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Valuing Companies – 7 Pointers From 30 Years’ Experience in the UK

Nick Hulme (Managing Director, Manchester UK) summarises his recent article, ‘7 Pointers from 30 Years’ Experience in the UK’, in this short blog.

1 - It’s Not Just About the Numbers!
Although the normal formula for valuing a company involves multiplying ‘earnings’ by a chosen ‘multiple’, a company is only worth what a buyer is prepared to pay for it.


The numbers are important, of course, but there may be more to the opportunity than the numbers show. Advisers need to take a ‘bird’s eye view’ and focus on those factors that will drive the highest value with the right buyer, not just on the numbers.


They should constantly focus their conversations and analyses on the opportunity, despite the maze of numbers that fly around.

2 – ‘Multiples’ are a Minefield
Desktop research, comparisons to quoted P/E ratios and the considered views of trusted advisers can create a myriad of distortions as to what might be the correct multiple for a company.


It’s easy to see how factors such as growth, a great management team, high margins and, nowadays, tech-enablement will not only deliver the best multiples but add to that the impact of both competitive tension and structure. Any first-time seller could quickly have their heading spinning.


Benchmark International’s Valuation Matrix is a great tool for showing clients a range of valuation scenarios based on different multiples and views of earnings. This is used to educate clients from the start, and to hand-hold them to making the right decisions when the time comes. It is normally updated throughout the process.

3 – There’s More to Earnings than Reported Profits
Getting a real understanding of underlying earnings will be far more important to any buyer than what’s recorded in the company’s annual accounts.


The term we use in the UK for a fair assessment of sustainable adjusted earnings is ‘Maintainable Earnings’. This will often take account of the adjustment of shareholder salaries to market rates and the elimination of true one-off costs.


Care needs to be taken when adding back depreciation. If there is a significant cash cost to a business of replacing its assets annually, a buyer will factor this cost into its assessment of maintainable earnings if adding-back depreciation.


The terms ‘Adjusted EBITDA’ (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and ‘Historical EBITDA’ are often used interchangeably with Maintainable Earnings. I much prefer the latter as it’s a better reflection of the numbers and the story behind them, and is not laden with reference to the past.  


4 – You Can’t Add the Value of Company Assets to the Valuation
If assets are truly ‘surplus’ to the company’s operations then perhaps they can be added to the valuation, but if they are fundamental to the company’s ability to generate its earnings, adding them to the valuation would be double counting. As would be attaching a value to ‘goodwill’. Buyers tend not to be too fond of this!


The most common ‘surplus asset’ we deal with in the UK is what we refer to as ‘free cash’, the opposite of which is debt. It’s much easier for clients to understand why ‘free cash’ can be added to the valuation than it is for them to understand why ‘debt’ needs to be deducted. There are a couple of easy ways to explain to clients in the article itself.

5 – Complex Deal Structures Can Cloud Valuations
A buyer can make what looks to be a great offer but understanding how the deal is structured - when and how the money is paid – makes all the difference.


The most common types of ‘structure’ in the UK are vendor loan (or defcon, where some of the consideration is paid over time), earn-out (where future payments are made depending on performance) and retained shareholdings (where the seller might keep a stake in the company or in its new owner).


‘Structure’ is generally used to bridge the gap between seller and buyer views of valuation and a buyer’s ability to fund a deal. It’s rare to see offers for companies that don’t include at least some element of structure, so issues such as buyer credit status, interest and security are key.

6 - Beware Valuations Based on Net Asset Value (NAV)
On rare occasions, particularly with companies where expensive assets are fundamental to their operations, the value of the company’s ‘net assets’ in the accounts is higher than a fair valuation derived using the normal formula. This can create an illusion of higher valuation for some clients, especially when some experts produce articles listing three, four or more ways of valuing a company.


This does not mean sellers can find the valuation basis that gives the highest valuation and expect to be able to market their company on that basis. Whatever the size of a company’s overall net assets value, its market value will almost always be more closely linked to earnings and cash flow than the size of its balance sheet. That’s not to say we don’t do deals based on net asset valuations plus ‘something for goodwill’, but they are rare.

7 – Clients Often Know Enough Already
Sellers will normally know enough about their own company to make an informed assessment of how their company might be valued in their market, so advisers should hone-in on these instincts.

Any questions, please read the full article here.

 

Author
Nick Hulme
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 161 359 4400
E: Hulme@benchmarkintl.com

 

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2020 Outlook For The Global Agriculture Sector

Geopolitical Factors

Mergers and acquisitions activity in the agriculture sector was bustling with billion-dollar deals in the years of 2017 and 2018. An M&A slowdown occurred in 2019 and spilled into 2020, largely due to uncertainty caused by global politics.

The trade war between the world’s two largest economies, the United States and China, has lowered confidence and caused global repercussions. This dispute is slowly moving in a more positive direction, as the two nations reached a “phase one” deal in January of this year. Under this deal, China pledged to boost U.S. imports of agricultural products and manufactured goods by $200 billion over the next two years, and the U.S. agreed to cut in half some of the tariffs it had imposed on China. A "phase two" deal has been mentioned but timing and expectations remain unclear. Industry experts do anticipate large U.S. farms to experience 9.3 percent growth and income over 2019. 

Brexit is another factor that is impacting the agriculture sector under implications of a trade deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared a goal to finalize a deal by the end of 2020. E.U. negotiators suggest that it is not enough time to secure the kind of complete deal needed.

Ag-Tech Opportunities

Even with the uncertainties that remain in 2020, there are significant opportunities for disruption and transformation within the agriculture sector. These opportunities are being driven by a shift towards a more high-tech industry that is expected to bolster agricultural capital investment.

  • Farmers are increasingly using apps to regularly monitor crops.
  • More localized weather data is helping farmers to better prepare for planting and harvesting times.
  • Social media is allowing farmers to better communicate directly with their customers, as studies show that 40 percent of all farmers are on Facebook.
  • A special material called graphene is being used to gather data regarding field and soil conditions to help plants survive better.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Automated agricultural equipment is also playing a major role in the global market amid a shortage of young, new farmers. New agricultural robots are being developed across all aspects of agriculture, such as imaging, navigation, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Drones are being used for deliveries, spraying, and crop and livestock imaging. Robotic harvesting equipment is being implemented for labor-intensive harvesting tasks. Large farms are collaborating with the companies developing these technologies to lower costs and maintain a competitive advantage. And as global demand for agricultural products grows (projected at 15 percent over the next decade), robotic automation is a key facilitator in meeting the demand. The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are all adopting various agricultural robots, giving North America the highest share of the robotic farming market.

Hemp Farming

More farmers are now growing and selling forms of hemp and hemp-derived CBD as part of their overall crop. Last year, hemp businesses that had vertically integrated their supply chains performed better than those that had not vertically integrated. In 2020, it is expected that small farmers, processors and entrepreneurs will exit the industry or seek out opportunities for consolidation and integration.

Growing Conditions

2019 saw adverse growing and harvesting conditions that resulted in a smaller supply of crops such as grains and oilseeds. There is hope that these conditions will improve in 2020.

In the U.S. alone:

  • Crop yields are expected to grow.
  • The majority of the 20 million acres that were unplanted last year will likely be planted this year, primarily corn and soybeans.
  • The USDA puts the 2020 soybean crop at 84 million acres, making it the fourth-largest soybean crop on record.
  • The production of red meat and poultry is projected to rise by more than two percent.
  • Milk production will reach a record-high 222 billion pounds and pricing is expected to continue to improve.
  • Overall livestock, poultry, and dairy exports are forecasted to reach $31.9 billion, $500 million higher than previously projected.

As long as the weather cooperates and growing conditions face fewer extremes, the world should also see similar improvements in agricultural output.

Ready to Make a Move?

We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how our M&A advisors can expertly help you grow your business, maximize its sale value, or craft your exit strategy.

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One Certainty about this Virus – Your Taxes Will Go Up

There remain innumerable uncertainties about the spreading pandemic. However, one thing became clear over the last five days – governments are opening their coffers to stem the economic dislocations caused by the many forms of “social distancing.” With air travel curtailed, stores closing, and events cancelled, central banks and executive branches are swinging into action by lowering interest rates, creating tax moratoriums, and spending whatever it takes. When we come out on the other side of this, whether that be in several weeks or months, government coffers will be empty and longer-term healing governments will feel obliged to fund and that will continue to stress public budgets.

The only answer to that stress will be higher taxes. Fortunately, unlike the measures we are seeing now, tax increases will require legislative action and legislatures don’t move all that fast. As a result, there will be a window when business is back to normal and taxes will remain at their current historically low levels around the globe. Will this be for weeks? Months? Certainly less than a year.

So for business owners looking to sell, there may very well be a slight window of opportunity. If things deteriorate further in the near term, buyers will begin shutting down their processes and will be sitting on idle cash when we emerge. They may well be nicely poised to run through a record number of deals between the medical recovery and the tax hikes.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

There are pieces of the company sale process that are best handled with some air travel and face-to-face meetings, but the initial stages are not those. If you were already thinking about starting the process before this all began, you may want to consider starting now and being ready for this window of opportunity. It often takes a year to sell a business, and the first three to six months of that process can easily be performed remotely.

In fact, at Benchmark International, we’ve been handling the “deal preparation” phase of or engaged remotely for years. Between online data rooms, email, video conferencing, and other collaborative tools including Benchmark International’s newly-launched SISU deal suite software, we have been and remain ready to take our sell-side clients from engagement to signing letters of intent without any need for clients, buyers, or our employees to meet face-to-face.

 

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkintl.com

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How Long Should The Seller Stay On After The Sale

When an individual buys a business, it may be assumed that the buyer will be taking over the leadership of that company. In these cases, we most often see the seller stay on for no more than six months, and also in a part-time capacity. In the less common situation, in which the individual buyer is not coming in to run the business, we see sellers staying on for two to three years.

These time periods can involve full-time or part-time commitments. Also, they are typically graduated with the timing commitment. Most often, shifting from employment to consulting after a third or half of the total time commitment, whether that be six months or three years.

The seller should have created some expectations for the buyer at some point in the process, typically as early as when the seller provides the initial teaser to the buyer.  However, we often see our clients change their views on this matter as their going-to-market process unfolds, and we see their views shift based on the comfort level they see with a potential buyer. Therefore, any written guidance should be confirmed in discussions before preparing an offer.

The more cooperation you are expecting to receive for the seller, the more capital you should be prepared to commit in exchange for that support.  Sellers will not agree to provide employment or consulting services post-closing without compensation. In reality, for the buyer, this salary or consulting fee is actually just another deal cost. The necessary amount of money can be set aside from your pool of funds, set aside from transaction costs, or viewed as an additional portion of your purchase price (though it may not be best to characterize it as such to them since sellers may not see it that way). Remember that everyone values their time and wants to be compensated for it.

Some key factors to think about when coming up with your request/plans in this regard include:

  • What key relationships will need to be turned over from the seller to you?
  • How involved is the seller in the day-to-day operations, based on what you've seen working up to the offer, versus what you've been told?
  • What experience do you have with running a business?
  • How much experience do you have with this industry?
  • How much assistance will the second tier of management be in those early days after the closing?
  • What kind of relationships have you been able to build with the management team leading up to the offer?(Often, the answer is: none.)
  • Is the business at a crucial junction in its growth, recovery, business cycle, or financial year?
  • When the seller is not available, who will you turn to for assistance, and how will you solve the really difficult issues that may arise?

It never hurts to have this discussion with the seller prior to preparing an offer. It is a point that the seller will have a keen interest in, and coming to the correct result will be a key factor in the success of your new business.

