Market reactions to acquisition announcements: The importance of signaling ‘why’ and ‘where’

Acquisitions are common in industries, but not all acquisitions succeed and those that fail often have a negative effect on the acquirer. A recent publication in the Long Range Planning further explores multiple levels of risks involved in acquisitions and the importance of signaling the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of said acquisitions.

Dr Rick Aalbers (Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation at Radboud University Nijmegen and coordinating team member of the FINDER Project) teamed up with Dr Killian J. McCarthy (Associate Professor of Innovation at University of Groningen) and Prof. Dr Koen Heimeriks (Professor of Strategy at Warwick Business School) deep dived into the matter, which resulted in the publication of:

“Market Reactions to Acquisition Announcements: The Importance of Signaling ‘Why’ and ‘Where’”
Aalbers R., McCarthy, K. & Heimeriks, K. (2021)
Long Range Planning –

As acquisitions are risky events but not all acquisitions involve the same levels of risk, the authors suggest that the announced acquisition motive – the ‘why’ of the acquisition – is an important risk signal. In the paper they categorize acquisition motives and distinction is made between acquisitions with ‘pure explore’ and ‘pure exploit’ motives. Recognizing that most acquisitions have multiple motives, acquisitions with ‘ambidextrous’ motives – different combinations of explorative and exploitative motives – are identified too.
Building on recent contributions to signaling theory, it is argued that the ‘why’ will matter more, if the ‘where’ pertains to a high-risk setting. The authors measure this, using target-to-acquirer industry relatedness.


  • The market reacts more positively to pure acquisitions, aimed at exploration or exploitation, compared to ambidextrous acquisitions.
  • The market reacts more positively to ambidextrous acquisitions orientated towards exploitation than ambidextrous acquisitions orientated toward exploration.
  • Relatedness moderates this relationship, in that the market is more willing to tolerate exploration in a related industry.

The authors core contribution is to the literatures on acquisition motives and ambidexterity. They provide new insights into the incidence of specific motives, the ways in which they are mixed, and the market’s reaction to their announcement. In addition, they contribute to the emerging literature that takes on behavioral perspective of market reactions by showing that the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of an acquisition matter.