Some of the worst acquisitions ever, and the billions lost

Companies have dug deep in their pockets to buy other companies recently, raising the risk that they’ve overpaid. If true, investors will suffer. Companies would be forced to “write down” their goodwill, an asset on financial statements that represents the premiums paid in deals, and the losses would cut into earnings.

Here are some big acquisitions that didn’t pan out, and the billions of dollars lost:


AOL buys Time Warner

Price: $106 billion, 2000

Write-down: $45.5 billion, 2002

At the time, the goodwill write-down led to the largest annual loss for a U.S. company


Sprint buys Nextel

Price: $36 billion, 2005

Write-down: $30 billion, 2008

One of the biggest write-downs of goodwill ever as Sprint struggles with the wireless business


Microsoft buys aQuantive

Price: $6.3 billion, 2007

Write-down: $6.2 billion, 2012

Nearly all of the purchase price is written down, an admission that Microsoft wildly overestimated the value of the online ad company


Hewlett-Packard buys Autonomy

Price: $10 billion, 2011

Write-down: $8.8 billion, 2012

Deal blows up quickly amid allegations that Autonomy had misled HP about its sales