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkintl.com

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7 Quick Tips About Growing Your Business

1. Build the Right Team
Creating growth for your company is achieved by having certain goals, and meeting those goals starts with having the right team in place to get it done. Seek out self-starters and highly motivated people who are not afraid to pitch unique ideas or put in extra effort to make things happen. Positive attitudes are important—and contagious. When both your leadership and your staff share your goals and passion for the business, it increases your chances for growth.

2. Be Agile
You want your company to be able to adapt and change course quickly based on changes to the market. If you can extend your business model to meet current trends, you will find more opportunities for growth. The more flexible your business is, the faster you can test different approaches and ideas. Plus, you will be able to move on more quickly if something is not working.

3. Know the Data
The idea of analyzing data may sound boring, but data is knowledge and knowledge is power. Use a customer management system. Take a close look at both existing and potential customers to understand their behavior. How long does it take to convert customers? What causes them to leave? What do they love about you? What is getting their attention? What is your competition doing? The premise is quite simple: when you know what is working, you can do more of it. And you can stop wasting time and resources on what isn’t working.

4. Keep It Simple
It is proven that complexity hinders growth and performance in a business. Stay focused on what you do best and keep those processes streamlined for efficiency. If you are trying to do to many things, it makes it hard to be really good at any one thing. Coming up with ideas outside your area of expertise just to make a few extra bucks is more likely to cost you in the long run.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 


5. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Marketing
You may have the most incredible product or service, but it doesn’t matter how great it is if people do not know about it. There are many great ideas out there that fail because of a lack of proper marketing support. And some ideas are mediocre but succeed thanks to effective marketing. Many make the mistake of viewing marketing as a nonessential expense. It is worth it to enlist the help of professionals, even if only on a small scale.

6. Continue to Improve
In an ever-changing world, you have to keep up with innovation to remain relevant. Challenge yourself and your team to constantly find ways to get better at every aspect of your business. Think about how you can improve customer relationships. Consider updating technologies to be more efficient. Look at processes to see how they can be done better. It doesn’t matter what it is…if you can do it better, then do it.

7. Form a Strategic Partnership
The right strategic partnership or merger can be a major game changer for the growth of your business because it can help you reach more customers quickly. It can also help to balance weaknesses and strengths. You should look for companies that are similar to your own, but can provide you with beneficial aspects that you may be lacking. Consulting an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisory firm can help you find the right businesses for you to consider.

Let’s Talk
At Benchmark International, our experienced team of analysts is ready to help you with effective strategies to grow your business or sell it for the highest value. Even if you’re not sure about selling at this time, starting the conversation can be beneficial to you in the long run.

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Why You Should Consider Buying A Business After Retirement

I had the opportunity to meet Linda and Frank this week at a networking event. What I heard from Linda was a reoccurring theme, “Frank has been driving me crazy since he retired in October. He needs to find a job.”

As M&A professionals, we often see people who retire from a career and decide that they can only play so much golf and need something to occupy their time. Buying an existing business is often a good solution because you can control the size of the company and have a flexible schedule to still enjoy traveling, golfing, and fishing.

Many businesses start from a passion that allows the owner to monetize one of their loves. For example, a restaurant is often founded by a person that’s passionate about cooking. Given the age of retirees, it’s often hard to start a business from scratch due to the limitation of our great resource, time. However, being able to purchase an existing business will provide the retiree with a continuous income and often allows the retiree to recoup their investment somewhat quicker than a startup.

Often, people fall into their career and then babies come so people stay in a stable career that provides for their family and family’s future. Once couples are empty nesters and have saved a nest egg for retirement, they can leave their stable career and chase their passion. We see retirees purchasing companies that they have an interest in learning but never had the opportunity to explore or know-how to get started. When an established business is purchased, the seller is available to be retained for a training period or as a consultant to help the purchaser learn the ins and outs of the business, beyond the due diligence period.

We often hear ‘use it or lose it.’ Many people are concerned that if they do not use their brain during retirement that they will become less sharp then they were during their prime career days. Retirees are seeking to buy businesses to keep various skills sharp. Whether that’s business, interpersonal, or specialized skills, owning a business will allow you to continue to challenge your mind.

A business is also an investment that can provide a good return depending on your goals. Many people prefer to bet on themselves instead of the stock market. Purchasing a business during retirement might cause a retiree to receive a return on their investment and cash flow for day-to-day needs.

Owning a business in retirement often helps with legacy planning. Many times, the business is a family business and there is a plan to pass the ownership on to the next generation. If this is one of your goals, purchasing a business in retirement might be a great option.

 

Author
Kendall Stafford
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 512 347 2000
E: Stafford@BenchmarkIntl.com

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The Anatomy Of A Letter Of Intent

In the exciting and jargon filled word of mergers and acquisitions, you may often find reference being made to a letter of intent. But what exactly is a letter of intent (LOI)? Given the importance of an LOI it is crucial to answering this question, as well as other common questions we come across when dealing with LOIs.

What is an LOI?
The best way to describe an LOI is to think of it as a roadmap to a transaction. An LOI typically outlines the terms and conditions of an offer from a buyer to a seller. Expressed otherwise, an LOI is a written expression of a buyer’s intention to purchase the business of a seller and together with its terms to the seller indicates the buyer’s intention for the transaction.

What is the difference between a binding and non-binding LOI?
Unlike most contracts, the terms of an LOI are typically non-binding unless the parties agree that the whole or certain parts of an LOI are binding.

It is therefore important for sellers to remember that the terms contained in the LOI may not always be the terms that the buyer and the seller settle on (assuming, of course, the parties agree that the terms are not wholly or partially binding).

What are the common terms of an LOI?
While each LOI will be different, certain recurring themes appear. The most common ones are:

1. The parties
Although this seems obvious, it is critical that the correct parties are cited. Large corporations tend to have various subsidiaries and affiliated companies, and it is important for both parties to understand who exactly they are dealing with.

2. Structure of the transaction
This part of an LOI will describe how the transaction will be concluded. Is the transaction a purchase of the shares, a sale of assets, or a combination of both? Depending on the jurisdiction in which the transaction takes place, the structure will have to be carefully considered to ensure that parties are aware of how exactly ownership will change.

3. Consideration
The consideration is the payment that the seller will receive from the buyer. There are various ways in which to structure consideration. For example, the buyer can agree to pay a portion upfront with the remaining portion being paid subject to certain conditions being met once ownership changes.

4. Purchase price adjustments
Purchase price adjustments are used to adjust the purchase price for movements in working capital accounts (such as accounts receivable, inventory, and accounts payable) between the execution of the LOI and the transaction being finalised.

5. Conditions to closing
This part of the LOI will include the expectations and obligations of the buyer and seller, which are specific to them. For example, a buyer may need to get approval from regulatory bodies prior to concluding a transaction.

6. Confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses
Following the signature of an LOI, a buyer will typically receive sensitive information from a seller regarding its business. In addition, a seller may receive sensitive information from a buyer. It is crucial to agree on what information may be disclosed, to whom the information may be disclosed (such as accountants and legal counsels) and for what period the information needs to remain confidential.

7. Exclusivity
LOI’s typically include an exclusivity provision in terms of which the buyer asks the seller not to negotiate with other prospects for a pre-determined time period. As a seller, it is within your best interests to ensure that the exclusivity period is as short as necessary and that the terms are well defined.

What are the benefits of an LOI?
A properly drafted LOI will address key terms, remove ambiguity and thereby benefit both the buyer and the seller as it often reduces the amount of time and costs spent on revisiting negotiating.

Many business owners will only sell a business once in their lifetime. When dealing with such a monumental event, a little more preparation today is certainly worth added value tomorrow. Advice from seasoned professionals can provide you with savings in costs and time in helping you sell your business. At Benchmark International, we are proud to provide world-class mergers and acquisitions services.


Author

John Lousber
Transaction Associate
Benchmark International

T: +27 (0) 21 300 2055
E: loubser@benchmarkintl.com

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Force Majeure is Coming and if You’re Selling Your Business That is Bad

Force ma·jeure /ˌfôrs mäˈZHər/ (1) "superior force", (2) unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.

Airlines are suspending flights and changing rules for refunding tickets. Cruise ships companies are in tailspins. Cargo ports are operating with reduced staff and reduced hours. Entire cities are being quarantined. The Coronavirus may or may not become a major global health issue. But the probability that the disease will have an impact on global business is far higher, if not approaching a certainty. This is safe to say not because there is a high probability that the virus will impact your company’s travel or suppliers or daily operations but rather because of the dreaded force majeure provision lurking in so many of your company’s contracts. These clauses are known as the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to large-scale black-swan type macroeconomic downturns as parties typically rush to invoke them well in advance of any actual calamity striking. One of the unfortunate lessons from 9-11 was that lawyers are not shy about advising their clients to invoke the clause to escape performance obligations on unfavorable contracts. Of course, any contract that is unfavorable to them (whoever “them” is) is probably favorable to your business.

As a reminder, here is an example of a simple force majeure clause:

For this Agreement, an “Event of Force Majeure” means any circumstance not within the reasonable control of the Party affected, but only if and to the extent that (i) such circumstance, despite the exercise of reasonable diligence and the observance of Good Industry Practice, cannot be, or be caused to be, prevented, avoided or removed by such Party, and (ii) such circumstance materially and adversely affects the ability of the Party to perform its obligations under this Agreement, and such Party has taken all reasonable precautions, due care, and reasonable alternative measures to avoid the effect of such event on the Party’s ability to perform its obligations under this Agreement and to mitigate the consequences thereof.

The definitions commonly provide examples of the types of circumstances that qualify earthquakes, war, acts of God, change in laws, civil disorder, and even labor strikes. One aspect of the clause that allows it to be used well in advance of any actual natural event such as the arrival of an epidemic is that the definition commonly includes political acts as well as natural acts. As a result, the declaration of an area as one warranting extreme caution might qualify a government order to reduce the number of flights to an area or the number of visas it grants to people going or coming from an affected area (or quarantining travelers) might qualify.

Furthermore, it seems everyone has a global supply chain. So, any of these events happening “over there” might seem remote from your business. However, for anyone with a contract that wants to avoid the Butterfly Effect can be a siren song.

* * *

At this point, you are probably asking, “But surely people don’t write this term into their contract in a way that allows them to be abused, right?” Well, this clause is kind of an atom bomb. As one does when dealing with atom bombs, contracts are designed to prevent their use and mitigate their effects. The overarching check on the amazing power of the force majeure provision is that it only relieves the party’s performance while the circumstances remain in effect. It’s temporary. Parties won’t abuse it because it just gives them a short-term benefit and then they have to face the music.

So, in the ordinary course of your business, you have to deal with the fact that force majeure clauses may face lean times even when your local environment is perfectly normal. Parts may not be provided on time. Your call center might go dark. Your IT support may not be available. And anyone of your suppliers or customers may have the same problem. As an example, a company that collects fees for collecting, cleaning, and reissuing linens to other local businesses and uses an in-house local manufacturing facility in area with no odd circumstances occurring. Let’s say Miami at present (if there is such a company) may suddenly be hit with the clause because they service cruise ships and hotels or because their raw materials come from Egypt or parts of their detergent is manufactured in Germany from elements mined in the Philippines.

Businesses can survive a three-month or six-month calamity such as this in the ordinary course of their lifespan, so people don’t usually think twice about the wording of a force majeure clause. But your business is going up for sale. And when you go up for sale, everyone looks at your last 12 months' financial performance. The ­last thing you want is a hole that has to be explained. Even if your broker can come up with addbacks to create pro forma financials to show what “would have” happened absent the event of force majeure and how rosy that alternative reality would have been, it is better to not have to do this. More importantly, it points out weaknesses in your business. Buyer favorites include you are beholden to a single source of supply, you have too much customer concentration, your business lacks redundancies, your perfect line of decades of growth and healthy margins now appears more vulnerable than it did before. Whether they believe it or not buyers latch on to these things to justify their valuations and their lenders latch on to them to constrain the debt available to get the deal done (and thus impact purchase price).

