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In an acquisition, an additional payment made to the acquired company's former owner(s) in the event that certain earnings are met. For example, a company may acquire another for $75 million, with an additional $10 million in cash and/or stock if the acquired company's earnings outperform expectations by a certain percentage. Earn-outs are based on the acquired company's potential future earnings.
A contingency component of an acquisition agreement in which the acquiring company agrees to additional payments in the event certain performance-based goals are achieved. For example, Sylvan Learning Systems in 1995 acquired Drake Prometric for $20 million in cash plus 5.9 million restricted Sylvan common shares. The deal included an additional 2.7 million Sylvan shares to be released to the sellers in the event stipulated revenue goals were met through 1998.