Top 10 Mergers and Acquisitions Risks and How to Avoid Them

Written by Sergio Garcia
January 25, 2024

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are strategic tools used by corporations to achieve growth, expand into new markets, acquire new technologies, or gain competitive advantages. Despite the potential benefits, these transactions come with significant risks that can undermine their value-creation objectives.

Risk management in M&A transactions involves a systematic approach to identifying, analyzing, and addressing potential acquisition risks before they become problematic. According to a study from McKinsey, finance executives are now a pivotal component in the growth of a business, with ever-increasing areas of oversight and numbers of direct reports. That means they have a bigger say in how the company operates and expands, with a bigger number of employees following their strategic advice.

That means CFOs and treasury teams now are integral in the M&A integration process. Executives and decision-makers must consider a variety of factors, from valuation discrepancies and integration hurdles to regulatory concerns and market volatility. By employing a robust risk management framework, companies can make informed decisions that align with their strategic objectives and enhance the likelihood of a successful integration.

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1. Overpaying for the Target Company

Overpaying for the target company jeopardizes financial stability and diminishes the return on investment for shareholders. Accurate valuation is crucial to avoid paying an inflated purchase price.

Mitigation Strategies

Comprehensive Due Diligence:

Prior to acquisition, companies must conduct thorough due diligence to determine the intrinsic value of the target. This includes an analysis of financial statements, assets, liabilities, and cash flow projections.

  • Financial Records Analysis: Scrutinize past financial statements for recurring revenues and profitability trends.
  • Competitive Positioning: Evaluate the target’s market position to gauge future revenue potential.
  • Treasury Risk Assessment: Utilize a robust treasury risk management system to identify and evaluate financial risks that could impact valuation.

Employ Valuation Methods:

Employ multiple valuation methods to arrive at a more accurate estimate of the target’s worth.

  • Discounted Cash Flow (DCF): Forecast future cash flows and discount them to present value.
  • Comparables Analysis: Compare the target with similar companies in the industry.

Set a Maximum Bid:

Establish a clear ceiling for the bid based on the valuation and adhere to it during negotiations.

  • Walk-Away Price: Identify a price point beyond which the acquisition no longer adds value.

Seek Expert Opinion:

Engage financial advisors or investment bankers who bring objectivity and expertise in valuation.

  • Independent Valuation: An external valuation can provide a benchmark against internal estimates.

Factor in Synergies Conservatively:

Estimate the value of potential synergies realistically to avoid overestimation affecting the purchase price.

  • Synergy Validation: Ensure that projected synergies are achievable and not overly optimistic.

Communicate with Shareholders:

Provide a clear rationale for the acquisition price to maintain shareholder trust.

  • Transparent Disclosures: Share how the purchase price aligns with long-term strategic goals.
  • Return Considerations: Offer evidence of how the acquisition enhances shareholder value.

2. Inadequate Due Diligence

In a corporate acquisition, inadequate due diligence can lead to unanticipated liabilities and significant post-acquisition challenges. Identifying risk factors and hidden liabilities is essential for a thorough evaluation of the acquired company.

Mitigation Strategies

Structured Evaluation:

Implement a comprehensive due diligence process that methodically evaluates all aspects of the acquired company, including financial, legal, operational, and strategic dimensions.

Financial Scrutiny:

Examine the acquired company’s financial statements in detail to uncover any hidden liabilities that could affect the M&A deal. This includes reviewing debts, contingent liabilities, and financial commitments.

Legal Assessment:

Thoroughly review all contracts, agreements, and legal documents to identify potential legal liabilities. Areas of focus should include:

  • Contracts with customers and suppliers
  • Employment agreements
  • Outstanding litigation or legal disputes
  • Compliance with applicable laws and regulations

Intellectual Property Verification:

Verify the ownership and validity of all intellectual property held by the acquired company. Ensure there are no encumbrances that could impact the value or usability of these assets.

Acquisition Risks Factor Analysis:

Assess risk factors pertinent to the industry and the specific company being acquired. This includes market risks, competitive threats, and regulatory changes that could impact the acquired company’s future performance.

A structured, meticulous due diligence process is crucial for mitigating the risks associated with corporate acquisitions and ensuring the long-term success of the M&A deal.