We still find buyers asking to see clients’ financials from 2007-2010. Looking back more than five years is (or should I say “was”) unprecedented in M&A, much less looking back over a decade. But it is common at this point and we see little signs that that is ending. But that was the last force majeure type event most of our clients suffered and buyers want to see how the businesses weathered it…And they aren’t asking in hopes of finding some reason to raise the value of their offers.

All the better to have the next event of force majeure occur after your sale rather than before.

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkintl.com

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Effects Of Coronavirus On Business Owners And The Economy

As the coronavirus known as COVID-19 spreads to more regions around the world, it is making a major impact on world and local economies. The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has already disrupted global travel and supply chains and affected businesses of all sizes in both China and abroad.

The true impacts of the virus for companies will depend upon how far and wide the outbreak spreads and its duration. If the spread is limited and relatively short-lived, the damage to many businesses could be somewhat minor and recoverable. The types of businesses that analysts warn will feel the worst impacts are hospitality chains, airlines, transportation groups, retailers and makers of luxury goods, as people postpone travel plans and avoid shopping centers. Hospitality businesses such as restaurants and hotels will also face the largest challenge at making up losses later in the year.

Supply Chain Impacts
How long factories in China remain closed is also another important aspect of the situation because of how it is affecting global supply chains, as a great deal of the world’s products are made in Chinese factories. Some industries could begin to run out of parts and miss their revenue targets, such as auto manufacturers and smartphone makers. Smaller businesses that import products from China, such as Amazon third-party sellers, could also face a shortage if factories do not begin to reopen.

Business owners should be proactively assessing their supply chains and mapping out strategies to maintain resources and address vulnerabilities. Do you have a backup plan? Is it possible to source materials locally? Getting ahead of the problem can be worthwhile if it is feasible. Once the virus is no longer an issue, factories are expected to recover and offset lost production. What that ultimately means for business owners depends on their type of business and how much of their inventory has been impacted. Companies that plan for strategic, operational and financial agility in response to future global risks will be more likely to react and recover.

On a somewhat positive note, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in China now appears to be declining, signaling hope that circumstances may be able to improve. Chinese scientists believe that the outbreak will be under control by the end of April.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

In the United States
The virus has stoked fears on Wall Street has caused markets to fall at near-record levels. Outlooks for revenue growth in 2020 are down. According to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in the country of China, nearly half of U.S. businesses based there are expected to lose revenues if the effects of the coronavirus outbreak persist after April 30th. The U.S. House and Senate are working on funding to respond to the virus. Part of this funding may include interest-free loans to small businesses hurt by an outbreak.

There is no expert consensus as to whether COVID-19 could cause the U.S. economy to fall into a recession. Any optimism is partially due to the strength of the economy, the role of the Federal Reserve Board to provide support, and the ability to contain the virus. Meanwhile, the virus’s trajectory remains unpredictable. The Centers for Disease Control issued containment guidance to businesses. And the major stock market indexes continue to react and enter correction territory as investors try to sort out what it could all mean for business owners in the long run.

Around the World
As for the rest of the world, the impacts remain contingent upon how much the virus spreads and how effectively it can be contained. It has reached more than 40 nations so far. Currently in Europe and Asia, many companies are asking employees to work from home or take leave and are assessing their emergency plans to prevent or limit an outbreak. Hospitality companies face the biggest obstacle in this sense because the vast majority of their employees cannot do their jobs from home. In Italy, entire towns are on lockdown and tens of thousands of people are quarantined. In Japan, all schools nationwide are being asked to close for one month to help contain the spread of the virus. In South Korea, confirmed cases are rising. In Iran, cases have also risen and many schools, public offices and businesses have closed. And Saudi Arabia is closing holy Islamic sites to foreigners.

M&A Deals
The impacts on M&A activity remain unclear. If the virus causes a decline in profits for businesses, it could affect M&A. Buyers may lower offers in reaction to market changes, while sellers are likely to expect their original prices. This disparity could reduce transaction volume. For now, it remains a matter of wait and see.

Contact Us
If you are ready to make a move with your company, please reach out to our M&A experts at Benchmark International to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals.

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Key Steps For Successful Post-Merger Reorganization

Reorganization is an important part of a merger or acquisition integration process and should be done properly to ensure a shared vision and a smooth transition in the desired timeframe. Unfortunately, research shows that it is not uncommon for this process to take longer than expected because the integration plan was not appropriately focused on the culture, the people, the leadership, and the ultimate goals. Business leaders that employ a solid integration strategy during M&A are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

According to research:

  • A mere 16% of merger reorganizations fulfill their objectives in the planned time
  • 41% take longer than expected
  • In 10% of cases, the reorganization harms the newly-formed business

Create a Profit and Loss Statement

First, think about the benefits, costs, and timing of the reorganization. Costs will include employees, advisors, and consultants, but costs will also be incurred in the form of disruption to the business. The last thing you want is for the company’s performance to suffer and for key staff to leave. Setting detailed business targets for reorganization based on the length of the transaction process and its impacts can make a significant difference in the productivity and growth of the company.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The due diligence process of an M&A deal will reveal a great deal about the business’s strengths and weaknesses, but it is important to make sure no stone goes unturned. You can get a more complete picture by talking to current and former employees, and simply searching the Internet for third party research to see what anyone would read about you when looking up your company. Both internal and external perspectives are important. Armed with these insights, you can then create a plan regarding which areas need your focus based on whether it is a merger or a full buyout. In the case of a merger, both sides will need to have the same informed view of strengths and weaknesses in order to address any issues, streamline the process, reduce costs if necessary, and essentially improve performance.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Create a Reorganization Team

Designate a team of representatives from various levels of management and departments to handle communication and ensure that the needs of each department are heard throughout the transition. This will help employees feel included, minimizing the risk of losing key talent. It will also help you avoid overlooking key details, will help to keep the process more orderly, and will help you address any issues quickly.

Evaluate Your Options

When creating a reorganization plan, consider all of the possibilities within both companies’ methodologies. Any solution is going to have pros and cons, so you will need to assess which alternative is best for your business and achieving your vision. In order to create synergy, you will need to examine both of the organizations’ structures, business processes, management, staff, culture, capabilities, technology, safety processes, and anything else that makes the day-to-day operations run. In a merger, you are ultimately faced with creating a shared culture, and this means ensuring that every aspect of the business is aligned to make this possible. People are people, and if they are not informed of a clear plan and their role in it, it is nearly guaranteed that it will lead to confusion. Figure out the best way to allocate tasks and processes by communicating with the new leadership team about all of the possible options and determining the best structure together.

Get the Previous Steps Right

You have worked so hard to build your business. Reorganization is complicated and you owe it to yourself, your stakeholders, and your staff to get the process right. Of course, you should anticipate hurdles to crop up along the way. Sometimes in M&A deals, certain information does not become available until late in the process. Nearing the end of a deal, you should reassess all the previous steps outlined above to verify that they are solid and decide if anything needs to be modified. This does not mean you need to turn everything on its head if you uncover an issue. By encouraging leadership to inform you of any snags in the new company and addressing them quickly, you can get ahead of major problems.

Enlist an M&A Expert

Please contact our world-class team at Benchmark International to discuss how the right merger or acquisition could benefit your business.

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2020 Global Outlook For The Marketing Sector

In a world of billions of connected smart devices, digital technology has essentially revolutionized the global marketing industry. From social media to content marketing, the market is massive and poised for continued growth.

The traditional ad agency model now includes a major focus on digital marketing, and digital marketing agencies continue to become more prevalent and provide a wider range of strategic services and specialized areas. And more and more companies outside of the advertising and marketing industry are also developing their own in-house digital marketing arms. 

In 2019, the global digital marketing market size was $300-310 billion. It is expected to grow to $360-380 billion in 2020.

On a global scale, the market size per region is:

  • $110-130 billion for North America
  • $120-130 billion for Asia Pacific
  • $48-52 billion for Europe
  • $6-10 billion for the Middle East/Asia

Online videos and mobile ad spending account for a large portion of the digital advertising space and continue to drive digital marketing spending, especially in Europe and North America. Digital out-of-home media is becoming more personalized and contextually relevant through targeted ad delivery, and location-aware and bandwidth-aware tech tools. And with the increasing emergence of 5G technology in 2020, phone streaming will reach incredible speeds and higher quality, opening up new possibilities for marketers. 

Content Marketing

2020 will be a big year for content marketing in several different forms. User-generated content will be in demand as the majority of consumers report that they find the opinion of users to be more influential than content promoted by the actual brand. This content includes anything from social media posts and blogs to web pages and testimonials.

Another huge component of content marketing is video content creation. More consumers are expecting to see video content from their favorite brands. Video also keeps audiences engaged for more time versus other types of content. Live streaming is also a growing trend, as consumers are reporting that they would prefer to watch live video than read a blog post.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Social Media

Marketers are forecasted to spend $112 billion on social media advertising in 2020. 

Globally, North America continues to dominate ad spending in this digital marketing sector, with the retail industry as the leading ad spender in the United States. While search remains a preference of retail marketers, video, social media, and other display formats are growing in demand to increase brand visibility. Digital ad spending in the Asia Pacific region has surpassed that of Europe, with growth driven by China due to increasing investments on technology and digital platforms. The automobile, consumer goods, and telecom sectors are the leading marketing spenders in the country.

Print

Digital marketing has had a large impact on the commercial print side of the industry. This is causing service providers to offer more innovative value-added services such as data management and e-publishing. The demand for print services is largely driven by the retail, financial, publishing, and food and beverage sectors, especially for on-demand print materials, packaging, and other promotional materials. Additionally, increased digitalization and eco-friendly practices (such as using soy ink vs. petroleum-based ink) have lessened the printing industry's impact on the environment. Increased digitization will continue to result in more e-versions of print, such as annual reports and catalogs, and use of more online targeting channels such as email.

Direct Mail

The size of the global direct mail market is expected to reach $94–98 billion in 2020. The use of direct mail remains high in developed regions such as North America and Europe due to comprehensive customer database maintenance. At the same time, the increased use of e-mail and mobile marketing is lessening the demand for printed direct mail materials. In smaller markets that have lower Internet penetration, such as parts of Latin America and the Middle East, the direct mail sector remains strong with demand being driven by retail, travel, and real estate. To remain competitive, direct mail providers are offering e-mail marketing and other digital marketing services at lower prices.

Loyalty Programs

The global market for loyalty programs continues to grow due to increasing e-commerce, smartphone use, and online shopping customer behavior. The retail, financial, consumer, and food and beverage industries drive the demand for loyalty services, digital rewards programs, analytics, and business intel used for customization.

Mergers & Acquisitions

M&A activity regarding digital marketing and advertising agencies has high potential due to growth and high fragmentation within the industry. Traditional ad agencies and private equity firms target companies that offer solid growth opportunities. As digital advertising revenues increase, so does the global demand for more online content in an ever-connected world. Digital capabilities and relationships are a priority for traditional agencies and their holding companies as they have a need to grow their digital revenue and expand their portfolios.

Thinking About Selling?

At Benchmark International, our award-winning team of M&A experts would love to hear from you and discuss how we can help you grow your business or sell your company for maximum value. Feel free to contact us at your convenience.

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The Value Of An M&A Advisory Firm

When selling a lower to middle-market company, enlisting the guidance of an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisory firm can make a world of difference in the transaction’s outcome for several important reasons.

