Business & ManagementIB

External growth methods

External growth methods....The terms mergers and takeovers both describe the situation when firms join together.....
External growth methods

External growth, also known as inorganic growth, is a strategy where a company expands its operations through mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances, joint ventures, and franchising, rather than growing through its own internal business activities. This approach allows companies to rapidly increase their size, market share, and competitive advantage. Below, we delve into each external growth method, providing detailed insights and industry examples to enrich the understanding of IB Business & Management students.

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As)

Definition: Mergers and acquisitions involve the combination of two companies into one, where one company buys another. The goal can be to gain market share, access new markets, or acquire new technologies or products.

Example: Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019 is a prime example. Disney purchased Fox for about $71 billion, significantly expanding its library of movies and TV shows, enhancing its content for streaming services, and increasing its international market presence.

Strategic Alliances

Definition: Strategic alliances are agreements between companies to pursue a set of agreed objectives while remaining independent organizations. These alliances can take the form of product development partnerships, marketing collaborations, or shared technology platforms.

Example: Spotify and Uber formed a strategic alliance allowing Uber riders to play their Spotify playlists during rides. This partnership enhanced customer experience for both companies, creating added value for users.

Joint Ventures

Definition: A joint venture is a business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task. This can be a new project or any other business activity. Each participant is responsible for profits, losses, and costs associated.

Example: Sony Ericsson was a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson to combine Sony’s consumer electronics expertise with Ericsson’s technological leadership in the communications sector. The venture focused on producing mobile phones, sharing technology, and development costs.


Definition: Franchising is a form of business by which the owner (franchisor) of a product, service, or method obtains distribution through affiliated dealers (franchisees). It allows the franchisees to use the company’s trademark, products, and business model.

Example: McDonald’s is one of the most successful examples of growth through franchising. By franchising their business model, McDonald’s has been able to achieve global presence and brand recognition, with the majority of its restaurants owned and operated by independent franchisees.

Advantages of External Growth Methods

  • Rapid Expansion: External growth methods allow companies to quickly scale up operations and access new markets or technologies.
  • Market Access: Through acquisitions or alliances, companies can enter new markets more easily and with less risk.
  • Diversification: These strategies enable diversification of products, services, and markets, spreading risk.
  • Economies of Scale: Mergers and acquisitions can result in significant economies of scale, reducing per-unit costs.

Challenges of External Growth Methods

  • Integration Issues: Merging different cultures, systems, and processes can be challenging.
  • High Costs: The initial outlay for M&As, forming joint ventures, or establishing franchises can be substantial.
  • Regulatory Hurdles: Large-scale M&As may face scrutiny from antitrust laws and regulatory bodies.
  • Risk of Conflict: Strategic alliances and joint ventures may result in conflicts between partnering entities over control, profits, or strategic direction.

In the strategic landscape of business growth and expansion, integration plays a pivotal role in shaping companies’ market presence, competitive advantage, and operational efficiency. Integration strategies can significantly alter the structure and dynamics of industries, offering firms various pathways to strengthen their market positions. This analysis delves into the concepts of horizontal and vertical integration, lateral integration, and conglomerate mergers, providing a comprehensive understanding of each strategy supported by real-world industry examples. This exposition is designed to equip IB Business & Management students with the insights necessary to comprehend the strategic implications of these integration methods.

Horizontal Integration

Definition: Horizontal integration occurs when a company acquires or merges with another firm that operates at the same level of the value chain in an industry. This strategy is often pursued to increase market share, reduce competition, and achieve economies of scale.

Example: The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios is a classic example of horizontal integration. By acquiring Pixar in 2006, Disney not only eliminated a major competitor but also strengthened its position in the animation and entertainment industry, leveraging Pixar’s creative talent and technological capabilities to enhance its product offerings and market reach.

Backward Vertical Integration

Definition: Backward vertical integration involves a company merging with or acquiring another company that provides the input materials or services required for the production process. This move is aimed at securing supply chains, reducing production costs, and increasing control over the production process.

Example: Apple Inc.’s acquisition of Dialog Semiconductor Plc.’s power management technology and assets in 2018 exemplifies backward vertical integration. By acquiring a key supplier’s assets, Apple aimed to enhance its control over critical components and technology used in its products, thereby securing its supply chain and improving its technological capabilities.

Forward Vertical Integration

Definition: Forward vertical integration occurs when a company acquires or merges with a business operating further down the value chain, typically closer to the end consumer. This strategy allows companies to control the distribution or retail aspects of their business.

Example: Netflix’s transition from a DVD rental service to streaming content directly to consumers represents forward vertical integration. By developing its streaming service, Netflix moved closer to the end consumer in the entertainment distribution chain, gaining greater control over content distribution and enhancing its market position.

Lateral Integration

Definition: Lateral integration involves the merger or acquisition of companies that offer related products or services but do not directly compete with each other. This strategy can allow a company to diversify its product offerings and tap into new markets.

Example: Google’s acquisition of Fitbit in 2021 is an illustration of lateral integration. While Google operates primarily in software and online services, acquiring Fitbit—a company specializing in wearable health and fitness devices—allowed Google to expand its product portfolio into the health and wellness sector, thereby diversifying its business.

Diversifying Merger (Conglomerate)

Definition: A diversifying merger, or conglomerate merger, occurs when companies in completely different industries merge. This strategy is often pursued for diversification, reducing risk exposure to a single market, and leveraging managerial expertise across different businesses.

Example: Berkshire Hathaway, led by Warren Buffett, is a prime example of a conglomerate. It owns companies across diverse industries, including insurance (GEICO), energy (Berkshire Hathaway Energy), and transportation (BNSF Railway), among others. This diversification strategy has enabled Berkshire Hathaway to mitigate risks associated with market fluctuations in any single industry.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *