Horizontal vs. Vertical Merger: The Difference Explained

Mergers and acquisitions are common ways businesses grow and expand their reach. The primary types of mergers are ...

Mergers and acquisitions are common ways businesses grow and expand their reach. The primary types of mergers are horizontal and vertical. Each type has its specific goals, advantages, and potential drawbacks. Deciding on a horizontal vs vertical merger requires an understanding of each process.

Defining a Horizontal vs. Vertical Merger

A horizontal merger is a business consolidation strategy between two or more companies operating within the same industry and at the same stage of the production process. The two entities combine to:

  • Increase market share
  • Reduce competition
  • Achieve economies of scale
  • Expand product or service offerings
  • Gain greater pricing power

Typically, horizontal mergers result in a larger, more dominant company within a market.

Unlike a horizontal merger, a vertical merger involves a combination of two or more companies operating at different stages of the production or distribution process within the same industry. This type of merger allows the combined business greater control over the supply chain, which reduces costs and improves efficiency. Essentially, the merger aims to heighten company synergies, streamlining processes for a greater market advantage.


What Is the Difference Between a Vertical and Horizontal Merger?

The primary difference between vertical and horizontal mergers is the acquisition stage. Vertical mergers focus on companies at different stages of the supply chain, whereas horizontal mergers focus on companies at the same stage. Vertical mergers are about increasing control over the process, and the horizontal mergers are about expanding market opportunities.

Taking a Closer Look at Horizontal Mergers

Horizontal mergers allow businesses to solidify their market position and increase profitability. Regarding a horizontal vs. vertical merger, horizontal options are about combining organizational efforts.

What Are the Goals?

The primary goal of horizontal mergers is increased market share and dominance. Capturing a larger portion of the market by eliminating direct competitors leads to greater influence over pricing and customer reach. Still, beyond reducing competition and possibly expanding product and service offerings through combined operations and outputs, a horizontal merger permits more advantageous economies of scale.

What Is an Example of a Horizontal Merger?

For example, when merging companies combine their operations, they can increase production. This increase spreads fixed costs — like rent, administrative salaries, and machinery — over more units, leading to a lower average cost per unit produced.

Beyond increased production, economies of scale can come from bulk discounts, specialization, and technology. Larger companies have a better bargaining position for raw materials. Also, with more resources, employees can focus on specific tasks, improving productivity. Finally, with combined forces, companies can invest in more efficient technologies that might be too expensive for smaller operations.

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What Are the Benefits?

The benefits of a horizontal vs. vertical merger depend on the execution of the integration of operations. Poorly managed mergers can lead to inefficiencies and fail to achieve the expected or desired outcomes.

When two or more companies successfully combine operations, they eliminate administration, marketing, research, development, and other redundancies. Refocusing assets and streamlining operations generates cost savings, further contributing to economies of scale.

Horizontal mergers can also result in geographic expansion and strengthened brand recognition. If merging companies operate in different regions, the new entity instantly gains access to new markets without investing in organic expansion.

What Are the Drawbacks?

In understanding a horizontal vs. vertical merger, it is essential to acknowledge the advantages and disadvantages of each process. A horizontal merger can result in economic, employment, and business consequences.

Typically, a horizontal merger reduces options in the marketplace, restricting consumer choice. With less competition, the merged company may hold increased pricing power, allowing it to raise prices and potentially harm consumers; this is why most horizontal mergers attract the scrutiny of regulatory bodies like the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC can challenge and even block mergers if they threaten to significantly reduce competition.

Horizontal mergers result in the elimination of redundancies, which leads to layoffs. The layoffs can create challenges for local economies and individuals.

Finally, because mergers reduce competition, they can have the adverse effect of stifled innovation. When a newly merged company controls a significant portion of the market, there is less pressure to innovate, which slows industry progress.


Taking a Closer Look at Vertical Mergers

In the horizontal vs. vertical merger debate, what is the difference between horizontal and vertical mergers? While a horizontal merger focuses on increasing market share, a vertical merger is about optimizing supply chains to improve market position.

What Are the Types?

There are three types of vertical mergers: backward integration, forward integration, and mixed integration. Backward integration refers to a merger or acquisition with a business that operates early in the supply chain. The acquiring company moves "backward" towards the source of its raw materials or components.

A forward integration occurs when a company merges or acquires a business that operates later in the supply chain, closer to the end consumer. The acquiring company moves "forward" towards distribution or retail channels.

Each method allows a company to gain greater control over its supply chain or distribution channels. A mixed integration occurs when a company combines backward and forward integrations, maximizing even greater control.

Vertical mergers are appealing because of their level of control, but they can increase the complexity of the company's structure. If not handled correctly, vertical mergers can cause significant challenges for the primary business.

What Are the Goals?

When weighing the pros and cons of a horizontal vs. vertical merger, understanding the goals of each merger type is crucial. A vertical merger has the primary goal of control over the supply chain, resulting in improved efficiency and reduced costs.

What Is an Example of a Vertical Merger?

For example, by acquiring upstream suppliers (backward integration) or downstream distributors (forward integration), a company gains greater control over the flow of goods and services, reducing its reliance on external parties and the risk of disruptions. Integrating different stages of production or distribution also allows for tighter coordination, smoother communication, and better process alignment.

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What Are the Benefits?

As with horizontal mergers, the success of a vertical merger depends on a company's ability to manage the process and outcome effectively. Vertical mergers are often more complex than horizontal mergers. If a company doesn't manage this increased complexity across multiple areas of the supply chain, it risks profit and reputational losses.

Ultimately, the primary advantage of a vertical merger is greater quality control across the entire supply chain. When weighing a horizontal vs. vertical merger, consider how a vertical merger can give a company increased influence within its market. Some mergers result in a single company securing exclusive access to a critical resource or distribution channel, giving it a competitive advantage.

What Are the Drawbacks?

As with horizontal mergers, vertical mergers create antitrust concerns. A merger or acquisition can create significant dominance in the market, impeding competition and attracting the attention of regulatory bodies.

While vertical mergers aim to increase control and dependability throughout the supply chain, they can also reduce flexibility. Because vertically integrated companies are more tied to their specific supply chain, they can struggle to adapt to emerging technologies and cheaper channels.

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How Cloudficient Can Help With a Horizontal vs. Vertical Merger

Whether contemplating the benefits of a horizontal vs. vertical merger or already decided, Cloudficient provides expert guidance and technology solutions to streamline data migration efforts. From strategic consulting to integration technology solutions, we have what you need. Contact our team to learn more.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us.

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