  • Having an M&A advisory firm act as an intermediary in a transaction increases the chances that a deal will be closed successfully. In fact, some buyers are willing to pay more for a business when an M&A firm is involved because they know there is a higher chance of closing.

According to a large study by the University of Alabama, private sellers receive between 6% and 25% higher acquisition premiums when they retain M&A advisors.

  • When you work with an M&A firm, it demonstrates to buyers that you are truly committed to the sale process and that your valuation expectations have been properly vetted. 
  • Having an M&A team in your corner will save you a great deal of time and effort regarding complicated tasks such as due diligence, company valuation, and data management. Even simple transactions require a burdensome amount of due diligence regarding real estate, software, employment, benefits, accounting and legal issues. There are also many standard pre-closing tasks that must be completed in a timely manner and can affect the success of a transaction.
  • M&A experts already know all the possible deal breakers and how to avoid them, giving you a major advantage in the market and protecting you from pitfalls.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

  • You will attract a greater number of serious buyers because you have access to the M&A firm’s global connections. And when you have drawn the interest of several buyers, you are more likely to get more for your company. If you sell your business on your own, experienced buyers know they can get away with offering you a lower price.
  • A truly effective M&A firm will use proprietary technologies and databases to review the market for matches regarding the size, industry and geography of your company.
  • Experienced M&A advisors know how to protect your confidentiality through the entire process. Confidentiality is critical because if information is leaked, it can not only derail a sale but also have a negative effect on crafting another potential deal.
  • A quality M&A team will have the capability to build a strong marketing strategy and create materials to attract suitable and quality acquirers for your company.
  • Another important task that an M&A firm will handle is third-party research. Buyers will immediately seek out negative information on a company that is on the market. A good M&A team will create a strategy to mitigate any potential negative impacts.
  • The right M&A advisory firm will take the time to fully understand your objectives and aspirations and will be committed to making sure that the process is tailored to your needs and that you find the right fit. They will also work to keep eager buyers at arm’s length when you need more time to make decisions, understanding that selling your company is an emotional task and you deserve support and empathy along the way.

Work With the Best

Reach out to our world-renowned M&A experts at Benchmark International to discuss how we can help your business achieve its ultimate sale potential. You can trust that our objectives are aligned with yours, and that we will provide you with the most amount of information possible while protecting you from making rushed decisions. Simply put, your best interests are our best interests.

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M&A In The Global Transportation and Logistics Industry

By investing in the transportation and logistics sector, global companies open up the opportunity to advance the flow of goods throughout the world. Businesses in this industry, both domestic and international, benefit from integrated supply chain networks that connect companies and consumers through multiple transportation modes within industry subsectors.

Industry Subsectors

  • Logistics services include the management of fleets, warehousing, order fulfillment, logistics networks, inventory, supply and demand, third-party logistics, and other support services.
  • Air and express delivery provide accelerated end-to-end package delivery services, as well as infrastructure for exporters. Growth in this subsector is greatly driven by the expansion of e-commerce.
  • Freight rail moves high volumes of heavy cargo and products long distances via rail network.  
  • Maritime includes carriers, ports, terminals, and labor involved in the transportation of cargo and passengers via water.  
  • Trucking  moves cargo over the road by motor vehicles over short and medium distances. 

The transportation and logistics industry is consistently a highly fragmented sector. This is largely due to the fact that most fleets are small and there are few barriers to entry when it comes to starting a small fleet. Another major factor is that larger carriers have difficulty retaining drivers and achieving organic growth. Owners are always looking to gain efficiencies, optimize routes and spread fixed costs across more operations. In order to do so, they must create greater scale. It is common in the transportation and logistics sector for acquisition strategies to revolve around broadening service offerings, branching out the customer base, and expanding geographical reach. 

 

Is transformation important to your business?

 

Economic and Industry Factors

Burgeoning economies drive demand in the transportation and logistics industry. More freight demand stems from strong consumer confidence and upward surges in manufacturing, resulting in more loads and vehicles on roads. When this climate is met with driver shortages, it increases transportation costs, which can reduce margins.  

The Impact of Amazon.com

Amazon has greatly raised global consumer expectations when it comes to rapid fulfillment. This demand has shifted distribution patterns, pushing companies to move warehouses closer to customers. Getting products to consumers faster increases the number of touch-points along the freight network.

Automation Technologies

The introduction and evolution of new technologies in the transportation and logistics industry are addressing over-the-road challenges such as driver shortages. Long-haul robotic trucks are being developed and tested. Driverless and remotely piloted deliveries are being incepted, such as aerial delivery drones. Experts expect it to be a very long period of time before these advancements face more mainstream use, but someday in the future, the possibilities they hold will be very real.

Data-Driven Tech

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, data collection, machine learning, and blockchain are all being used within the transportation and logistics industry to gain major competitive insights and advantages, and therefore make better decisions that improve the performance of the company.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Transportation and Logistics M&A

In the 21st century M&A market, transactions in the transportation and logistics industry are often driven by specific demographic, macroeconomic, and regulatory factors.

Sellers are motivated by:

  • The desire to take advantage of a strong overall M&A market
  • Volume limitations due to driver shortages, tight labor markets, aging drivers and increasing hiring costs
  • Aging ownership without a succession plan in place (usually companies with <$50 million in sales)
  • Unease about industry regulations around safety, driver hour limits and logging devices
  • The use of cross-border deals to counter negative impacts on operations, access new markets, and protect supply chains, as remaining agile in a globalized market is critical

Buyers are motivated by:

  • Leverage of economies of scale in order to maintain profitability
  • Capitalization on domestic economies with strong growth potential
  • The need to hire drivers while facing tight labor markets and rising hiring costs
  • Acquisition of smaller companies that expand service offerings
  • Use of various asset models to free up capital and invest in better equipment

A high level of activity in M&A in the transportation and logistics industry is contingent upon suitable timing in a growing economy, low interest rates, and widely available capital. It usually takes up to nine months to complete an M&A transaction, so timing and forward thinking should be considered when deciding to take your company to market.

Contact Us

Are you considering selling your company? Even if you are merely exploring the idea, our M&A specialists at Benchmark International can help you decide if and when a merger or acquisition may be right for you. We’ll work closely with you to ensure that you never have to compromise value or timing, and that you are only matched with the most suitable opportunities.

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Why You Should Spend More Time Thinking About Selling Your Company

Selling your company might be the farthest thing from your mind right now. But there are several reasons that thinking about selling now can make all the difference later, especially for lower and middle-market business owners. Proper exit planning can take years, so getting started increases your chances of selling for maximum value. It also puts you on the right track to fulfilling your aspirations and realizing your vision for the future.

1. Start Making Your Business More Valuable

Whether you want to sell this year or five years from now, you will need to take every step necessary to drive up your company valuation prior to a sale. An endeavor this important is not going to be accomplished overnight. Consider what you can do to improve the business and make it more attractive to buyers. Implement a well-defined strategy to create growth and improve profitability. Hone your marketing plan. Think about how you can make the company more efficient. An experienced M&A advisor can help you craft the right tactics to accomplish all of these goals and get your exit plan moving in the right direction.     

2. Know Your Number

Part of a smart exit plan includes knowing what your business is actually worth and at what price you will be comfortable selling it. This means you will need to know how your company stacks up in the current market in your industry and what the market conditions are expected to be in the next several years based on expert M&A knowledge and analysis.

3. Know Your Buyer

Not all buyers are the same. They can be financial, strategic, or even internal. If you take the time to figure out the right kind of investor for your company, you can spend your time and energy taking the steps to maximize the business’s value based on that type of buyer. For a financial buyer, you will need to focus on cash flow, revenues, and management. For a strategic buyer, you will want to concentrate on profits, innovation, market share, and brand strength. Finally, an internal buyer will look for things such as strong financials and balance sheets, a positive culture, and product diversity. An experienced M&A advisory firm can help you identify the right buyer for you, and give you exclusive access to prospective buyers that you will not find on your own.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

4. Get Your Records in Order

When the time comes to put your company on the market, you are going to need to have all of the proper documentation organized and accounted for. This includes all of the financial documentation, tax records, profit and loss statements, legal contracts and client records from the past few years. Buyers tend to place more value on businesses that can provide comprehensive records that paint the most accurate picture of the company’s health and future potential. You will want to be honest in this process. Do not try to fudge the numbers or hide issues. The buyer’s due diligence team is going to uncover anything that you attempt to cover up, which can lower the purchase price. Disclose the truth from the beginning and you’ll be in a better position to overcome any challenges, plus, the buyer will be more confident in acquiring your business.  

5. Keep Your Eye on the Business

Running a company is already a massive responsibility, and the process of selling a company is a significant undertaking all of its own. You need to remain focused on your daily operations without being so distracted by a sale that it has a negative impact on the business. Enlisting the help of M&A deal professionals to handle the sale can take the pressure off of you and keep your business on course. Remember, the process can take several years, and that is quite a bit of time for you to be unnecessarily preoccupied, putting the health of your company at stake. 

6. Have a Plan

You have worked so hard to build your business and you have earned the right to dream about your future. To get there, you have to ask yourself the right questions. Are you ready to retire? What is your target retirement age? Do you want to purchase or get involved with another business? What level of lifestyle will you need to maintain? Will someone in your family be taking the reins? Do you want to retain a small level of involvement? If you know what you expect from your future, you will be less likely to get cold feet at selling time. It’s also important that you appear confident about a sale so that buyers do not feel that you cannot be taken seriously. Knowing your vision for the future is a critical step in making your dreams a reality. As Warren Buffet once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

Let’s Discuss Your Options

If you are thinking about selling your company, now is the time to start considering your options regarding timing, exit planning, and market value. Contact our M&A geniuses and let Benchmark International help you map out a future that is in the best interest of you, your family, and your company.

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M&A In The Global Education Industry

Around the world, the global education industry remains shaped by population growth and access to education, and driven by new technologies and service offerings.

  • Solutions for professional education, teacher development, improved online and adaptive learning, and language training (especially English) are always in demand.
  • Online learning technology and the need for corporate workforce training drives increases in corporate spending on outsourced training programs.
  • Smartphone-only Internet users are reshaping learning models.
  • Enrollment in pre-primary education continues to rise as it has proven to show positive long-term results.
  • In primary and secondary education, technology investments directly impact school expenditures.
  • Higher education is being forced to adapt in the wake of changes to jobs, skills and increasing student debt.
  • Learning Management Systems are shifting the teaching focus away from content and onto learners.
  • Newer offerings include cloud-based student information systems, digital tools and learning platforms, and data reporting and analytics.

The global education market is expected to be valued at $10 trillion USD by the
year 2030.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

M&A Activity

In today’s digitized society, as education becomes more globalized, it presents newforms of private, for-profit involvement. In the global education industry, less than three percent of overall education expenditure is spent on technology. This is expected to increase in the future, yet at an alarmingly slow rate, giving investors a favorable position to get in on
the market.

Mergers and acquisitions opportunities are heavily influenced by the possibilities created by new innovations in digital education, instruction, and credentialing. The global education sector’s biggest strategic performers are diverse companies that continue a shift towards digital services and away from print. Target companies within the education landscape that are in drawing investment include those that provide adaptive learning solutions and assessment products, such as software that facilitates testing and scoring. Other areas that appeal to buyers include education-market-focused infrastructure software and English language learning solutions.

Education Infrastructure Software

Modern education-focused infrastructure software has the power to transform learning environments for students and teachers both inside and outside the classroom by balancing technology across all locations. The approach is comprised of cloud computing, enhanced privacy and security, connectivity, storage, and manageability. Additionally, virtual infrastructure not only simplifies troubleshooting, but it can reduce costs for institutions by reducing overhead through the reduced impacts of having to frequently replace hardware. With support of more devices, teachers can better tailor learning experiences to students learning needs, and a more collaborative learning environment can be created.    

