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, in business
conglomerate, corporation whose asset growth, often very rapid, comes largely through the acquisition of, or merger with, other firms whose products are largely unrelated to each other or to that of the parent company. Merger to gain monopoly (“horizontal integration”) was notable at the end of the 19th cent.; somewhat later, acquisition of suppliers or buyers (“vertical integration”) became fairly common. Conglomerates did not emerge until the 1960s, when they quickly became popular among investors. Their stock prices often rose (and sometimes fell) spectacularly. Economic advantages attributed to the conglomerate include protection against overspecialization, availability of management expertise, and reduced costs, but they have also been criticized as organizationally inefficient and for wasting capital in acquisition instead of production. The rise of the conglomerate in the 20th cent. has been attributed to restrictions imposed by antitrust laws: As businesses were constrained within their own industry, they instead expanded into different markets. This trend greatly intensified during the 1980s and 1990s (see merger); a notable exception was ITT, which split up (1995) its companies to strengthen operations. The mid-2000s again saw the breakup of a number of conglomerates, most notably Cendant and Viacom, when shareholders seemed to favor more focused companies over larger companies with disparate businesses, but other conglomerates, such as Berkshire Hathaway, continued to thrive and grow.


, in geology
conglomerate, in geology, sedimentary rock composed largely of pebbles or other rounded particles whose diameter is larger than 2 mm (.08 in.). Essentially a cemented gravel, conglomerates are formed along beaches, as glacial drift, and in river deposits. Conglomerates formed of angular shaped pebbles are called breccias.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a form of monopolistic association that arose in the 1960’s primarily in the United States. The “functional conglomerate mergers” have been more common in Western Europe (uniting companies that use related production processes), whereas in the United States the prevalent form has been “investment conglomerate mergers” (uniting companies without a production relationship). Conglomerate mergers (that is, mergers of companies in different sectors) constituted 80.4 percent of the intercompany mergers in the United States in 1965–69, whereas in Great Britain in 1968 the figure was 45 percent, in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1967–69 it was 43 percent, and in the Netherlands between 1958 and 1970 it was 26 percent. These figures include both functional and investment conglomerate mergers.

The investment mergers are the ones that lead to the appearance of the conglomerate proper. The conglomerate has a number of distinguishing features that, taken together, characterize this type of monopoly:

(1) The conglomerate unites a broad range of companies that are unrelated in terms of production or function.

(2) Conglomerates typically have a high level of management decentralization. The divisions of the conglomerate enjoy broader autonomy than the divisions of diversified companies with a traditional structure (the conglomerate usually keeps a small staff in a main office). The system for planning and monitoring acquires paramount importance as the means of conglomerate management.

(3) Especially during an economic upsurge, the capital of the conglomerate grows swiftly as a result of mergers, and it is generally directed to capturing control of existing companies, not to building new production capacities. Thus, in 1966 the Gulf and Western Company was in 247th place in the overall list of the largest US industrial corporations, but by 1967 it had advanced to 135th place, and in 1968 it was 69th. When the cycle in the US shifted toward overproduction in 1969, the rate of new conglomerate acquisitions dropped sharply.

(4) The unification under one name of companies in various spheres of economic activity takes place with the participation or involvement of a large bank. Not striving for intracompany technological integration, the companies belonging to the conglomerate strengthen their “empires” through financial and administrative control.

(5) Conglomerates are possible only under conditions of state-monopoly capitalism and the scientific and technological revolution. These developments turned diversification of capital and production into a primary means of putting excess savings to work and into a crucial form of the competitive struggle. This form decreases the risk of losses owing to market conditions or to structural and cyclical fluctuations. Searching for new spheres in which to apply their capital, conglomerates concentrate primarily on the most profitable new sectors (the sectors with sophisticated technology), which are developing rapidly in close conjunction with militarization of the economy. Military orders constitute a significant share of conglomerate turnover and give the conglomerates guaranteed markets for that part of their output that is most highly involved with scientific and technological progress. Finally, only with the development of cybernetics and the use of computers has it become possible at all for conglomerates to manage different enterprises in a more or less rational manner.

(6) Speculative transactions in the stock market are reflected to a high degree in shaping conglomerate structures. Specifically, one of the stimuli to the formation of conglomerates in the USA was a desire to raise the price of the stocks of companies belonging to them, which leads to an increase in their fictional capital. Conglomerates use their own stock to pay for companies they absorb, thus diluting their own stock capital.

During the 1960’s the conglomerates expanded their operations at a very high rate (more than 50 percent a year). The rapid growth in their assets was accompanied by an equally rapid growth in distributed profits, and their stocks were quoted higher than the stocks of conventional corporations. However, the increase in profits through buying more new companies on credit while paying back old indebtedness was only possible with the economic upsurge and the growth in the securities market. When the economic crisis set in, with deepening inflation and narrowing markets for loan capital, the high level of indebtedness made the conglomerates extremely vulnerable in a financial sense. In early 1971 the price of conglomerate stocks was 10–20 percent lower than the level of early 1968. In these three years the stocks of the conglomerates fell more than the stocks of conventional companies.

Conglomerates are often formed merely out of particular market conditions or speculative considerations, without any consideration of real needs or the logic of economic development. The bloating of fictional capital that accompanies the formation and development of conglomerates increases the instability inherent in capitalism and testifies to the further intensification of the parasitic nature of the capitalist method of production and the exacerbation of all the contradictions of imperialism.


Lutskaia, E. “Konglomeraty kak novyi tip monopolisticheskikh ob”edinenii.” Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1971, no. 6.
Belous, T. Ia. Mezhdunarodnye promyshlennye monopolii. Moscow, 1972.
Narver, J. C. Conglomerate Mergers and Market Competition. Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1967.
Conglomerate Commotion. New York, 1970.
Tammer, H. Imperialismus in Fieber der Machtkonzentrazion. Berlin, 1970.




(geology), sedimentary rock consisting of cemented pebble with an admixture of sand, gravel, and boulders. The cement is usually iron oxides, carbonates, and clayey materials, and more rarely silicic acid. Conglomerates may be composed of rocks that differ in composition (polygenetic conglomerate) or of pebbles of one type of rock (monogenetic conglomerate). A distinction is made among marine, alluvial, proluvial, and lake conglomerates depending on the method of accumulation of the clastic material. The presence of conglomerate strata and beds in the geological section indicates intensified erosion by water of the more ancient beds and proximity to land or elevations. Conglomerates that occur at the base of large sedimentary complexes that accumulated after the period when vast areas of the earth’s crust were eroded are called basal conglomerates. Conglomerates are widespread in strata of differing ages, particularly in mountain regions and areas adjacent to them. They sometimes contain placer deposits of gold, platinum, and other minerals (usually in the cement).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Cemented, rounded fragments of water-worn rock or pebbles, bound by a siliceous or argillaceous substance.
(organic chemistry)
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Rock consisting of rounded pebbles which are cemented together with a finer material.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any coarse-grained sedimentary rock consisting of rounded fragments of rock embedded in a finer matrix
2. a large corporation consisting of a group of companies dealing in widely diversified goods, services, etc.
3. (of sedimentary rocks) consisting of rounded fragments within a finer matrix
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005