Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 129, No. 3, pp. 649–702, March 2021
97 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2018 Last revised: 2 May 2021
Date Written: April 19, 2020
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 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 5.3 percent to 7.4 percent of acquisitions in our sample are killer acquisitions. These acquisitions disproportionately occur just below thresholds for antitrust scrutiny.
Keywords: Innovation, Mergers and Acquisitions, Drug Development, Competition
JEL Classification: O31, L41, G34, L65
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation