Determining whether it is a good time to sell your business is one of the most challenging decisions a business owner has to make. There are innumerable factors that affect this decision and it’s important to not get overwhelmed. A few things to take into account are financial situation, the company’s future/outlook, the opportunity cost of time, and the type of deal structure being pursued.READ MORE >>
For the last several years, the saying has been “There’s never been a better time to sell.” Multiples have been high. Buyers have been plentiful. Debt has been cheap. Optimism has run strong. The truth is, it is undeniably still a great time to sell; it’s never been better. But …
It takes time to sell and for the first time since emerging from the Great Recession, certainty about whether or not the later part of the new year will be a good time to sell- the best ever – is down. Anyone who says they can predict these markets is a fool. But the probability of a turn is certainly high and increasing as we begin this year.
The good news is that the signs indicate not an immediate downturn but rather one that can still be beaten to the finish line. Selling a business should take six months to a year. Thus anyone moving out now on a process should be able to take advantage of these good times – if they get started fast and, more than ever, move diligently and place a higher emphasis on certainty of close when selecting their winning bidder.
The change in the tea leaves really began in November and accelerated throughout December. Some of the key indicators include:
- In a December Duke University poll, almost half of responding U.S. CFO’s stated that they believed a recession was likely to occur in 2019. Even more compelling, more than 80% of those CFO’s felt recession would strike by the end of 2020.Right or wrong; the respondents to this poll are the key influencers of the amount of M&A activity generated by strategic buyers – and those most responsible for bad deals. If the economy does sour, or they simply believeit is going to sour, they will not be sticking their necks out for adventuresome acquisitions at record multiples.
- The public markets provide several signs. The first is the relative comparison of the large caps, to the midcaps, and then to the small caps. The M&A market for privately-held companies can essentially be seen as a microcap extension of the public markets. While we all know the public markets did not do well last year, what most have not commented upon is that in the last four months of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal, (2) large caps were down 5.5%, midcaps were down 8.6% and small caps are down 16.4% going into the last trading week of the year.We’ve not yet seen the extension of this extrapolated line into the private markets but one must wonder how long the trickle-down effect will take. Smaller companies tend to do well at the beginning of an upturn and larger cap companies do better at the end.
- Debt is becoming a more attractive alternative for investors. This will be problematic to the sellers of businesses for various reasons. Most obviously, M&A buyers are large consumers of debt. They use it to buy companies. If they must pay more for their debt, they have less money left in their accounts to offer sellers. Less obviously but probably more significantly, the historically abysmal returns debt has offered for much of the last decade have led many typical debt investors, including insurance companies and pension funds, to provide equity to private equity funds. Flush with this extra cash, PE funds have been on a buying spree which is commonly stated to be the driving force behind today’s frothy valuations. As those investors shift back to the more normalized bond markets, private equity will have less energy and vigor for aggressive bidding.
- The financial press seems to be of the mind that the artificial boost to strategic buyers provided by the recent tax cuts has run its course. Is this a fair assessment or simply “Trump-bashing”? We have no idea but we all know that in the markets, sentiment is often more important than reality. Perhaps the fact that 2018 saw increasingly attractive results for sellers was a result of those tax cuts carrying the bull market on around for one last lap. Again, we are not talking certainties here, just indications and probabilities.
- The strong dollar has dampened the ability of foreign buyers to compete in the US markets.With yet another class of buyers lowering their activity levels, it may not be long before the laws of supply and demand kick in and the equilibrium point on the old supply and demand curves shifts down and to the left.
- China has largely gone home. As 2018 proceeded, the Chinese government tightened its grip on the export of capital. In the last half of 2018, the US government began to make Chinese investors feel unwelcome as well. Numerous high-profile deals were killed in a very visible fashion as a result of regulatory interference on both sides of the Pacific. These included, most notably, the purchase of Recurrent Energy Developments operations by Shenzhen Energy in August and then Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm. According to CNN Money, Chinese investment in the US fell by 92% between the first half of 2018 and the first half of 2017 – 92% - and has been declining steadily since the second half of 2016.Add to this the late 2018 US-China financial cold war and China’s slowly increasing realization that it has been splurging on debt that is now coming due and proving hard to pay down, and the spigot is now approaching the closed position.
