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Acquisition Accounting


Acquisition accounting is a method of recording and reporting the financial information of a company that has been purchased or merged with another business. It requires the acquiring company to measure and report the acquired assets and liabilities at their fair market value on the date of acquisition. This approach provides a more accurate and complete picture of the financial position of the combined entity following the transaction.


The phonetics of the keyword “Acquisition Accounting” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) notation is: /ˌækwɪˈzɪʃən əˈkaʊntɪŋ/

Key Takeaways

  1. Acquisition Accounting is a method used to reflect the financial impact of a business combination on the acquirer’s financial statements. It is important because it accurately consolidates the financial results of the acquiring and target companies to provide a clear picture of the combined entity’s financial position.
  2. Under Acquisition Accounting, the acquired company’s assets and liabilities are recorded at their fair market value on the acquisition date. This process, known as purchase price allocation, can lead to a large discrepancy between the book value and fair value of the acquired company’s assets and liabilities, potentially resulting in a goodwill balance on the acquirer’s balance sheet.
  3. Goodwill is an intangible asset representing the excess of the purchase consideration paid over the fair value of the net identifiable assets acquired. It is subject to impairment testing at least annually to ensure that the recorded goodwill balance is not overstated. Any impairment of goodwill is recorded as a non-cash expense on the acquirer’s income statement, which can negatively impact the company’s reported earnings.


Acquisition accounting is important because it is a vital procedure used in financial reporting for accurately reflecting the fair value of assets, liabilities, and non-controlling interests of an acquired company in the consolidating financial statements. This method enables greater transparency in the valuation and allocation of the purchase price, allowing investors, stakeholders, and regulators to better assess the financial health and risks associated with a merger or acquisition. Furthermore, it ensures compliance with regulatory requirements such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which ultimately cultivates trust and reliability in the financial markets.


Acquisition accounting serves as a vital tool in the sphere of corporate financial management for the purpose of reflecting the true financial standing of a company following a business combination. Business combinations, particularly acquisitions, entail the merging of two or more companies, resulting in a consolidated entity that assumes the acquired company’s assets, liabilities, and equity. With this comes the need for a comprehensive and accurate means of accounting that captures the financial intricacies of the newly merged entity. The essential purpose of acquisition accounting, hence, is to provide a clear picture of the newly formed company’s financial position by recording and valuing all the assets, liabilities, and equity components while considering the relevant fair market value and identifiable intangible assets. Acquisition accounting is a crucial element in assessing the impact and strategic financial fit of an acquisition, serving as a reliable basis for informed decision-making by investors, management, and other stakeholders. By bringing the acquired company’s financial data under one accounting umbrella, this method ensures a consistent and transparent financial reporting system that complies with the accounting standards prevalent in the jurisdiction. Furthermore, this approach allows for the identification and assessment of possible synergies, cost-saving opportunities, and the fair distribution of goodwill arising from acquisitions. Overall, acquisition accounting plays a vital role in presenting an accurate and seamless financial representation of a combined business entity, ultimately enabling the company to optimize its true potential and create value for its investors and stakeholders.


1. Acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios by Walt Disney Company (2006): Disney acquired Pixar Animation Studios in a deal worth $7.4 billion. In this acquisition, acquisition accounting was involved as Disney had to measure the fair value of Pixar’s assets and liabilities as of the acquisition date. The purchase price allocation included goodwill, intellectual property rights, and long-term contracts. Disney’s consolidated financial statements incorporated the acquired assets and liabilities from Pixar following acquisition accounting principles. 2. Acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft (2016): Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in an all-cash transaction. According to acquisition accounting principles, Microsoft had to identify and recognize the identifiable assets acquired, liabilities assumed, and any non-controlling interests at their fair values on the acquisition date. This resulted in a significant amount of goodwill recognized in Microsoft’s balance sheet, representing the excess of the purchase price over the fair value of the net assets acquired from LinkedIn. 3. Acquisition of Whole Foods Market by (2017): Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in an all-cash transaction. Acquisition accounting was applied in this deal, necessitating the evaluation of Whole Foods Market’s assets and liabilities at their fair values as of the acquisition date. Amazon’s consolidated financial statements reflected the changes in assets and liabilities as a result of the acquisition. The company assigned the purchase price to various assets (e.g., identifiable intangible assets, real estate, and inventory) and liabilities (e.g., deferred revenue, lease obligations) of Whole Foods Market, with the remaining balance attributed to goodwill.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Acquisition Accounting?
Acquisition Accounting is a method used in financial reporting to record and report the financial information of a company after a business combination (typically a merger or acquisition). This approach helps in properly valuing assets, liabilities, and equity of the acquired company, ensuring that the consolidated financial statements provide an accurate representation of the combined entity’s financial position.
When is Acquisition Accounting applicable?
Acquisition Accounting is applicable when a company acquires another company through a business combination. The acquiring company must apply this method to record the acquired company’s assets, liabilities, and equity accurately, and to consolidate the financial statements of both entities.
What are the main steps involved in the Acquisition Accounting process?
The key steps in the Acquisition Accounting process are:1. Identifying the acquirer and the acquiree.2. Determining the acquisition date.3. Calculating the purchase consideration (acquisition cost).4. Identifying and measuring the acquired assets, liabilities, and non-controlling interests.5. Recognizing goodwill or a bargain purchase gain.6. Consolidating the financial statements of the acquirer and acquiree.
How is goodwill calculated in Acquisition Accounting?
Goodwill is calculated as the difference between the total acquisition cost (purchase consideration) and the fair value of the net identifiable assets (assets minus liabilities) acquired from the target company. If the acquisition cost is higher than the fair value of the net identifiable assets, the difference is recognized as goodwill.
What is a bargain purchase gain in Acquisition Accounting?
A bargain purchase gain occurs when the acquisition cost (purchase consideration) is lower than the fair value of the net identifiable assets acquired from the target company. In this case, the difference is recognized as a gain on the acquirer’s financial statement, either in the income statement or as a separate component of equity.
How does Acquisition Accounting differ from the pooling of interests method?
Acquisition Accounting and pooling of interests are two alternative methods for accounting for business combinations. Acquisition Accounting is currently the widely accepted method, whereas the pooling of interests method is no longer permissible under most accounting standards. Acquisition Accounting involves accounting for the acquired company’s assets and liabilities at their fair values, recognizing goodwill or bargain purchase gains, and consolidating the financial statements. In contrast, the pooling of interests method treated the combined entity as if it had always existed, combining the historical financial statements of both companies, and avoiding the recognition of goodwill or bargain purchase gains.

Related Finance Terms

  • Purchase Price Allocation (PPA)
  • Goodwill
  • Fair Value Adjustments
  • Intangible Assets
  • Non-controlling Interest (NCI)

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