Corporate acquisitions, mergers, combinations, and divestitures have developed over centuries, together with corporations themselves. The goal has consistently been value creation.

There is no question that a combination of two companies can create synergies—which is why an acquirer needs to be diligent, and artful, in realizing them. A thoughtful acquirer also understands that its determination is about more than just the synergies it can realize from the deal. It weighs the value that could have been realized for the corporation and its shareholders if the deal price (and costs) were invested in other initiatives, used for share repurchases, or released as dividends to shareholders.

Companies are more likely to be successful dealmakers when they have a strategy-based perspective, develop a robust M&A capability, and think in terms of long-term value creation. A company may create more value by divesting through selling, splitting off, or spinning off businesses for which it isn’t the best owner (assuming that the price received is fair value). A company may be best served by entering into a joint venture or alliance. Or, of course, the planned acquisition may make the most sense after all—not least by helping a company improve its digital capabilities or enter an emerging market—so long as value-creating fundamentals are adhered to. While forgoing deals and choosing to grow organically is also always an option (and may be the best decision for a company given its unique circumstances), in the aggregate, companies that keep a dynamic portfolio have serially outperformed those that do not.

In this section

Article - McKinsey Quarterly

Why you’ve got to put your portfolio on the move

– We analyzed hundreds of companies, worldwide, across a decade-long business cycle. The conclusion? Winners change their business mix, year after year. Laggards sit still.
Article - McKinsey Quarterly

How lots of small M&A deals add up to big value

– New research confirms that companies that regularly and systematically pursue moderately sized M&A deliver better shareholder returns than companies that don’t.

The artful synergist, or how to get more value from mergers and acquisitions

– Keeping your deal team small ensures confidentiality, but pinpointing synergies requires bringing more people on board. Here’s how to strike the right balance.
Article - McKinsey Quarterly

The telltale signs of successful digital deals

– Digital M&A is challenging—and often a necessity for digital transformation. Sophisticated acquirers boost their odds by addressing the pain points that undermine outperformance.

Improving the management of complex business partnerships

– Adhering to four key principles can help companies increase the odds that their collaborations will create more value over their life cycles.
Article - McKinsey Quarterly

When bigger isn’t always better

– The recent spate of spin-off announcements reveals the limits of diversification as well as some of the potential value-creating benefits of separations.

Profitably parting ways: Getting more value from divestitures

– Companies often struggle to capture the full value of a separation. Here’s how to do better.

McKinsey on Finance 20th anniversary

Lessons and challenges


Reflections on 20 years of McKinsey on Finance—and three challenges ahead

– Revolutionary innovations, brilliant ideas, and climate imperatives will change everything—except the fundamentals of finance and economics.

Compendium insights

Fundamentals of strategy and value creation

How is value created—and destroyed? A closer look at corporate finance, its bond with strategy, and the benefits of value creation.

Strategic combinations and divestitures

Who is, and isn’t, the best owner of a business? Why might the answers change? Lessons about when and how to grow.


A long-term perspective is essential for value creation—all the more so when the challenges and consequences of externalities are increasingly top-of-mind.

CFOs and the evolving finance function

Building a leading-edge, digital-first, and strategy-minded finance function takes a lot more than delivering quarterly and annual reports.

Debiasing investment and strategy decisions

For decades, we’ve been exploring how leaders can push their organizations to debias decisions, particularly on resource allocation and strategy.

Charting growth


Looking back: What does the ‘long term’ really mean?

– Stock markets can be volatile, and some years they decline. But the ups far outnumber the downs—and returns are in line with two centuries of performance.