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Heads of Agreement


The term ‘Heads of Agreement’ refers to a non-binding document outlining the basic terms of a tentative partnership agreement or transaction between two or more parties. It serves as a precursor to a legally binding agreement or contract. This preliminary document signifies both parties’ intention to move forward with the transaction, but the details are subject to further negotiation and modification.


The phonetics of the keyword “Heads of Agreement” is: /hɛdz ʌv əˈgriːmənt/

Key Takeaways

Understandably, the “Heads of Agreement” is a crucial document in preliminary business dealings. It outlines the principal terms of a potential agreement or transaction. We can encapsulate its importance into three key takeaways:

  1. Sets Parameters for Future Negotiations: Primary duty of Heads of Agreement is to provide a framework for any ongoing negotiations, meaning it sets the groundwork for future discussions and dealings, often specifying key points that have been agreed on to avoid misunderstanding as the negotiations progress.
  2. Provides Legal Framework: Although the Heads of Agreement might not be a legally binding document, it can still have legal implications. It may impose legal obligations on the parties to uphold confidentiality, non-solicitation or exclusivity provisions, etc. until a formalised agreement or contract can be drawn up and signed.
  3. Demonstrates Good Faith: The Heads of Agreement help us ascertain that the business parties involved are acting in good faith. It illustrates their commitment to the negotiations, displaying that all parties are serious about reaching a formal agreement, potentially improving the chances of success in the negotiation process.


The term “Heads of Agreement” is crucial in business or finance as it outlines the preliminary understanding between parties during the early stages of a contract or deal negotiation. It stipulates the main points of a forthcoming detailed agreement or contract, thus serving as the basis for the final legally-binding agreement. Ensuring that all involved parties have clear, consensus-based preliminary terms can help prevent misunderstandings, aid in maintaining a smooth negotiation process, and increase the likelihood of reaching a successful final agreement. Despite not being legally enforceable in most cases, it carries significant moral and practical weight, making it an important step in any finance-related negotiations.


The primary purpose of a Heads of Agreement (HoA) is to stipulate the fundamental terms of a commercial transaction that both parties agree on. It sits somewhere between a legally binding contract and a handshake deal, signifying a commitment from all involved entities towards progressing specific commercial transactions. The HoA serves as a blueprint across various industries, primarily employed in complex deals like mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and real estate transactions. By establishing the fundamental points of a deal, it allows all parties to focus on the specifics without becoming mired down by the fine details.

The Heads of Agreement is an essential document, as it reduces uncertainty and risk by outlining each party’s parts in the deal. Though typically not legally binding, it ensures everyone is on the same page. Consequently, this diminishes the potential for miscommunication or misunderstandings which could disrupt the transaction further down the line. In this context, it enables an overall smoother transaction process by setting clear guidelines and expectations at an early stage. Think of it as a road map, guiding both parties on their journey to a successful commercial deal.


Heads of Agreement (HoA) is often used in business transactions as a non-binding document outlining the main issues relevant to a tentative agreement. The HoA marks a significant step in negotiations as it signifies the very first point of agreement in a lengthy process. Here are three real-world examples:

1. Merger Agreements: When Microsoft intended to buy LinkedIn in 2016, the companies likely created a heads of agreement document first. This would’ve outlined the main terms of the agreement such as the purchase price, expectation of further negotiations, and high-level plan for integrating the two organizations.

2. Large business contracts: An energy company, such as Shell, might use a heads of agreement when initiating a large project such as the construction of a new oil rig. The heads of agreement would be drawn up between Shell and the construction company to agree on key terms like cost, timeframe, and responsibilities.

3. Property Development: In a real estate environment, a developer and landowner might sign an HoA before a formal agreement in a joint venture project. For instance, a heads of agreement was signed before the actual development of the Battersea Power Station in London. It was designed to lay out the key terms and agreements between the two parties before a more formal contract was written and signed. The HoA would outline aspects such as roles, responsibilities, timelines and financial contributions.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Head of Agreement?

A Head of Agreement (HoA) is a pre-contractual, non-binding document outlining the terms under which a final agreement is reached in a business deal. It signifies a mutual commitment to pursue a final agreement.

Is a Heads of Agreement legally binding?

Typically, a HoA is not legally binding. However, some parts like confidentiality clauses, exclusivity terms, or dispute resolution mechanisms may be considered binding.

When is a Heads of Agreement used?

A Heads of Agreement is used during complex business negotiations to clarify the primary and fundamental terms before a detailed, binding contract or agreement is drafted.

What information does a Heads of Agreement document contain?

An HoA includes the main terms of a proposed deal, rights and obligations of each party, confidentiality agreements, time frames, and, sometimes, the agreed-upon purchase price.

How does a Heads of Agreement differ from a contract?

The main difference is that a contract is legally enforceable, while a HoA is usually not. An HoA serves as a roadmap for the final agreement, summarizing the terms discussed during negotiations.

Are there any risks involved in signing a Heads of Agreement?

While rarely legally binding, an HoA might commit you to certain obligations like confidentiality or exclusivity. If not properly reviewed, it could limit your negotiating power in the later stages.

Can a Heads of Agreement be used instead of a contract?

No, generally an HoA is a precursor to a final, detailed contract. It cannot replace a legally binding contract but merely serves as a foundational document for it.

Can I back out after signing a Heads of Agreement?

Yes, as it’s typically non-binding, you could back out of a deal after signing a HoA. However, any binding clauses – like confidentiality or exclusivity – are enforceable. Therefore, it’s best to seek legal advice before making such decisions.

Related Finance Terms

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU): This is a non-legally binding agreement between two or more parties that outlines the terms and details of a mutual understanding or agreement.
  • Letter of Intent (LOI): This is somewhat similar to Heads of Agreement. It indicates a party’s intention to enter into an agreement with another party and outlines preliminary terms of the agreement.
  • Term Sheet: This is a document in corporate law and finance, outlining the terms and conditions of a business agreement. It is used as a blueprint by lawyers to develop a full contract.
  • Negotiation: Given that a Heads of Agreement outlines the agreed upon key terms of a deal before the full legal contracts are signed, negotiation is an important term as it’s the process by which these terms are reached.
  • Contract Law: This is the body of law that governs making, executing and interpretation of contracts. Understanding it is essential because Heads of Agreement eventually lead to a full legally binding agreement.

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