1728 in legal sense, "extinguishment by absorption," from merge (v.), on analogy of French infinitives used as nouns (e.g. waiver). From 1889 in the business sense; not common until c.1926. General meaning "any act of merging" is from 1881.
The union of two or more independent corporations under a single ownership. Also known as takeovers, mergers may be friendly or hostile. In the latter case, the buying company, having met with resistance from directors of the targeted company, usually offers an inflated (overmarket) price to persuade stockholders of the targeted company to sell their shares to it. Such mergers often have been financed by junk bonds.
Especially common in the 1980s, hostile takeovers have become highly controversial. Some contend that they bring needed infusions of capital and efficiency to the targeted company. Others argue that, having borrowed heavily to finance the merger, the buyer is forced to sell valuable assets of the targeted company to pay off its debt.