Conglomerate is a terrigenous clastic sedimentary rock, which means the rock itself is made up of broken pieces of other rocks, cemented together in a matrix of fine grained materials. The particles found in conglomerate are large, ranging from 2mm to boulder sized. Some of the larger formations of conglomerate have had pieces measuring around the size of buses.

The particles in conglomerate are rounded, lacking sharp or angular edges, which are found in the sedimentary rock breccia. The roundness comes from the method in which the particles were deposited. Conglomerate is usually formed in highly active stream beds which are subject to violent flooding. The continuous rushing water rounds the edges of the pieces, which are then cemented together.

Though the most common source rock for conglomerate is granite, the particles can come from any rock that is mechanically weathered. Because a sedimentary rock can be recycled, and become another sedimentary rock, it is possible to have what is called a conglomerate of conglomerate, which is conglomerate that has been broken in to pieces, and then cemented together with other pieces of conglomerate, forming a new sedimentary rock.

A conglomerate is also a classification of a corporation, designating a corporation that has many business activities. This means that rather being focused on one line of business (Eg sewage processing), it has activities either in one sector (say, utilities), or many different areas (The prime example of this is General Electric).

Conglomerates were very fashionable in the eighties, largely because people believed in asset stripping and efficient markets. Asset stripping made small corporations targets, while large corporations were too expensive to buy up and dismantle. Conglomerates often tended to result from corporations buying up part of the operations of these corporate victims.

These days, attitudes are more mixed; in fact, where every finance house worth the name used to have a Conglomerates Analyst, these days some of the receptionists/switchboard operators won't even have heard of a conglomerate (Source: The Financial Times). For instance, Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV these days trades at a price that some analysts consider a small discount; these same analysts feel that it is an unfocused conglomerate. To an extent this is true: it has to weigh the needs of all of its businesses when channelling funds.

Philips also exemplifies the other side of the argument for conglomerates. As I write this, Philips has lost money for the last 6 quarters. If everything goes tits-up it can survive by selling its unprofitable businesses to rivals, and keeping the profitable ones. In the meantime, these businesses survive the rough times (Yeah, I know that almost anyone old enough to contribute to e2 can remember at least one fairly harsh recession, but it's relatively tough at the minute), where separately they might fail.

The final argument in favour of conglomerates is that they can receive economies of scale. In practice, this doesn't really happen, as the businesses are separate business entities. An example is the fact that Philips' consumer electronics division has only just started using Philips Semiconductors' components in their TVs.

In summary corporations are like ships: Big ones are harder to steer, but also harder to stop.

Con*glom"er*ate (?), a. [L. conglomeratus, p.p. of conglomerare to roll together; con- + glomerare to wind into a ball. See Glomerate.]


Gathered into a ball or a mass; collected together; concentrated; as, conglomerate rays of light.

Beams of light when they are multiplied and conglomerate. Bacon.

Fluids are separated in the liver and the other conglobate and conglomerate glands. Cheyne.

2. Bot.

Closely crowded together; densly clustered; as, conglomerate flowers.


3. Geol.

Composed of stones, pebbles, or fragments of rocks, cemented together.


© Webster 1913.

Con*glom"er*ate (?), n.


That which is heaped together in a mass or conpacted from various sources; a mass formed of fragments; collection; accumulation.

A conglomerate of marvelous anecdotes, marvelously heaped together. Trench.

2. Geol.

A rock, composed or rounded fragments of stone cemented together by another mineral substance, either calcareous, siliceous, or argillaceous; pudding stone; -- opposed to agglomerate. See Breccia.

A conglomerate, therefore, is simply gravel bound together by a cement. Lyell.


© Webster 1913.

Con*glom"er*ate (?), v. t. [imp. & p.p. Conglomerated; & vb.n. Conglomerating.]

To gather into a ball or round body; to collect into a mass.


© Webster 1913.

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