- Forecasted growth of companies in the US public markets has taken a definite downturn. The S&P 500 saw collective growth of 7.3% in sales and 8.2% in profit year-over-year in the third quarter. The Wall Street Journal has been consistently predicting over the last three months that those same figures in a year will have fallen to 5.4% and 4.1% respectively.While the private markets are not the public markets, both are selling that intangible asset known as future cash flows and if buyers feel the big companies can’t continue to deliver outsized returns, they are likely to share at least some of that sentiment when it comes to the private markets.
- Divided government might bring an end to the pro-business approach demonstrated over the last two years. The people that matter state that decreased regulation, lower taxes, and a more tolerant enforcement environment have benefited their businesses and increased the prices they are willing to pay for companies. But a period of more compromise is now inevitable and the uncertainty of the 2020 elections will likely only grow and bring with it a sense of increased risk that will affect valuations.
- All good things must come to an end. We have enjoyed a ten-year bull market in M&A, both private and public. That qualifies as “long in the tooth” to be as polite as possible. It seems that 4% GDP growth is not sustainable. Unemployment can’t go any lower. Further tax decreases seem unlikely. The federal deficit and debt are growing. Interest rates are not likely to drop. Confidence and sentiment could not be higher than they were three months ago and are in fact a bit lower now than they were then.
The good news is that we’ve seen absolutely no indication that the market for private companies has yet been affected by these indications. Furthermore, changes in valuation, whether favorable or unfavorable, have not historically occurred rapidly. If there is to be a drop in multiples, it will be perhaps not gradual but at least measured. That said, the probability we now face is that we are more likely than before to look back from a spot twelve months in the future and say “I remember when it, was the best time to sell.”
Over 88% of business owners think their business will stay in the family. In fact, only about 30% of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, 12% are still viable into the third generation, and only about 3% of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation or beyond. As baby boomers are heading for retirement, who is going to take over the businesses the boomers are looking to sell?
Today’s business owners are faced with multiple factors when deciding the right time to sell. The perfect time can be tricky to predict as several economic considerations need to be weighed. The majority of business owners begin this thought process when nearing retirement age, but is this too late? The most important considerations are current economic statistics, market conditions, and industry trends. These are good predictors of a sellers’ market and shows the types of buyers and private equity companies ready to invest. Buyers are looking for businesses in the growth and maturity stages of their business life cycles. During these stages, operational bottlenecks are becoming managed and demand, profits and lasting customer relationships have been built. Business owners sometimes have the tendency to postpone selling until operations and profits begin to decline. This is a costly mistake for any business owner wanting to maximize their company’s value.
Sellers should strive to put aside personal feelings anchoring their decision-making process when considering their exit strategy. When considering selling, business owners should focus their attention on asking is my business in a financial incline, is my staff in place able to succeed without me, do I have a diversified client structure, and are my capital expenditures under control?Business owners need to consider these objectives now and determine if a sale is the right decision. Economic environments quickly change and in order to achieve a premium sales price, a favorable market is the key. Currently, multiples are at a historic high with limited quality businesses available for sale. Baby boomers are holding on to their businesses and aren’t willing to sell until they have to.
This can be a hard-personal decision to make for owners who have built their companies from infancy. Owners are conflicted with their decision, asking did I do the right thing, did I maximize my company’s value, will my employees be taken care of, and what is next in my life.Before considering the sale of your business, define both the internal and external factors and remove any hidden traps that cloud your decision-making process and can result in missed opportunities. By having a written exit plan, an experienced team of advisors, and patience, business owners will realize the full value of their life’s work.
Here at Benchmark International, we understand the emotional and physical stress that accompanies the decision to sell. Our experienced advisors assist by providing an outside perspective to business owners and by identifying suitable conditions in the M&A sector. Our responsibility is to ensure our clients are presented with all the facts and strategies to move forward. Benchmark International values close relationships and ensures that our clients are fully prepared to make the right decision when the day comes.