Global English Language Learning Market

The global English language learning market is expected to exceed $22 billion USD by the end of 2025. These programs are in growing demand due to globalization, urbanization, and an appetite for improved education and job opportunities. The escalating numbers for student enrollment in graduate schools in English-speaking countries is deemed to be a primary contributing factor to growth in this market. In higher education, universities in the United States, the United Kingdom,  Australia, and Canada require applicants to pass language tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and International English Language Testing System (IELTS). This drives students to enroll in English language training programs, leading to notable demand for them in countries (such as an India and China) where the number of graduates relocating to English-speaking countries for advanced studies continues to grow at a significant rate.

The global market for digital English language learning is comprised of both regional and international manufacturers. As the international companies expand their reach, improve quality, and lower prices, the regional firms struggle to compete. Such an intensely competitive market for innovation and service extensions increases the number of M&A transactions.

 

Feel like it's time to slow down?

 

An Industry Continuing to Evolve

Innovation in education requires capital and government funding is limited even in the wealthiest, most developed countries. Private equity and M&A can strategically create and grow companies of scale in the education sector. Larger size means more attractive acquisition opportunities, more prevalence, and more potential for transformation in the industry and its subsectors.

Advancements that are impacting and will continue to impact this industry include:

  • Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, and unified data solutions
  • Online education
  • Robotics
  • Specialized curriculum start-up companies
  • Improved curriculum storage and peer-to-peer sharing platforms
  • International schools
  • Digital classrooms
  • Chat bots and voice enabled hardware
  • English language training
  • Enhanced admissions management and student retention
  • Global school networks
  • Improved vocational training
  • Alternate university models
  • Online program managers
  • Job training boot camps
  • Primary education mobile apps
  • Increasing availability and free access to academic publishing resources
  • STEM and coding
  • Gaming and simulation

Contact Us

If you are ready for a change, contact us at Benchmark International. We are committed to creating an impressive plan of action for your business. Schedule a call with one of our M&A advisors and start planning a more prosperous future for you and your company today.

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10 Things About Buying A Business You May Have Not Known

1. It’s Easier Than You Think
When acquiring a business nowadays, many think of this as a very strenuous and long-term process. Though it is a large investment of time and money, if you already run a successful small business, there are plenty of transferable skills.

2. Synergy Is Key
The growth of a business through acquisition is statistically faster, cheaper, and less risky than the other methods of expansion. It is of the utmost importance to ensure that the synergy is there, and when companies are choosing to acquire or merge, the desire is for the sum to be greater than its individual parts.

3. An Acquisition Can Expedite Growth In Your Current Business
Once an acquisition is done, you immediately have access to a multiplicity of new (to you) assets and employees. Many challenges come along with combining two businesses, but this can give your current company the ability to expand to new areas and cross-sell services to existing and newly acquired customers.

4. Understanding The Value Of The Employees And Management On-Hand
Many deals come with a staff who has vast knowledge about the company and the day-to-day functions of the business. It is important to get to know the staff and ensure they have the same intentions as you for the business and the direction it is trying to take.

5. The Current Owner Is Likely To Stay In The Picture
Though many of our clients are looking to retire, it is never as simple as handing the keys over. The owner built this business, and they know the ins and outs of the company. Usually, the owner signs a contract with the buyer to stay on for a required amount of time to help the new owners/managers learn the entire process. This also gives comfort to the buyer and customers about the change of ownership.

6. Cultural Fit
Selling a business can be a very emotional process for a seller. The company is their baby, and they want to ensure the success of the company and the continued employment of the employees. Commonly, money may not be the primary motivation of a seller. They are concerned with bringing in the right fit, expanding the company, and keeping true to its roots. A good buyer would acknowledge the importance of culture and seek to maintain the culture that was created and fostered by the previous owner.

7. Businesses Can Be Relocatable
When acquiring a business, buyers are concerned with the real estate associated with the company. Many believe that some companies should be relocated for better success geographically, or to a space that has more room for development. Most businesses can do so, which buyers may be unaware of, and most sellers will entertain the idea of selling the real estate, leasing it back, or allow the buyer to break the lease altogether.

8. Funding Options
It’s often easier to fund an existing business than a startup since it already has a track record. Banks tend to offer more loan types for individuals than for established businesses. Right now, banks are lending aggressively and looking to deploy capital due to interest rates being low.

9. Time Is Of The Essence
Due Diligence is a time consuming and arduous process, so it is key to operate with a sense of urgency. Doing so inspires confidence in the seller and helps maintain excitement on both sides for the eventual transaction. Failing to maintain a sense of urgency and stick within the prescribed timeline could result in deal fatigue, a delayed closing, or even the deal coming unraveled altogether. It’s imperative to move as swiftly as possible during due diligence.

10. Using An Intermediary
The process itself is easy, but selling a business takes time and effort that business owners do not always have the time for or knowledge on. Bringing on an investment banker or business broker/intermediary can help with finding financially capable prospects, negotiating the deal, and get the deal closed without anyone finding out until the deal is done.

 

Author
Jack Chilcutt
Deal Analyst
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8950
E: Jchilcutt@BenchmarkIntl.com

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Tips For Transitioning A Company's Leadership

One of the keys to creating value in lower to middle market mergers and acquisitions is the plan for successfully transitioning the leadership of the company. Maximizing value hinges largely upon a solid succession plan that empowers the new CEO to take the reigns, maintain stability, and lead the business into the future.

Finding the right person to assume leadership is important to the company in several capacities, but there are reasons that it will be personal to you as a business owner who cares greatly about the company you have worked so hard to build. The new CEO should actually care about the company and its employees. They should have a proven track record at getting things accomplished versus a history of being asleep at the wheel. And they should leave you with a high degree of confidence that they are going to do the right thing so that you are not left worrying about the fate of the company and whether you made the right call.

As a founding CEO planning your exit, there are some best practices you can follow in your process to find the right candidate and make a seamless transition in leadership and avoid a succession gone wrong.

Consider Structure and Timing
Initially, there are three important factors to determine the circumstances for the incoming CEO. Are they from inside or outside the company? Will they assume the role immediately or work alongside you for a period of time? And will you maintain a presence in the company as chairman or as an advisor? The answers to these questions will affect the transition process.

Get an Executive Search Expert
Do not underestimate the importance of enlisting the help of a quality external executive search professional. They should have proven experience that gives you the confidence that they will identify a replacement that's in the best interest of the company. They should be able to provide certain insights, find candidates that may not be currently known in the market, and prevent the costs associated with the wrong hire. An executive search firm can also save you time, take the burden off of your HR team, and ensure confidentiality through the process.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?



Consider What They Face
Think about the new CEO's first year and what it may hold from a political and cultural perspective, such as a recession. Could there be problematic circumstances that will make it difficult to make leadership decisions and are they equipped to handle them adeptly based on their experience?

Meet Face-to-Face Onsite
An important part of building trust and bolstering success is having the candidate come to the company's headquarters to meet with you and get an in-person understanding of the business and its culture from your perspective and in your own words.

Foster Relationships
The vetting process can benefit from the candidate's development of relationships with the management team to enable shared experiences. A quality candidate is going to value this effort in establishing trust.

If the new CEO is someone from within the company, think about how they will assume their new role and the responsibilities that come with it. Consider the fact that they are now going to be the leader among their former peers. How will they handle this change and how will it impact their relationships?

Look for the Obvious
You surely want a new CEO with whom you have a good relationship, but the most important relationship will be between them and the management team and the employees. So their personality is going to be a big factor in their ability to succeed. How are they under pressure? What is their vision for the future? Are they comfortable with change? Are they motivated to create growth? Are their values aligned with yours? What about their ego? A candidate may look exceptional on paper and have incredible qualifications, but if he or she does not possess the right people skills for your company's culture, it should be a deal breaker.

Are You Planning Your Exit?
If you think it's time to make a move in the best interest of your company, feel free to reach out to our M&A experts at Benchmark International at any time. Our impressive strategies can be the game-changer you are seeking for your future success.

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M&A In The Ride Services And Autonomous Vehicle Industries

Two of the most transformative factors in the world of automotive and technological development have been the advent of ride-hailing platforms and autonomous vehicles. They each create various mergers and acquisitions opportunities both individually and in concert with each other in various capacities on a global scale.

Ride Service Companies

Ride services—also known as ride hailing and ride sharing—will continue to create opportunities for M&A in decades to come as their popularity around the world continues to increase. Uber, DiDi Chuxing, Gett, Grab, and Lyft are some of the leading firms in the market. As more companies emerge, the market becomes more and more fragmented. The right M&A transactions can help companies increase market share and improve service quality.

It can be relatively inexpensive to start up a ride-hailing company. After all, they depend on contract labor that does not rely on special skills or loyalty, and are powered by free mobile apps that easily bring their service to the public’s fingertips. While this makes it easy for more smaller firms to enter the space, it also creates ripe opportunity for M&A activity in an incredibly competitive industry that has been predicted to one day be dominated by only a couple of major players.

The ride hailing sector is not unlike other transportation industries, as it is subject to strict laws and regulations that can make M&A challenging, meaning that deals in this space require added due diligence.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Autonomous Vehicles

A strong investment climate lies in the sector of autonomous or self-driving vehicles. Traditional auto manufacturers are investing billions of dollars and stepping up efforts to try to catch up with advancements already pioneered by the big tech companies. It is both faster and easier to acquire existing technologies than to try to reinvent the self-driving wheel. While they retain the advantage of being capable of the mass production of vehicles, it is expansion of their capabilities that is a major driver of M&A.

Companies at every level of involvement in the auto industry need to adapt their strategies, from manufacturers to suppliers to retailers. M&A is a necessary strategy for all existing industry players to maintain any foothold as newer digital companies transform the space. This includes rethinking business models and emphasizing innovation to establish themselves as a leader in the future.

Autonomous vehicles also present the possibility of major ramifications for other industries.

  • Law enforcement: With self-driving cars programmed to obey traffic laws, fewer police resources may be needed on roads and less local revenue could be earned from citations.
  • Insurance: With fewer accidents come fewer insurance claims, reducing the cost of insurance premiums.
  • Healthcare: Ideally, fewer traffic accidents can reduce reliance on emergency services.
  • Air & rail: Using autonomous vehicles for long-distance travel can mean fewer passengers on airplanes and trains.
  • Advertising: Withdrivers turned into passengers, their attention can be shifted from audio to visual, and advertising could be targeted by location.

Many companies around the world have demonstrated enthusiasm over the prospect of disrupting public transportation as we know it, and have been eager to invest in companies that are focused on bringing autonomous vehicles into this realm. This includes robotic taxis, driverless shuttles, electric car ride services, and taxis that are not equipped with steering wheels or pedals.

Countries leading the way in the development of autonomous driving technology include Norway, Singapore, the United States, Germany and Israel. 

Many challenges exist before the proliferation of autonomous vehicles on roads everywhere is a real possibility. While careful planning and programming goes into the technology that makes these vehicles both operational and safe, there are unexpected scenarios that are not easy to predict or take into account. These situations include other drivers’ errors such as going the wrong direction or making illegal maneuvers that can confuse the technology that a self-driving car relies upon. Essentially, the radar and high-resolution cameras in autonomous vehicles are able to detect and identify objects (such as a bicycle or pedestrian), but it cannot predict what those objects might do next.

These types of uncertainties, along with the strict regulatory environments surrounding self-driving vehicles, can also make the M&A market in this sector more complicated to navigate. It is prudent to consult with M&A experts regarding the opportunities in this area.

