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September 2010
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November 2010


Advertcrop Have you ever wondered what power you might chose if you were a Superhero.    

This is the theme of PEM's latest ad campaign as seen on a bill board right outside Cambridge Station.      

A bit corny perhaps - but I can think of quite a few examples of companies which have grown from little acorns to large concerns under the watchful eye of some of my colleagues.  

In some cases we have gone  on to sell or do other M&A transactions with these businesses.     

If you'd like some help in chosing your own superpower this test might help.

Bright spots in a flat M&A Market?

M&A activity is at historically low levels. Thomson Reuters reports worldwide M&A value only slightly above that of 2004 during the recovery from the dot-com implosion. At a UK level Corpfin observed August 2010 volumes 20% below the previous month, and 20% down on August 2009. The fall is greater locally - East Anglia Q3 deal volume was down more than 50% over Q2 and nearly 50% down from Q3 2009. The local trend has been a down turn since Q2 of 2008, with a small rise at the beginning of 2010.


A financial storm of unprecedented magnitude has changed the landscape and toughed up the corporate survivors. But there are signs of opportunities amongst the wreckage. Many businesses have stress-tested their business model and they’ve survived or prospered, creating an opportune time to sell or expand by acquisition. To survive the crisis, companies rapidly reduced stockholdings and cut deep. This didn’t work for all. Some companies failed. Now with competitors removed the survivors enjoy a stronger competitive position. Moreover, buyers with access to cash face a possibly generational opportunity to make strategic acquisitions. There are plenty of targets out there who have reason to sell. Business owners often exit for personal and practical reasons other than maximising value - retirement, health, succession, or the need to make their business part of a large entity to fulfil its potential.


There is a huge build up of resources with which to do deals. The 1,000 biggest companies by market value worldwide have amassed $2.87 trillion in cash and equivalents based on their latest filings according to Bloomberg. Combine this with record low borrowing costs and realistically priced targets and you have a much better climate for deal making – whether you are buying or selling. So if you’ve survived the stress-testing this could be a good time to consider buying or planning your exit.


The prognosis for big business trickles down to a regional level as borne out by our recent experience at PEM Corporate Finance. We have advised on five buy-side deals this year, the MBO of Molecular Dimensions along with the MBO of a document management business, the acquisition of Cammetrics by Xennia, and two further acquisitions in manufacturing and distribution. The trend to cash funded acquisitions is illustrated by Corpfin reporting 53% of all deals to be acquisitions, 63% of which were funded by cash.


Through the recession many business owners have delayed plans for a sale of their business. But it is imperative to have a decent exit strategy and to groom the business to maximise value as the market recovers. Failure to do so will mean that a business is less attractive to potential buyers and will fetch a lower price. The same issues apply if instead of outright sale one is considering putting succession in place through a sale or partial sale in a management buyout. A decent exit strategy or succession plan will consider the personal and corporate objectives of the owner’s current business valuation; the valuation at which the owners would be prepared to sell; business prospects; what drives value in the business; potential types of buyer; how must the business look to maximise sale value; and what could get in the way of an exit or reduce future value.

We are running Business Exit Strategies Seminars to help business owners formulate exit plans and groom their companies for an eventual sale or succession transaction. This continues to be a key issue for company owners. The events are running in November in Hemel Hempstead, Northampton and Brentwood.   Call Hannah on 01223 728280 or email [email protected] if you'd like to book.

We are not gentlemen of Japan

Another plug for a musical event.   I am in the cast for CaOS Centenary production  of The Mikado, in the Cambridge Arts Theatre 15th to 20th  November.    For those who expect a traditional production - you might be disappointed.  No doubt the society did something traditional for its first production in 1910 but this time we have an "innovative" young director and a very different slant on the show.  This will be a Mikado such as you have never seen before.    Have a look at the synopsis on the theatre website.     As you can see we are not gentlemen of Japan.  


Production team this year James Hurley - Director and "Tommy" Thomas as Musical Director.

Have a look at the Cambridge Evening News review, or Local Secrets, or Agenda 


Just losing momentum or double dip?

The Ernst & Young Item club – which uses the Treasury's economic model to make its predictions  - suggests  that the private sector will struggle to absorb the hundreds of thousands of jobs shed by the public sector over the coming four years.     However Peter Spencer, chief economist for the Item club, said that it was unlikely that the loss of momentum in the economy over the next six months would lead to a full-blown double-dip recession. 

But at the same time the ICAEW Business Confidence Monitor says that "Business confidence has weakened significantly as businesses acknowledge the path to recovery contains further challenges, with a fast return to strong growth by no means guaranteed".  In fact the Monitor showed its first dip this quarter since Q1 2009. 

At PEM Corporate Finance we saw an upswing in M&A activity last year closely correlated with the upturn in the Monitor.   Let's hope the relatively modest decline in Q3 2010 doesn't pressage an erosion of confidence in the M&A Market.  After all, liquidity concerns have eased, and the mismatch between vendor and buyer price expectations has lessened significantly.