3. Underestimating Integration Challenges

A successful corporate acquisition hinges on a meticulous post-merger integration process. Many companies underestimate the integration risks, leading to disruptions in operations. Without a well-structured integration plan, achieving the intended synergies can be a daunting task. Change management must be approached with care to mitigate cultural clashes and ensure a cohesive transition. Treasurers play a key role in this phase, and understanding key ways they can improve and simplify M&A integration is vital for success.

Mitigation Strategies

Evaluate Integration Complexity Early:

Companies should assess the integration challenges during the due diligence phase. Identifying potential cultural clashes and operational differences upfront can guide in creating a tailored integration plan.

Develop a Detailed Integration Plan:

Define clear integration priorities and milestones.

Allocate resources effectively to support integration activities.

Establish governance structures to oversee the process.

Communication and Change Management:

Communicate clearly and frequently with all stakeholders involved.

Prepare change management strategies to address employee concerns and reduce disruptions.

Focus on Cultural Integration:

Perform cultural due diligence to understand the core values and practices of the acquired company.

Design cultural integration initiatives that respect both entities’ identities.

Monitor and Adjust Synergies Realization:

Regularly track progress against synergy targets.

Stay flexible and ready to adjust strategies as needed during post-merger integration.

4. Missed Opportunities for Capturing Synergies

In corporate acquisitions, the failure to capture synergies can critically undermine profitability and value creation. These inefficiencies often stem from overlooked aspects during the M&A process, particularly in post-merger integration.

Mitigation Strategies

Thorough Due Diligence:

Conduct a comprehensive analysis to identify potential synergies. This should involve the financial, operational, and cultural facets of the organizations involved.

  • It reduces the risk of overestimating synergies.
  • Ensures a realistic approach towards value creation.

Integration Planning:

Develop a detailed post-merger integration plan that aligns with the acquisition’s strategic goals.

  • Encourages a clear roadmap for synergy realization.
  • Helps to maintain focus on critical areas for integration.

Cultural Alignment:

Assess and address cultural differences between the entities.

  • Prevents culture clashes that can erode potential synergies.
  • Supports a smoother post-merger integration process.

Communication Strategy:

Establish open lines of communication with all stakeholders.

  • Fosters transparency and manages expectations.
  • Addresses concerns and mitigates resistance to change.

Performance Metrics:

Set specific and measurable targets for synergy capture.

  • Helps monitor progress and make adjustments as needed.
  • Aligns integration efforts with expected outcomes.

Expert Assistance:

Utilize external advisors to navigate complex integration challenges.

  • Brings in specialized knowledge and experience.
  • Supports overcoming unforeseen obstacles in the M&A process.

5. Integration Failures

During corporate acquisitions, integration failures often stem from inadequate planning and miscommunication among stakeholders. These failures can significantly derail the anticipated value and objectives of a merger.

Mitigation Strategies

Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities:

Establish a clear governance structure to guide post-merger integration. Assign specific responsibilities to team members and outline the authority levels to prevent any overlap or gaps in project management.

Develop a Comprehensive Change Management Plan:

It’s crucial to recognize the impact of change on all levels of an organization. A detailed change management strategy should address how to handle potential resistance and ensure a smooth transition.

  • Communication: Keep all parties informed throughout the process.
  • Training: Equip employees with the necessary skills and knowledge.
  • Support: Provide resources to help stakeholders navigate new systems.

Engage in Thorough Due Diligence:

Prior to the merger, conduct a comprehensive analysis to identify potential integration risks. Understanding the intricacies of the acquired company’s operations allows for a more strategic and efficient integration.

Financial Digital Transformation:

  • Embracing Technology in Integration: Embrace financial digital transformation and utilize automated tools to integrate financial systems, processes, and data analytics. This can involve implementing new financial software, automating processes, and utilizing data analytics for better decision-making.
  • Efficiency and Accuracy: Highlight how digital transformation can improve efficiency, reduce errors, and provide real-time financial insights, which are crucial during the integration phase.

Set Realistic and Clear Milestones:

Establish a timeline with achievable milestones for key integration phases. Regularly monitor progress against these milestones to maintain control over the integration’s trajectory and adjust as necessary.

