Form S-4

A form filed by public companies in the event of a merger, acquisition, or offer of exchange

What is Form S-4?

Form S-4 is one of many filings mandated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1933. The form is required of publicly traded companies any time when:

  • A merger occurs
  • One company takes over another company (acquisition)
  • Offers of exchange are made (a company or financial institution facilitate an exchange with another company or institution, making similar securities available but under more favorable terms; offers of exchange are typically used to prevent the need for declaring bankruptcy)

Form S-4


  • The S-4 is required of all public companies when they engage in a merger, acquisition, or an exchange offer.
  • The S-4 form is important for investors because it provides information that may help them turn a profit from M&A activities.
  • There are five common types of mergers noted in S-4 forms: Market extension mergers, conglomerate mergers, congeneric mergers, horizontal mergers, and vertical mergers.

Purpose and Nuance of Form S-4

Form S-4 serves a significant purpose for investors. By being required to make public any mergers and acquisitions (M&A), as well exchange offers, investors gain the potential for making trading gains regarding M&A happenings.

Focusing specifically on corporate mergers, companies involved in a merger must report such an event by submitting the form to the SEC.

The Issue of Mergers

Let’s focus a little more on corporate mergers. They are important and occur for a variety of reasons. For many companies, it is about financial gain or prevention of loss of earnings or even bankruptcy. The list of reasons for initiating a merger include:

  • Unification of similar products
  • Moving products into new markets
  • Increasing revenue streams
  • Increasing total profit
  • Assisting in the expansion of a company into a new demographic

Types of Mergers

There are five common types of mergers. Regardless of the type of merger, all involved companies must submit a Form S-4 to ensure that the merger is above board.

The most common types of mergers – which make up the majority of the forms – are as follows:

1. Market extension

Companies selling the same or similar products are in competition in differing markets; they merge to extend their market reach.

2. Conglomerate merger

Two or more companies with no relationship – which could mean they operate in entirely different industries or in the same or similar industries but in completely different geographic locations; again, it is often done to extend market reach.

3. Congeneric merger

In congeneric mergers, two companies combine so that they can generate a new product or service when one company’s resources are added to the other. Such mergers involve companies operating in the same market or industry that utilize the same types of research, marketing, production processes, and technologies.

4. Horizontal merger

A horizontal merger is a combination of companies operating in the same industry or sector. It is an attempt to consolidate, creating a larger company and a greater share of the market.

5. Vertical merger

A vertical merger is a union between companies that create goods and services that are used for a finished product. In most vertical mergers, the companies involved are in the same industry, but function at different levels in the market “food chain,” with one being at a higher level than the other.


Additional Resources

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Financial Analyst Certification

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