M&A Synergies

Synergies occur when the merge is worth more than the individuals

What are M&A Synergies?

A synergy arises in a merger or acquisition when the combined value of the two firms is higher than the pre-merger value of both firms combined. For example, if firm A has a value of $500M, firm B has a value of $75M, and the merged firm has a value of $625M, there is a $50M synergy for this merger.  This guide will outline what you need to know about M&A synergies.

M&A Synergies


Synergies arise out of cost reductions, due to efficiencies in the new combined firm. Alternatively, they may arise due to new net incremental revenues brought about by the merged firm.

There are many different types of synergies. The two most common tangible types are cost savings and revenue upside arising out of the merged firm. However, there are other “softer” synergies that may also arise due to a merger. One example is a common corporate culture that will allow the merged firm to be more easily successful.


How are synergies estimated?

Typically, merger synergies are forecasted by comparing like-transactions. In other words, comparable acquisitions are reviewed as a starting point for potential synergies.

Initially, it may be difficult to quantitatively estimate synergies as the operations merge as the logistic intricacies are not yet known until post-merger. Thus, synergies may be first estimated qualitatively.

An analysis should be performed to see how the acquiring firm expects the target firm’s assets and operations to line up and what cost savings can be made.

10 Examples of ways to estimate M&A synergies:
  1. Analyze headcount and identify any redundant staff members that can be eliminated (i.e. new company doesn’t need two CFOs)
  2. Look at ways to consolidate vendors and negotiate better terms with them (i.e. purchase goods/services at lower prices)
  3. Evaluate any head office or rent savings by combining offices
  4. Estimate the value saved by sharing resources that aren’t at 100% utilization (i.e. trucks, planes, transportation, factories, etc.)
  5. Look for opportunities to increase revenue by upselling complementary products or increase prices by eliminating a competitor
  6. Reduce professional services fees
  7. Operating efficiency improvements from sharing “best practices”
  8. Human capital improvements from “top grading” exercises and potential ability to attract superior talent at NewCo
  9. Improve distribution strategy by serving customers with closer locations
  10. Geo-arbitrage – reduce labor costs by hiring in other countries if the target is in another country


Hard vs Soft M&A Synergies

There are two main types of synergies, hard and soft.  Hard synergies refer to costs savings, and soft synergies refer to revenue increases.


Risks for Synergies

Synergies are not effective immediately after the merger takes place. Typically, these synergies are realized two or three years after the transaction. This period is known as the “phase in” period, where operational efficiencies, cost savings, and incremental new revenues are slowly absorbed into the newly merged firm.

In fact, in the short term costs may actually go up as the integration incurring one-time expenses and a short term inefficiency due to lack of history working together and culture clashes.  If a culture clash is too great, synergies may never be realized.


Additional resources