Focus on Cultural Alignment:

Cultural mismatches can be detrimental to post-merger integration success. Address cultural integration by identifying and bridging the gap between different organizational cultures to foster unity.

By incorporating these strategies, companies can minimize integration failures and ensure a smoother post-merger transition.

Check out this episode of Fintech Corner to learn how McKenzie Knudson, Senior Treasury Analyst at Sealaska, and her team transitioned from spreadsheets to the almost magical experience of API-based treasury tech, and how it helped to centralize data, streamline reporting, and foster collaboration among their 30+ subsidiaries.

6. Security Concerns

When companies consider corporate acquisitions, security concerns such as cybersecurity, data breaches, and the liabilities associated with cyberattacks are pivotal. These risks can lead to significant financial and reputational damage.

Mitigation Strategies

Creating a Comprehensive Security Framework:

Before an acquisition, companies should ensure that they have a strong cybersecurity framework in place. This includes establishing security policies, incident response plans, and regular vulnerability assessments.

Conducting Thorough Due Diligence:

It’s imperative that the acquiring company carries out a detailed cybersecurity due diligence of the target company. This should assess the target’s security posture, past data breaches, and overall resilience to cyberattacks.

Securing Data Transactions:

During the acquisition process, it’s vital to protect the confidentiality and integrity of data being exchanged. Tools like encrypted communication channels and secure data rooms can help mitigate risks of data breaches.

Post-Acquisition Security Integration:

After an acquisition, integrating the target company’s IT systems requires careful planning. A unified security protocol should be enforced across both companies to prevent potential vulnerabilities during the transition.

Employee Training and Awareness:

Human error is a common factor in security breaches. Providing ongoing training on security policies and practices for employees of both companies will help in mitigating this risk.

Regular Security Updates and Monitoring:

Implementing a robust program for continuously monitoring and updating security measures is critical in safeguarding against evolving cyber threats.

7. Unforeseen Costs

When companies engage in corporate acquisitions, unexpected expenses can arise, placing financial strain on the organization. These aren’t the standard line items; rather, they are costs that surface after due diligence, potentially disrupting budgets and financial projections.

Mitigation Strategies

Risk Assessments:

Regular, thorough risk assessments should be performed to ensure potential unforeseen costs are identified early. Companies should assess the target entity across financial, operational, and strategic dimensions.

Contingency Budget:

It is prudent for a company to set aside a contingency budget. This budget acts as a financial buffer allocated to address unforeseen costs that arise post-acquisition.

Financial Due Diligence:

Enhanced due diligence can unveil hidden costs such as underfunded pensions, unresolved lawsuits, or environmental cleanup responsibilities. These burdens can be significant, so understanding them before closing a deal is crucial.

Integration Planning:

Detailed planning for post-acquisition integration can uncover potential additional expenses associated with system integrations or cultural alignment.

Legal Expertise:

Involving legal experts can help companies navigate compliance and regulatory issues, helping to avoid unexpected legal fees or fines.

Transactional Advisors:

Engaging experienced advisers who understand the subtleties of acquisition transactions can help in identifying hidden costs early in the negotiation process.

Flexibility in Negotiation:

Being able to renegotiate terms upon discovery of new information can allow a company to adjust the purchase price or terms to accommodate for these unforeseen costs.

8. Neglecting Cultural Considerations and Change Management

Successful corporate acquisitions hinge on careful attention to cultural integration and change management. Disregarding these aspects can lead to cultural clashes, diminished employee morale, and a drop in productivity.

Mitigation Strategies:

Due Diligence:

Conduct thorough cultural assessments as part of due diligence. Evaluate both companies’ cultural norms, values, and working styles to identify potential areas of conflict.

Involve Human Resources (HR) experts to gauge the workforce’s adaptability and readiness for change.

Cultural Clashes:

Identify underlying cultural differences early to anticipate areas of potential conflict.

Strategy: Develop a clear plan for addressing cultural disparities, which may include training programs or team-building activities.

Employee Morale:

Communicate: Ensure transparent, ongoing communication with employees to reduce uncertainties and fears about the acquisition.