Contact Us

How can Benchmark International help you realize your dreams for your business? Give us a call and set up a meeting with one of our M&A experts. Whether you are looking to sell, grow, or formulate an exit plan, we are committed to helping you achieve what is best for you and your company.   

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Leisure Industry in M&A

The global leisure industry is comprised of restaurants, bars, hotels, casinos, sports facilities, travel agencies, tour operators and other customer-focused business segments. This industry is subject to some very specific influential factors such as geopolitics, weather conditions, natural catastrophes, fuel costs, and changing consumer habits and demands. Technology also plays a key role in how people plan their activities and choose to experience them. This presents new opportunities for growth, and at the same time, new challenges.

M&A can be used as an effective solution for vertical integration to fill gaps across the value chain and to offer more efficient global platforms in the leisure industry
and its subsectors.

Opportunities and Challenges

The impacts of new technologies can be beneficial to businesses, but they also present new obstacles. The good news is that people are never going to stop wanting to enjoy themselves. It’s just a matter of how they go about it that faces significant changes.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

  • Sports Venues: With large and complicated physical infrastructures, sports facilities aim to attract more fans, fill more seats, and maximize returns. Technology aids in getting fans to engage more and spend more money both in person and from their devices. The Internet offers viewers immediate access to scores, stats and updates. While this can enhance sports venues’ offerings, there is also the challenge of competing with home entertainment systems that allow consumers to create their own fan experience in the comfort of their own homes.
  • Travel Agencies and Online Booking: There was a time when booking a vacation meant picking up the phone and calling your travel agent. But today, people turn to travel booking websites and apps to plan their trips, leading to overhauled business models. Online travel agents are looking to expand, increase their geographic reach, and be more integral to their customers’ experiences. Additionally, in the world of platforms such as Expedia, Kayak and Priceline, there remains little differentiation among brands, keeping the segment ripe for consolidation.
  • The Gaming Industry: The loosening of sports-betting regulations is driving change in the gaming industry. People are increasingly able to gamble online in various capacities, and while casinos are adopting strategies to capitalize on these opportunities, there is still the prospect of less foot traffic that would have transferred to more money spent on in-house dining and other in-person gambling options. This sector is prime for consolidations and partnerships.
  • Restaurants: Once a very brick-and-mortar focused sector, new technologies allow customers to opt for food delivery companies and apps to bring dinner to them rather than dining out at a physical restaurant location.
  • The Cruise Industry: Cybersecurity is an important concern within this sector, as more people spend more time on their connected devices while they enjoy their cruise vacation. Personalized data-driven technology improves the passenger experience, but it also requires more integration so that more systems can share more information.
  • Hotels: Web platforms such as airbnb have changed how people lodge on their vacations, moving tourism traffic from concentrated urban areas to more residential neighborhoods.
  • Amusement Parks: Consumers seek out unique and immersive experiences through their tech. Theme parks are creating new partnerships to cater to these demands, and seeking out novel ways to tap into new markets. These partnerships can be less capital intensive and give businesses flexibility to adapt to changing trends.

 

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

 

Cross-Border M&A Considerations

Cross-border M&A transactions can involve several issues as political, cultural and economic environments evolve and regulations change. Certain due diligence factors should always be considered for these types of deals are expected to result in success stories.

  • Transaction framework: This involves careful evaluation of pricing (maximized value), timing, and certainty (public reputation and proof of funds)
  • Regulatory compliance: Focus on cybersecurity, foreign investment laws, national security laws, fraud, sanction violations, and money laundering
  • Antitrust and competition: This includes overlaps between brands, overlaps between operations, market concentration, and specific clearances
  • Technology and intellectual property: Thoroughly assess trademarks, domain names, IP rights, third-party licensing, existing claims, infrastructure, loyalty programs, data privacy laws, and databases

As with M&A transactions in any industry, there are several other areas that must be considered for due diligence and company valuation, including management agreements, financing, tax structures, employment issues, and other operational risks.

Contact Us

If you are thinking about selling your company, or would like to start exit planning, contact our M&A specialists at Benchmark International to start the process. We can help you understand your options and key factors for consideration, and get you on your way to a deal that works best for your vision of the future.

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Get To Know How Benchmark International Clients View Your Questions

Many buyers, particularly those working at private equity shops and family offices, have experience in larger markets and, therefore, with more financially oriented, data-driven sellers. If this describes your background, it can be helpful to consider the following insights about sellers in the middle markets. You might be surprised by some of these realities

1. If they were pilots, they would fly by sight, not by instrument. They do not make decisions based on data. They do not need the data. They walk the floor. They see how many trucks leave the yards every week. They are in on the big sales call. Their stepson runs the IT department. You of course want the data, but they have not been spending the time or money to collect it.

2. They may not have fully developed back offices. Our clients are successful and their businesses have grown, often beyond their expectations. They are good at what they do and they enjoy being in control. It is common for them to go without hiring a CFO, add staff at certain positions, or turn departments such as HR over to an expert. This means that they may be a little behind in developing the back office. While you might be tempted to chastise them for this, please consider that studies of our clients indicate that this is the number one reason they have come to market.

3. They may not have debt. It is surprising how many businesses with revenues up to $100 million have never had any material amount of debt, especially not bank debt. So, when you speak to them about using leverage in your transaction, or them rolling over into a leveraged business, be prepared for unexpected responses. In addition, recall the mantra that debt imposes discipline. Never having debt, these owners may not adhere to strict discipline when it comes to financial reporting, timely disbursement of invoices to clients, and keeping an eye on the GAAP or IFRS version of “cash flow.”

 

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4. They may view financial statements solely for tax preparation. It may seem a bit surprising, but studies of our clients indicate that the sole use many of them have for financial statements is to allow their accountant to prepare the business’s tax returns. With that in mind, you might see why monthly financials are not available or, if available, not overly reliable.

5. They may not focus on depreciation. Owner-operators are busy growing their businesses, not studying GAAP or IFRS. They may have some significant misconceptions about how depreciation works and why it matters. We do what we can to address this before you speak with our clients but, as they say, we don’t know what we don’t know. Please exercise care when interpreting anything a seller says about depreciation and when communicating these issues with sellers. For example, the difference between accumulated depreciation (on the balance sheet) and depreciation expenses (on the income statement) can trip up some conversations and knock deals off track. Similarly, the concepts of “capitalizing” versus “expensing” costs can get confusing in short order.

6. They may not use budgets or models. Many middle-market business owners started their companies when they were 18 and they never worked in the corporate world. They have worked successfully to this point without being exposed to the concept, or they have seen it just enough to view it as more of a hassle than a benefit. If you do not use budgets, you do not need to borrow money (see above), and you don’t need to build models. Without the historical data from budgets and elsewhere, it is difficult to even make a worthy model. Add to this the obvious issues with coming up with the two key valid assumptions—growth rate and discount rate—and there is simply no way to come up with meaningful models or projections, not to mention a reluctance to attempt to do so.

7. They may define CFO differently. The four terms “CFO,” “Controller,” “CPA,” and “Bookkeeper” are used interchangeably in middle-market companies. Each may have a preconceived meaning to you but there is a 75% chance that these businesses view these titles differently. Set aside your training and experience, try not to judge a book by its cover, and take the time to assess the person in that role (whatever it is called) before making any assumptions.

At Benchmark International, we are well aware of these circumstances. That is why our unique process is built to help you address them, to assist our clients in understanding your standpoint on topics such as these, and to help our clients better speak your language.

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2020 Outlook For The Global Energy Sector

The global energy mix is comprised of the oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG), coal, renewable energy, and electricity sectors. The landscape of this industry has seen a great deal of change over the years, and is primed for even more change in the future. Five years ago, fossil fuels accounted for 82 percent of global primary energy. This number is targeted to decline, with large growth in the natural gas and renewable energy sectors, especially wind and solar. However, a rising global population and economic growth make it challenging for renewables to keep up with demand, meaning that fossil fuels will remain a primary source as energy demand will rise one percent each year over the next 20 years.

Oil & Gas

Oil output is projected to remain on the rise in the next 10 years, with 85 percent of the production increase coming from the United States. At the same time, oil demand is expected to slow after 2025 due to better fuel efficiency and more electric vehicles, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In 2020, shale production in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow even as growth is slowing due to reduced capital expenditures from drillers. Additionally, exports of U.S oil and LNG are forecasted to grow as infrastructure capacity increases.

As the number of U.S. oil and gas companies in distress grows amid limited funding options, there is an opportunity for smaller firms to be acquired by bigger firms, or for them to merge in order to scale operations and reduce costs. M&A strategies may be more appealing to these companies than the option of restructuring through bankruptcy.

Oil and gas prices should remain range-bound this year as production increases from non-OPEC nations such as the U.S., Brazil, and Norway.

Internationally, oil markets will be affected by the ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, as well as the result of the March expiration of the OPEC+ pledge between OPEC and non-OPEC partners for deeper production cuts.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Coal

The coal industry continues to experience challenges, including declining demand, bankruptcies, climate concerns, ownership changes, and mine closures. Coal production in the U.S. is expected to decline, along with the amount of energy production that relies on coal, which is at its lowest level in more than 40 years. In contrast to the struggling coal industry, increased growth is forecasted in the renewable energy sector. According to the IEA, market share for coal will fall from 38 percent today to 25 percent in 2040, largely due to a surge in more affordable solar power.

Renewable Energy

The outlook for the renewable energy industry in 2020 is quite favorable. The sector has already seen unprecedented growth propelled by increased demand, competitive costs, innovation, and the uniting of industry forces. Renewables are likely to become a preferred provider in electricity markets this year, as customers are more concerned with saving money and addressing climate change issues. Last year, renewable energy eclipsed coal for the first time ever in the United States, with wind and solar energy accounting for about half of renewable power generation. Companies that are poised to innovate and jump on new opportunities will be in a position to thrive in this new growth phase.

Some key points regarding this sector include the following:

  • China has been the largest investor in renewable energy capacity, committing $758 billion over the past decade. The U.S. follows at $356 billion, with Japan third at $202 billion.
  • Lower prices for renewable sources and battery storage have helped to drive growth in this industry, making wind and solar more competitive with traditional energy sources.
  • Several utility companies have already outlined goals for de-carbonization and more are expected to follow suit.
  • Renewable energy will need to be scaled up significantly in order to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.
  • In 2019, 11 of the 28 countries in the European Union already met their 2020 renewable energy targets, but there has been a gradual slowing of the rate of renewable use because costs have fallen and less investment is needed to install the same level of power capacity.
  • Grid modernization projects will also contribute to growth, as renewable microgrids are becoming more popular solutions for increased efficiency.
  • In the U.S., the Production Tax Credit has been extended for 2020. However, the amount of the Solar Investment Tax Credit will be reduced from 30 percent to 26 percent. Both of these credits have been important drivers of growth in this market.

 Electricity

Power and utility companies will face several priorities and challenges in 2020, but with a balance of careful strategic planning, digital innovation, and risk management, the industry can sustain growth throughout the year.

  • Clean energy remains a major priority, as many power and utility companies are setting their own clean energy goals to help customers make the transition.
  • Cyber security is an increasing concern, with vulnerabilities being a clear and present danger.
  • Preparation and response for natural disasters will be more significant as major storms have become more common around the world.
  • Providers will continue to be more focused on improving the customer experience.

Let’s Discuss Your Options

Please contact us at Benchmark International to talk about how we can help you grow your business or formulate a solid exit plan for the future, no matter what industry in which your company operates. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Do You Want To Be Featured At The Savca 2020 Southern Africa Industry Conference?

