApp famously valued the privacy of its customers and employees (no wonder they had a problem with short toilet boxes), while Facebook had more of an “open door” policy when it came to privacy. Since WhatsApp had committed to using a no ads and no encryption policy for the app its customers, it was clearly not a match that would have succeeded and the founders of WhatsApp eventually left Facebook.
Therefore, while considering an M&A it is not only important to ascertain the collective vision and objectives of the businesses, but also to make sure that the culture, policies and values of the businesses stay in alignment going forward.
Human Resource Issues
Human resource issues also pose a threat to the merger. There is insecurity as people tend to leave their jobs due to sudden changes in the course of work or because of cultural or identity issues. There are many human resource related issues even in the pre-combination stage such as the acquisition of key talent etc. as those could be the major concern for the companies for acquisitions. Another critical HR issue is the selection of a leader who will actually manage the new business combination for smooth business operations. These issues may lead to a lack of direction and the postponement of major business decisions. Companies should put their best people in charge of implementing M&A deals, and seek union and community involvement to avoid the risk of deal failure.
Geographical barriers cannot be overlooked. These play an important role when it comes to cross-border mergers. In general, when a cross-border merger occurs, a two-layer articulation is needed due to the merger of two different companies into different countries with a different set of rules and regulations prevailing in the respective countries.
Other External Factors
External factors may include market position, competition, financing situation, and credit in the company’s lending. If all these things are against the company, there is a chance for the merger to fail.
Source: PWC Report
The Way Forward
It is expected that mergers and acquisitions will exceed $105 billion, breaking the record for the largest transactions.  High-rated deals like Reliance Industries’ (RIL) potential $10 billion (Rs 76,000 crore) acquisition of European drug chain Walgreens Boots; the Adani and JSW groups, bidding for Ambuja Cements, and the HDFC twin merger are the leading big mergers and acquisitions (M&A) deals. Consolidation of all the market players has been a major driving force behind the M&A transactions. Tech Mahindra and Infosys focused on exiting entities, while Byju’s acquired Aakash Education, White Hat Junior and Topper Technologies.
According to the 2022 M&A report, despite the ongoing challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions in South Asia, the market is showing strong signs of recovery. M&A volumes hit an all-time high in 2021 with more than 80 deals worth more than $75 million. The increase in investment can be partly attributed to Indian government policies such as the productivity-linked incentive program introduced under the Ease of Doing Business initiative. 
Thanks to the great interest of foreign buyers, the Indian market for mergers and acquisitions also did well (the US accounted for 35 percent of invested dollars). India’s economy is set for strong growth in 2022 – The IMF has forecast GDP growth of 8.2 percent in 2022, making it the fastest growing major economy and double the expected growth rate of China.
With a total of 174 deals in Q1 2022 (up 28% year-on-year), the stage is set for India’s M&A market to witness strong technology-driven performance. This would make the M&A management process more efficient and powerful. For example, sellers are seeing in real-time how artificial intelligence and machine learning are automating many of the time-consuming parts of M&A—from preparation and marketing to due diligence on both the sell-side and the buy-side. 
According to Data site, a leading provider of SaaS technologies to the M&A industry worldwide, deal activity from January to May 2022 shows that companies continue to invest in technology acquisitions as they undertake digital transformations accelerated by Covid-19. Trading on the Datasite platform shows that new global TMT projects rose 18 percent worldwide in the first quarter.
The median time to open and close a new deal or asset sale or merger at Data site increased five percent year-over-year this year, while deal preparation time is also increasing, up 31 percent over the same period. This means that many vendors are “ready” but have not yet launched their projects. 
Source: VCC Edge
If handled properly, mergers and acquisitions can be a powerful means of propelling a business to greater profitability. Businesses should be cognizant of the abovementioned factors discussed before taking the M&A leap, to ensure sustainable and stable growth projections for their future.
It can be fairly concluded that mergers and acquisitions are powerful means to propel a business to greater profitability, if dealt with properly. Businesses should be cognizant of the abovementioned factors discussed before taking the M&A leap, to ensure a sustainable and stable growth projections for their future.