Top 10 Biggest Corporate Mergers in History

AT&T and Time Warner

A merger is defined as an instance where two (or more) entities combine ownership of assets that were previously under separate control. These are a pretty standard way to get an edge on the competition in an open market while maintaining corporate infrastructure and saving existing jobs but have seen varying degrees of success on both ends.

When giant corporations get involved, though, the numbers are truly astronomical. Companies have spent billions of dollars to join forces, and not even cracked this list. Here are a few of the more extreme examples of corporate mergers:

Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport & Trading Co. – $95B

Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport

In 2004, Royal Dutch Shell merged its two companies, ending a 100-year division between the Anglo and Dutch properties. Both companies were enjoying an increase in profit, but a drop in stock price due to Shell overstating their oil reserves. The combination of the two entities was intended to resolve this issue by allowing for more company-to-consumer transparency through assigning a single company name and CEO across country borders. Considering that the company now boasts over $411 billion in assets, it seems this merger worked exactly as intended.

Heinz and Kraft – $101B

Heinz and Kraft

Heinz and Kraft combined their companies to form the Kraft Heinz company in 2015, making them the fifth largest food company in the world, and the third largest in the United States. Boasting an annual revenue of $28 billion, as well as an increase in stock value (stock for Kraft was valued at $61 a share previous to the merger, and Kraft Heinz is now $77 a share). The $101 billion price tag seems reasonable in the long run, especially considering it was viewed as a bad move and was valued at less than half of that at the time.

Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham – $106B

Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham

Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham became unified as Glaxo SmithKline in 2000, making them the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Both companies had roots in the UK, and the idea was to expand their worldwide influence with the merger. Interestingly enough, both companies were the products of previous mergers but sought a further unification to gain a global edge, as many other pharmaceutical companies were considering mergers of their own at the time, and created over 15,000 jobs tied to pharmaceutical research.

AT&T and Time Warner – $109B

AT&T and Time Warner

At the time this article is being written, AT&T and Time Warner are still currently embroiled in a legal battle to complete their merger, which has been blocked by the US government despite the merger originally being announced over a year ago. The Department of Justice currently posits that the merger would give the companies too much of a market advantage. They have until April 22, 2018, to finalize the merger, or AT&T will have to pay Time Warner an additional $500 million for time and expenses, in addition to the agreed upon price of the merger itself.

RFS Holdings and ABN Amro – $113B

RFS Holdings and ABN Amro

These two European banks announced a merger in 2008 to avoid succumbing to a financial crisis. However the RFS Holdings side of the arrangement (consisting of Royal Bank of Scotland, Fortis and Banco Santander) had depleted its reserves in the process. It was harmed further in 2008 as Bernie Madoff’s famous fraudulence cost them over a billion euros in lost investments. The merger wasn’t announced as complete until 2010, at which point Fortis was all that remained of RFS, and is widely considered as one of the most poorly timed mergers in history.

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller – $131B

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller

Last year, these two combined to create what might be best described as a mega-brewery. So far, the new company – AB InBev – has boasted 55 billion in annual sales, and is responsible for 3 of every ten beers sold worldwide. This move was made to create an advantage in emerging markets like those developing in China, and this is expected to be a boon to continued growth. While time will tell if the $131 billion dollar price tag will be a sound investment, the exponential growth in sales points to a bright future.

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Dow Chemical and Dupont – $131B

Dow Chemical and Dupont

Dow Chemical (known for producing bleach, napalm, and Ziploc bags) and Dupont (known for producing gunpowder, developing Freon, and inventing Nylon) announced plans to merge in 2015, immediately followed by the announcement that they planned to split the conglomerate into three companies. However, this plan has met a large amount of resistance and scrutiny from the government and has besides been tied up in a metaphorical lifetime’s worth of litigation. The company as a combined entity has been exceedingly successful – boasting $83 billion dollars in annual profit – but they still have the originally planned three-way split set for completion in 2018.

Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless – $134B

Verizon Communications and Verizon Wireless

In the rapidly developing market for wireless phone service of the late 1990s, a company called Vodafone acquired Air Touch. They then cut a deal with Verizon Communications (then Bell Atlantic) to combine AirTouch with their own wireless business, creating Verizon Wireless. Given that the name Verizon is pretty much synonymous with cell phone service these days, the results of that merger are readily apparent. Vodafone sold their stake in Verizon back in 2013 for $59 billion in cash and an additional $60 billion in Verizon shares, which is impressive considering their purchase of Vodafone back in the 90’s cost them $60 billion.

AOL and Time Warner – $229B

AOL and Time Warner

Time Warner is back on the list, this time with what was once a staple of the Modern American Household – dial-up internet. In its heyday AOL was one of the fastest growing technology companies in the United States, making it an attractive catch for Time Warner to land. Unfortunately, this purchase came at the wrong time, as 2000 was all but on the precipice of a major shift, as broadband Internet access quickly became the new household staple. Despite the impressive price tag, AOL was eventually let go with a comparatively small market value of $3.5 billion and is thought of to this day as one of the biggest commercial merger failures.

Vodafone Group and Mannesmann – $290B

Vodafone Group and Mannesmann

While Vodafone – as previously mentioned – had great long-term success with purchasing AirTouch, they weren’t content with this acquisition and sought to expand their influence by pitching a merger to Mannesmann, a German telecom giant. This didn’t go as smoothly as it had with Verizon, and Vodafone ended up having to double their original offer to make a deal. Vodafone had initially agreed to keep all existing branding and the corporate structure Mannesmann had built, but almost immediately rebranded that branch under the Vodafone name once the merger was complete. The terms of the deal eventually led to a trial, notably because of the high severance pay granted to former higher-ups at Mannesmann. Vodafone eventually settled outside of court for millions of euros, losing billions in profit besides. It was the most expensive corporate merger to this day, and also the biggest flop.