Can one plus one ever equal three? Yes it can. If you are selling your business - find a strategic buyer which will enjoy synergies from combining the businesses and which knows it is in competition to buy and you can maximise value and share in the marriage value.
What are the chances of pulling this off in the current climate? Most recent surveys of corporate opinion show that firms are far more likely to engage in M&A activity over the coming year. E&Y found 57% were more likely to make an acquisition while within BDO’s rather more “gung-ho” sample 80% felt the same. Regardless of numbers it’s quite clear that there is a much greater appetite for deals this year.
Deals will be concluded by strong businesses with clear strategic intent, although some of those surveyed did admit to opportunism as a motivator and to being on the look out for bargains. The biggest hurdle is likely to be discrepancies between buyer and seller valuation expectations – however as the market improves, and the volume of transactions increases, this is likely to even out.
There is evidence that strategic acquirers who have been deferring M&A activity while profitability recovers are now sitting on their largest cash reserves in recent years. Add to this Private Equity investors who also have cash to burn before the time expiry of funds with a finite end date and you have a much better prognosis for those seeking to sell their business than for many months. The return of strategic buyers and increased competition should drive an increase in activity and valuations.
The ability of purchasers to fund deals from their own cash resources is still a key factor – for example Corpfin found that the majority of UK deals in April 2010 were funded by buyers existing cash resources. However they also found that the second largest source of funding for such deals was bank debt. So liquidity is once again available for the right deals.
Owner managers who have been planning an exit but have had to put their plans on hold during the financial crisis can now start planning for exit. Now is the time to consider grooming the business for sale in the short or medium term. Now is the time to give consideration to the preparation of an exit strategy – which should cover the following issues:
· What are the personal or corporate objectives of the owners?
· What’s the business worth now?
· At what valuation would the owners be prepared to sell?
· What are the prospects for the business?
· What drives value in the business?
· What will a likely potential buyer for the business look like?
· How must the business look to maximise sale value in the future?
· What could get in the way of an exit or reduce future value?
At PEM Corporate Finance we have seen a marked increase in the number of enquiries from businesses planning for exit. And there is also plenty of appetite from local businesses to make acquisitions – we have recently advised the purchaser in transactions such as the purchase of ISIS Fertility by Bourn Hall Clinic, the acquisition of Elmy Landscapes by Flora-tec and the MBO from Stratech Scientific of Molecular Dimensions.
If you are exit planning it’s worth getting an outside opinion on the valuation of the business, and on opportunities to groom it in order to increase exit value. Grooming is aimed at closing the gap between the current value of the business and the target exit valuation. It should avoid the risk of a sale at undervalue.