Killer Acquisitions

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WP-Killer Acquisitions-Cunningham-Ederer-Ma

Colleen Cunningham, London Business School
Florian Ederer, Yale University
Song Ma, Yale University


This paper argues incumbent firms may acquire innovative targets solely to discontinue the target’s innovation projects and preempt future competition. We call such acquisitions “killer acquisitions.” We develop a parsimonious model illustrating this phenomenon. Using pharmaceutical industry data, we show that acquired drug projects are less likely to be developed when they overlap with the acquirer’s existing product portfolio, especially when the acquirer’s market power is large due to weak competition or distant patent expiration. Conservative estimates indicate about 6% of acquisitions in our sample are killer acquisitions. These acquisitions disproportionately occur just below thresholds for antitrust scrutiny.

April 16, 2019


Colleen Cunningham Florian Ederer Song Ma


Anticompetitive Conduct


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