Get Your Business Showcased At The Local Industry's 'Must Attend' Event

Benchmark International is pleased to announce that we will be contributing material to the attendees’ welcome pack at the SAVCA Southern Africa Industry Conference from February 25th-27th at the Spier Wine Farm.

In 2019, the SAVCA Conference attracted 437 Private Equity delegates and 195 Venture Capital delegates who represented local and international institutional investors, fund managers, advisors policy makers and entrepreneurs.

 

Learn More About the SAVCA Southern Africa Industry Conference Here

Would you like to be showcased to these industry leaders with strong, acquisitive appetites? We will be including a limited number of client investment profiles in the flyers which will form part of the delegate bags. Contact us now to ensure your business is included.

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2020 Global Outlook For The Media Industry

The New Media World

The media industry has undergone several major transformations in the Internet age. Magazines and newspapers have been disrupted by digital publications. News consumption has been significantly altered by the existence of social media. Broadcast radio is now challenged by satellite radio, podcasting, and both free and fee-based music-streaming services. Television continues to undergo sweeping changes that come with more and more people cutting the cord, smart TVs, and the inundation of subscription streaming platforms on a variety of scales. And all of these sector trends affect how advertising dollars are being spent and how audiences are being targeted. 2020 proves to be no different, as these trends will continue to reshape the industry.

Streaming Wars

Companies and TV networks are faced with the task of inventing new offerings for delivering content in ways that facilitate direct relationships with consumers. New bundling and tiered options will be more in demand as viewers grow frustrated with having to manage various streaming options amid a crowded sea of subscription services that go beyond Netflix and Amazon Prime. Individual TV networks are offering their own on-demand services (such as HBO Now), and big industry players are getting in the game with their own digital networks such as Disney+. And the availability of tiered streaming platforms such as BritBox and Sling TV continues to grow. The major streaming networks will be faced with how to leverage an influx of competition. These options will also need to address how advertising is delivered regarding ad-free options and ad-supported video.

Podcast Popularity

There are currently more than 700,000 active podcasts, and research shows that the consumer appetite for podcasts continues to thrive. Podcasts are going to be seen as a new vehicle for content and will garner more advertising money, with predictions that the spending amount will surpass $1 billion by the end of 2020.

 

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For the Love of Data

As media companies compete for more audiences, data will become more imperative to achieving the goals of these companies. This means that the data platforms used by media companies and advertising agencies are going to become paramount. The gathering and processing of the third-party data needed to create more meaningful and personalized experiences and services for consumers will be essential to the ability to remain competitive.

User-Generated Content

In today’s social-media-driven world, users are able to generate their own content through various mobile applications such as SnapChat and TikTok. As more of these types of platforms emerge, larger parent companies (such as the Facebooks and Googles of the world) may be inclined to acquire them to diversify their offerings and expand their user bases.

M&A Opportunity

As media companies continue to need more diverse content and content delivery options, it creates significant opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. This M&A activity is expected to be on smaller scales than the megadeals that occurred in the last couple of years. This is because there are fewer opportunities for the major networks to consolidate, especially as there is a growing over-supply of third-party streaming applications and the content rights are being withdrawn. 

Contact Us

If you think that it is time to sell or grow your company, or even start your exit planning strategy, please reach out to our experts at Benchmark International. We look forward to taking your future to the next level.

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Why 2020 Is The Right Time To Transition A Business

When determining the best time to sell or exit a company, unfortunately nobody has a crystal ball. However, there are several circumstances that should be considered, from fundamental business positions to external influential factors.

The state of the M&A market is among the most significant factors in a decision to sell a business. The market held steady from 2015 to 2017, and optimism skyrocketed in 2018. In 2019, the market dipped slightly but remained strong in deal volume and value, with a wave of multi-billion-dollar megadeals being completed.

While some expect a modest drop in global M&A value in 2020 due to what is perceived as inevitable economic correction after a lengthy, seemingly unstoppable up-cycle, many experts predict that little change is expected due to sustained economic growth, low unemployment, low inflation, high consumer confidence, and strong corporate earnings. Companies still have a need to diversify their portfolios, acquire talent, and innovate technologies in order to stay competitive—all needs that are best addressed through M&A. Also, plenty of capital is available and private equity has amassed the dry powder that can drive larger deals, even in the event of an economic downturn.

Additionally, there is potential for more aggressive M&A strategies earlier in the year to get ahead of a potential downturn and downgrade in valuations. Companies that have proven to perform well during times of recession may be especially appealing targets.

The 2020 U.S. Election

Regarding a potential downturn, one of the major factors that play into the state of this year’s M&A market is the upcoming November 2020 presidential election in the United States and the issue of impeachment of the current president. History indicates that economies typically perform well in election years. However, as uncertainty looms contingent upon the results of the election when it comes to topics such as trade and regulation, acquirers may become hesitant and the M&A market could lose momentum leading up to November, with the market remaining slow in the months following, depending on the election results.

Another matter affected by the election results is capital gains taxes, which is a matter of concern if you are selling a company because how much profit you yield from the sale will be taxable. Some presidential candidates are proposing higher taxation of the highest-income taxpayers’ accrued wealth and income, and this includes capital gains. Most candidates’ plans would tax capital gains at ordinary income rates, with just the very top marginal tax rates varying at incomes of more than $488,850.

The closer the election nears, the more every single day counts. If you hope to sell, the sooner you initiate the process, the better, as most M&A deals take several months.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Brexit

As of January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom is officially no longer part of the European Union, but a second round of negotiations will continue with the goal of reaching a deal by the end of 2020. With lessened political uncertainty now that an initial Brexit deal has been made, there is heightened confidence in deal-making activity. The inability to make a second deal by the end of the year will mean higher costs and barriers to trade.

The Brexit situation is affecting changes to M&A strategies. M&A could be used to secure an operational presence in the EU to maintain access to European markets. M&A could also facilitate access to markets outside the EU. Additionally, some companies could be facing new pressures that can directly impact share prices.  

The Boomer Retirement Wave

While it seems as though we have been talking about it for years, the Baby Boomer generation remains a factor in 2020.

According To Pew Research Center population data, 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 on each day of this year.

In the U.S. alone, Baby Boomers own 2.34 million small businesses, and employ more than 25 million people. This aging ownership pool points to a flood of M&A activity in the lower and middle markets this year, especially in certain sectors such as those that offer professional services.

As this population retires, there will be an increased need for consolidation, succession planning, and exit planning. If Boomers do not properly plan for these scenarios, it could result in an economic crisis that in turn affects millions of jobs. Also, most of these business owners have the majority of their net worth tied up in their company. This means that if the company should lose value, so does the owner’s ability to retire.

The unfortunate reality is that the majority (75%) of owners of small to mid-sized businesses choose to procrastinate and do not have a plan in place. If you are a part of this generation, you should most certainly already have your plans for the future underway. Even if you are not a Boomer and are considering selling, this is the time to get ahead of the massive wave of businesses that are expected to hit the market this year.    

Are You Ready to Sell?

If you are considering selling your business, we encourage you to enlist the expert M&A guidance of Benchmark International’s team to create your growth strategy, exit strategy, or company sale for maximum value. The time to start planning is now.

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2020 Global IT Industry Outlook

The global Information Technology industry encompasses the sectors of hardware, software and services, telecom, and emerging tech including ‘as-a-service’ solutions under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT) and automating technologies.

 The global IT industry is projected to reach $5.2 trillion in 2020, with global spending growing 3.7%

As the world continues to be more digitally connected and industries become more automated, technology will remain a massively growing market in the beginning of the new decade, especially as companies focus less on cost reduction and more on innovation.

The United States is the world’s largest tech market, accounting for one-third of the total market, and exceeding the gross domestic product of most other industries. Although the US market is so large, the lion’s share of tech spending actually happens outside of the US (68%) and is made by enterprise or government entities. Western Europe is a major contributor in the global tech market, and China is also a significant player with focuses in robotics, infrastructure, software, and services.

 

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Forecasted IT Spending

In 2020, IT spending budgets will be largely driven by the needs to upgrade outdated infrastructure, address security issues, and accommodate growth. The amount of spending and the mix of services will vary by company size.

  • Smaller businesses are expected to spend more on hardware such as servers and laptops.
  • Mid-size companies will be spending more on mobile devices.
  • Larger corporations will spend more on managed infrastructure IT services such as power and climate solutions.

For software spending specifically, small businesses will focus their spending on operating systems. Mid-size companies will have a larger budget for productivity software and business support applications. Large enterprises will be spending more of their money on virtualization, database management, and communications software. Cloud services and recovery software will represent major budget allocations in the coming year and cloud spend will vary by company size.

Cloud Security

With the increasing popularity of cloud-based software and services and hybrid cloud solutions comes the increasing concern regarding cloud security. This is further reinforced by an ongoing rise in cyber attacks and data breaches. Cloud-based security solutions will remain a growing need across several sectors, especially in highly regulated ones such as finance and government. The global cloud security market was anticipated to garner $8.9 billion by the start of 2020. This need will create more opportunities for companies, entrepreneurs and investors.

 

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The Year of 5G

The highly anticipated 5G technology will see a much more momentous rollout in 2020, in contrast to the lackluster emergence in 2019. Hundreds of millions of 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to ship in 2020. 5G will deliver significantly high speeds and remarkable data capacity to expand the financial possibilities for businesses. It is able to support billions of connected devices across sectors, allow new innovation for the IoT, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality. It will also enable a new world of autonomous vehicles and smart cities through a fully connected society, shattering boundaries to create a scalable global marketplace through unified technologies. Businesses will need to be prepared with how this new technology is going to dramatically alter the possibilities of the cloud and the need for virtualization-based networks as opposed to fixed-function equipment. While it is not going to happen overnight, 5G technology will grow increasingly more available throughout 2020, changing the availability of certain devices and transforming industrial possibilities.

Edge Computing

Edge computing is not a new concept, as it has existed for years. However, the value opportunity that it represents across industries is enormous. 2020 is anticipated to be a highly emergent year for edge computing due to the availability of faster networking technologies such as 5G and analytic capabilities in smaller devices.

Edge computing allows data processing to be done physically closer to where the data is generated (the edge of the network) rather than at a massive data processing center, which in turn reduces latency and processes the data much faster. This opens up countless new opportunities. Additionally, this technology offers several benefits for businesses, such as reduced costs, improved energy efficiencies, predictive maintenance, increased reliability, smart manufacturing, and security enhancements.

Let’s Talk Soon

At Benchmark International, our team of M&A advisors is ready to help you plan the next steps for you and your company. Whether it is selling your business, creating an exit strategy, seeking investor assistance, or finding ways to create growth, we are here to work on your terms to help you make your future as bright as possible.

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The Aviation Industry and M&A

The transportation industry on a whole has seen major opportunities for investment thanks to a myriad of technological advancements such as self-driving cars, ride sharing and alternative fuels. As technology permeates all global industries, the aviation industry has its own unique circumstances, and must turn to acquisitions and market share to create competitive advantages in the 21st century.

Major areas of focus include aerospace, defense, supersonic travel, artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, surveillance, and communications. The idea of space exploration has become more privatized. It is not just about commercial astronauts anymore, but about making it possible for everyday people to engage in space travel. Also, urban on-demand air transportation is redefining the possibilities for how people commute to work. This technological advancement is proposed to use three-dimensional airspace to ease traffic on the ground, save commuters time and money, and provide a safer yet still relatively quiet travel option.

Aerospace and Defense (A&D)

As global A&D spending increases, so does the opportunity for M&A activity. In our digitized world, threat and risk mitigation continue to take on more importance, resulting in more mergers and acquisitions within IT, cybersecurity, and space companies.

