There are still deals to be done even in "difficult" sectors

Its often said that the reason lots of deals are still happening in uncertain times is down to the liquidity in the system, and those companies being in good sectors. Conversely if asked many investors and advisors will tell you the retail and construction are "difficult". So it's heartening to report that there's always cream at the top of the milk bottle and that deals are still to be done in "difficult" sectors provided you're working with really good businesses.

Specifically I'm pleased to look back on two recent deals we've completed over the summer at PEM Corporate Finance, the sale of English Architectural Glazing and the sale of ATP Architects + Surveyors.

We acted as lead advisers to the shareholders of English Architectural Glazing.  Based in Mildenhall in Suffolk and Attleborough in Norfolk, this is one of the UK's leading contracting businesses providing envelope cladding packages for project such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, Wimbledon Centre Court, DLR Station City Airport and the BBC TV Centre conversion. Their clients include the great and the good of UK construction such as Kier, BAM and Skanska. The business was sold to Irish Private Equity Fund Elaghmore LLP. This deal closed in August.

A couple of months later we were pleased to announce the sale of ATP Architects + Surveyors to RSK. ATP, which is based in Ilford in Greater London,  is a multi-disciplinary professional consulting firm, and its purchase was RSK's 7th deal so far this year. ATK, which was established in 1966 provides the complementary services of landscape design, interior design, space planning, employers’ agent, and health and safety. It works with a broad range of clients such as Barratt London, Sanctuary Housing Association and Hollybrook Homes.

We've not done anything in retail recently - but are always keen to speak with good businesses and to help shape their exit plans.

More on our website  about the EAG and ATP transactions.

 

 


More Potential Buyers than Willing Sellers - M&A Activity set to increase in 2010

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. 

One plus one equals three 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.