Support Systems: Establish support structures, such as counseling or employee resource groups, to help staff navigate the changes.


Monitor productivity levels before and after the acquisition to gauge the impact of integration efforts.

Adapt: Implement temporary measures to alleviate dips in productivity, like adjusted performance targets or additional support for teams.

Change Management:

Change Leaders: Assign dedicated change management leaders to oversee and guide the transition process.

Planning: Create comprehensive change management plans that cover every stage of the acquisition, from initial announcement to full integration.

9. Insufficient Communication and Transparency

When companies merge or acquire another, clear and open communication is critical to maintaining stakeholder trust and preserving the company’s reputation. Without it, stakeholders may feel uncertain or misled, negatively impacting the success of the transaction.

Mitigation Strategies

To reduce the risks associated with insufficient communication and transparency during corporate acquisitions, companies should follow these guidelines:

Establish a Communication Plan:

Objectives: Define the purpose of the communication.

Audiences: Identify all stakeholders involved, such as employees, customers, investors, and suppliers.

Channels: Determine the most effective channels for reaching each stakeholder group.

Schedule: Outline a timeline for when information will be released.

Designate Spokespeople:

Assign specific individuals who are authorized to speak on behalf of the company regarding the acquisition.

Ensure these individuals are well-informed and prepared to address stakeholder concerns with consistency and accuracy.

Provide Regular Updates:

Share progress consistently, whether through press releases, internal memos, or stakeholder meetings.

Avoid periods of silence that may lead to rumors or speculation.

Ensure Transparency:

Disclose relevant details of the acquisition, including the strategic rationale and potential impacts on stakeholders.

Be honest about any uncertainties and how they will be addressed.

Invite Feedback:

Create opportunities for stakeholders to express their concerns and ask questions.

Acknowledge receipt of feedback and demonstrate how it is being considered in the acquisition process.

Monitor and Adjust:

Regularly assess stakeholder sentiment and the effectiveness of the communication strategy.

Be flexible and willing to adjust the approach as necessary based on feedback and changing circumstances.

10. Market Disruptions and Unpredictable Events

Market disruptions and unpredictable events pose significant risks during the merger and acquisition (M&A) process. To safeguard an acquisition’s value, effective risk management and contingency planning are essential.

Mitigation Strategies

Flexibility in Strategy:

Corporate acquirers must ensure their M&A strategy is resilient enough to adapt to sudden market disruptions. This flexibility can involve establishing thresholds for deal metrics that account for market volatility or diversifying the acquisition portfolio to mitigate potential impacts from sector-specific disturbances.

Due Diligence and Risk Assessment:

Thorough due diligence should include the evaluation of a target company’s exposure to and preparation for unpredictable events. Acquirers should employ robust risk assessment models that factor in scenario analysis for possible market shifts affecting the target.

Contingency Planning:

Develop and integrate comprehensive contingency plans within the acquisition process. These plans should clearly delineate steps for critical path items in the case of market disruptions, including but not limited to renegotiation triggers, financing alterations, and legal considerations.

Regular Monitoring and Assessment:

Post-acquisition integration must involve ongoing monitoring of market conditions. If market disruptions occur, the entity should assess the implications promptly and make informed decisions on necessary adjustments to the integration process.

Communication Channels:

Maintain open and reliable channels of communication with stakeholders. In the face of unpredictable events, frequent and transparent updates can help manage expectations and maintain confidence among investors, employees, and customers.

By incorporating these mitigation tips into the M&A process, organizations can enhance their preparedness for market disruptions and unpredictable events, thereby minimizing risks and safeguarding the acquisition’s value.

Streamlining Acquisitions with Trovata

In the realm of corporate acquisitions, Trovata is a pivotal tool for automating cash flow analysis. The utilization of bank API-powered technology by Trovata serves as a keystone, connecting disparate bank accounts and providing instant, accurate visibility into cash flows. For businesses in the midst of an acquisition, this translates to crucial, time-sensitive advantages.

acquisition risks

That means M&A decisions are made based on accurate data, and ensures that progress can be measured effectively after the deal is done. For more information on how Trovata has saved companies 40+ hours a month of data entry and reduced treasury management software costs by over 50%, download our platform data sheet.

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