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When the mention of selling your business comes up, you might feel a little uneasy about starting the discussion. Your business is your baby, and the thought of letting go can be overwhelming. The truth is; however, failing to plan is a plan to fail when it comes to your business exit strategy. You need to have an exit strategy in place for your business. Everyone thinks of their future, but they don’t always take active steps in the present to prepare for what they want tomorrow. There are many reasons why you should discuss when and how to exit your business. Here are eleven reasons to have the exit conversation now:
1) Anything can happen at any time – This is so true. We cannot anticipate what will happen unexpectedly. For this reason, you need to have an emergency exit plan in place. What will you do if you have something happen that requires you to step down from your business quickly?
2) Family obligations are taking more time from the business – Business owners run businesses and have families all the time, but depending on the size of your business and the size of your family, you may need to spend more time away from the business. If you don’t have a team in place that can run the business without you for a few days, exiting might be your best bet.
If obligations, such as an ill family member, or a lot of educational or extracurricular commitments for your children are taking from your time, you could experience a negative shift in the dynamic of your business. A strategic partner can help you free up some time for your family while still allowing you to take an active part in your business’s growth. This type of partnership doesn’t require an immediate exit from your business and allows you to discuss an end-goal for this exit strategy with the partner you join.
3) Personal health issues are pulling you away from the business – When your personal health is in decline, it can be difficult to continue running the business. A business owner doesn’t need the undue stress caused by juggling an illness and the company.
Furthermore, if you find your health declining, or the health of a close loved-one, your priorities might change. Your view on where your time needs to be spent might be more focused on your personal relationships versus constantly working on growing your business.
Again, spending your time away from the business will have a direct negative effect on your revenue and daily operations. This makes the goal of achieving maximum value more challenging. Therefore, having an exit plan is essential.
4) You don’t have anyone in place to take over the business – You’re a great leader, and you run your business like a well-oiled machine. However, what happens when you’re gone? You need to have a plan in place. If you find your children aren’t interested in taking over, or if you don’t have any children, or if you don’t have a manager in place to take over, you need to know what you will do when it’s time to leave your business behind.READ MORE >>
Benchmark International is delighted to announce the acquisition of Builder Security Group is complete. Benchmark International, as the sell-side representative, was able to bring an ideal buyer to the table to close this sale.
The closing of the Builder Security Group acquisition marks the tenth US deal completion for Benchmark International in 2018. Benchmark International's Global CEO, Gregory Jackson, stated "This record-setting quarter looks to end on a high note, and quarter two is moving with great momentum as well."
Builder Security Group is a security installation and monitoring company located in San Antonio and Austin, Texas. It is an all-in-one resource for all finishing touches that go along with a new home, from security products and monitoring to home theater systems and networking. Its experience and reputation, along with the vast selection of products and services it offers, has helped Builder Security Group form a reputation in San Antonio and the surrounding areas as a premiere outlet for homeowner and homebuilder needs.
Builder Security Group was acquired by a buyer seeking to spread its national footprint, specifically its expansion in to the state of Texas. Builder Security Group will continue its business in security products and monitoring.READ MORE >>
Know Why You Want to Sell
What do you plan to do after you sell your business? It’s important to know your purpose for selling, so you can appropriately plan what you want to do after the sale. Are you planning on a total exit, or do you want to stick with the business for a while? There are a few options at your disposal when deciding your reasons for exiting your company. If you are wanting to take a step back, but still want to have some involvement, you can keep a small percentage of the company and transition into a new role with lighter responsibilities after the sale.READ MORE >>
Earlier this week, projections for increases in the Federal Funds Rate increased from three 25 basis point increases in 2018 and one in 2019 to four and two respectively. As a “basis” point is 1/100th of a percent and a “25 basis point increase” is an increase of 1/4 of one percent, this means that rater than increasing by 0.75% in 2018, experts now expect a 1.00% increase for the year and a 0.50% increase as opposed to 0.25% increase next year.
This happened because (a) the recent tax cut is expected to boost GDP by an extra 0.3%, (b) the even more recent government spending bill, which is modestly termed “generous”, is also expected to add 0.3% to GDP, and (c) the regulatory roll-back that has occurred over the last 12 months is expected to add another 0.3% to 0.6% to GDP.READ MORE >>
There is still the chance for you to capitalise on the extremely low 10% capital gains tax rates which are on offer via Entrepreneurs’ Relief, whenever you fully or partially sell your company.READ MORE >>