Commercial aerospace firms are stretching their aftermarket capabilities to gain repair revenue over the lifespan of an aircraft fleet and benefit from improvements within the areas of electronics and avionics.

Private equity investors are also becoming more attracted to this sector, looking to sink capital into targets that have high growth prospects and high margins.   

 

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

Aircraft Backlogs and the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Market

Commercial aircraft order backlogs also drive M&A activity in the middle market, as equipment manufacturers within the supply chain must respond to the demand, and are sitting on a tall stack of orders. Over the next 20 years, around 40,000 new aircrafts are slotted for production. Major airlines have a tendency to prefer larger suppliers, so consolidation to create more efficient and reliable MROs is a tactic that ensures the orders can stay on pace without major delays. As this consolidation occurs, it becomes more difficult for smaller, independent MROs to compete, causing them to team up with larger original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in order to meet demand and avert delays.  

Pilot Training

There is an existing and growing pilot shortage that presents a major challenge for all airlines around the world. According to Boeing, it is estimated that 800,000 new pilots will be needed over the next 20 years. More pilots are reaching the mandatory retirement age at the same time that an increasing number of people around the world are booking flights. Plus, military expansion means a reduction in the pool of military pilots that are typically sourced by commercial aviation. These factors all combine to create new opportunities in M&A in the global aviation industry through the need for pilot training and the creation of new, more efficient flight simulators, as well as the development of autonomous piloting technologies.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

A New Era of M&A

M&A activity is crucial to the many new types of developments in the global aviation industry. Private equity and venture capital are needed to keep the innovations coming, alongside the pursuance of new growth strategies and market retention by existing industry players. M&A in the aviation industry has become very much about bringing new services to new markets. This changes the way competitive companies must view each other, calling for more collaboration in order to drive innovation and create value.

It is strongly advised that anyone entering into the complex world of aviation M&A obtains an advisor that has the appropriate experience to conduct proper due diligence, navigate the intricacies of the industry, create the right connections, and be familiar with the industry-specific regulatory environments. 

Contact Us

At Benchmark International, we’d love to start a conversation about how we can help you grow or sell your company. Schedule a chat with one of our M&A experts today. Our global network of buyers and our innovative processes make us recognized around the world for getting great deals done.  

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Tips For Evaluating A Buyer’s Letter Of Intent

A Letter of Intent (“LOI”) is an expression of the buyer’s intent to acquire a seller’s business on specific terms and conditions.  It is considered a milestone in the transaction process, primarily because it is predicated on the concept that the seller and buyer have agreed upon the basic terms, assuming that due diligence supports assumed facts.

An LOI is generally non-binding as to substantive terms (price, transaction structure, and forms of consideration) but is often binding as to process items. These include access to seller’s information, cooperation by the parties, seller’s exclusivity obligations, seller’s obligation to conduct business in the ordinary course, governing law, confidentiality, and allocation of expenses.

Sellers need to manage their expectations and be aware that buyers can still walk away from the deal even after they have reviewed sellers’ sensitive information provided in due diligence.  If the buyer is a direct competitor, this can have unintended consequences for the seller, notwithstanding well-drafted non-disclosure agreements with limitations on use of the information.  For example, will a strategic buyer determine through due diligence that investing the purchase price in their own business is more cost-effective than paying an acquisition premium?  It is critical that the seller and his/her advisor carefully evaluate all offers and determine if the buyer has the actual intent and financial wherewithal to close the transaction before signing the LOI.

 

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Here are some basic considerations for evaluating an LOI.

  • Is the deal too good to be true?Reasonable business practitioners do not offer consideration or terms well above the norm.  Such offers often end in re-trades or worse, in a long period of failed efforts to secure acquisition financing, during which time the seller’s business is off the market because of exclusivity.
  • How will the buyer finance the transaction? Cash at closing or bank debt. Third-party financing adds significantly to the complexity and timing considerations of the transaction.The seller should consider requiring satisfactory evidence of a financing commitment early in the process, with the ability to break exclusivity, and perhaps recover out of pocket costs if it is not provided in a timely manner. 
  • How will the seller be compensated? Will the seller receive the full purchase price in cash at closing?What indemnification provisions (how much for how long) apply?  Is rollover equity a component of the deal?  Is stock of the buyer a component of consideration?
  • Is the transaction cash-free/debt-free?If so, does the seller’s balance sheet indicate that a substantial portion of sale proceeds go to retirement of debt?
  • Does the transaction include a working capital adjustment?Assuming that value is based upon a stream of cash flows, a “normal” level of working capital (that historically facilitated the income streams used to determine value) will be required at closing.  Careful attention must be given to how this issue is treated in the LOI, and in the asset or stock purchase agreement, because working capital adjustments (based upon factors determined in a quality of earnings review) are often used as an effective re-trade by sophisticated buyers.
  • What post-closing involvement is required of the seller?Will the seller be required to continue in the business post-closing?  For how long and for what compensation?
  • What non-competition requirements are required?Most acquisition agreements include a non-competition provision that lasts from two to five years.  The points for consideration include geographic location, limitations on the type of business precluded, passive investment versus active participation, and the overall length of time the limitations are effective.

It is crucial to understand that an LOI is not the end of the transaction process, but for legalities.  It is, in effect, just the beginning. Due diligence and quality of earnings review, drafting the asset purchase agreement, and financing the acquisition are all yet to come.  The terms of the LOI can have a serious affect on the seller’s ability to realize his expectations through this process.

 

Author
Don Rooney 
Transaction Director
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Rooney@BenchmarkIntl.com

 

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14 Common Misconceptions About Selling A Business and Engaging an M&A Firm

1. “I can conduct the sale myself.”
You could. But you are likely to get a much better deal if you have the guidance of an M&A professional on your side. Not to mention, you are going to have far less of a headache if you do not take on this complex process on your own. It’s going to take a good bit of time and is going to involve meticulous details. The help of an M&A expert also allows you to remain focused on running your business instead of getting caught up in the sale process and being overwhelmed by trying to juggle both, just to get a smaller profit.

2. “I already know my buyer.”
You know your business better than anyone, so it is easy to assume that you will know your perfect buyer. But it is a competitive world and there are many types of buyers that could be a great fit. Fixating on one type of buyer limits your options. Exploring all of your prospects will allow you to maximize your sale potential. This includes buyers that may not even be in your same industry. You are more likely to find the right buyer with the help of an M&A firm that has global connections and vast experience brokering these types of deals.

3. “Selling will only take a few weeks.”
It is very rare that any merger or acquisition is completed quickly. It typically takes months to years to find the right buyer and iron out the details of the sale. Six months is a common estimated timeframe for small to mid-sized businesses.

 

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4. “Asking price will be the purchase price.”
These are not the same thing. Following negotiations, it is common for the sale price to be lower than the asking price. A qualified M&A advisor can determine the fair market value of your business, help to maximize this value, arrange a better deal, and manage your expectations regarding the transaction.

5. “A buyer's financing is not my problem.”
A buyer's financing should surely concern you because they cannot buy your company without the capital needed to do so. You can play a role in moving the process along by boosting lender confidence through your testament as to how the business can continue to thrive under new ownership.

6. “I already have the advisors I need.”
As a business owner, you have skillful attorneys and accountants on your side that deserve credit for the fine work that they do in their areas of expertise. But it is unlikely that they are experienced in conducting complicated M&A deals. Even if they have a small level of experience with M&A, it probably is not enough to ensure that you get the best deal possible. Remember that selling your company is a monumental one-time deal that will impact the rest of your life. Consider how much you really want to risk your life’s work in the hands of someone who is not a consummate M&A expert.

7. “Next year, I can sell for more.
Markets can be extremely unpredictable, especially in certain sectors. While timing is important to a sale, it is possible to wait too long and miss out on your best window of opportunity. Working with M&A professionals can help you make better decisions based on reliable data and knowledge, best determining when you should sell.

8. “My business is entirely different.”
It’s not out of the ordinary for a business owner to feel that their company is worth more than it actually is simply because of their emotional connection to it. While most businesses do have their own unique aspects, the reality is that unicorns are rare. You are better off to keep your expectations down to earth, because your business is likely not immune to middle-market norms.

9. “Selling means getting what I want.”
You deserve a deal that delivers on your goals for your future. But remember that a sale is going to have to work for both sides—otherwise you might as well not even consider selling. Many buyers are savvy and recognize when a seller is going to be unreasonable. The best way to fulfill your aspirations is to work with an M&A advisor that knows how to communicate with buyers and negotiate on your behalf while being mindful of how to make the deal enticing for them.

 

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10. “I can wait to sell when I am ready.”
If you are seeking disappointment, this is the attitude to have. Waiting until you feel ready is a major pitfall. There are several factors regarding the economy, your industry, and the state of your business that must be considered into the timing of a sale. You might finally be ready, but you may not get what you could have if you went to market at a more suitable time. If you plan to sell eventually, the smart move is to start preparing your business sooner rather than later.

11. “Things are going great. So why sell now?”
Because when your business is trending upward, you are in a much more advantageous position to sell. You are more likely to see increased competition to buy and higher company valuations, and you will be under less pressure to accept any old offer.

12. “My company is ready to sell.”
Properly preparing a business to be taken to market takes quite a bit of work, time and energy. The level of detail that a business owner puts into compiling finances and business records, increasing marketability, planning for the transition, and crafting an exit strategy, directly impacts the salability of a company. If these matters are not in order, your company is not ready to sell.

13. “I must sell 100 percent of my business.”
There are some buyers that are content to providing capital for a minority ownership stake. This type of deal can give you capital to put back into the business and facilitate growth while you still remain the owner. Working with an M&A advisor can help you identify these buyers.

14. “Negotiating is over once I sign the LOI.”
Signing the letter of intent (LOI) is very important, but negotiations do not end there. There will be comprehensive due diligence leading up to the drafting of the purchase agreement. Negotiations continue until the purchase agreement is signed.

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If you are considering selling your company and enlisting the help of passionate M&A experts like ours at Benchmark International, we are ready to become your partner in success

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5 Qualities The Best People In The M&A Industry Tend To Have

1) Discretion

Privacy and confidentiality are absolutely essential to any M&A deal. Anyone handling or involved with the sale of a business must be trusted implicitly to maintain discretion around all details of the business and any sensitive materials, including intellectual property.

Discretion is also important to ensuring that both employees and customers do not hear that the company is for sale before the intended timing. This can result in unnecessary panic and the loss of clients and valued talent. Sellers should seek out an M&A advisory team that has an established reputation of trustworthiness in such delicate matters. 

2) Passion

The best people in the M&A industry do not just like what they do—they absolutely love it. When you love what you are doing, it is easy to be truly dedicated and passionate about it. That kind of passion translates into the ability to deliver on the best interests of the seller and arrange a deal that helps them fulfill their aspirations for their business and their future. When your entrusted M&A expert is passionate about delivering life-changing choices for you, it will be evident in their actions and the options that they bring to you.

 

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3) Analytical Thinking

M&A transactions are very complex and require assessment of a great deal of data and financials, knowledge of valuation techniques, the ability to market a company, and many other aspects. Navigating through so many details with precision is crucial to any lucrative transaction. A highly analytical mind is needed in order to process massive amounts of information and develop an accurate and error-free evaluation in every step of the process.

4) Experience-based Vision

In order to sell or grow a company through M&A, there must be a clear understanding of the seller’s industry, the market, the competition, and applicable geographic regions and their related nuances. An effective M&A strategy for maximum success comes with pertinent experience and the ability to define a clear path to creating value and reaching the best possible outcome. A quality M&A partner will have a proven track record with all of these aspects. 

5) Compassion

To be truly successful as an M&A advisor, there should be a compassionate understanding of the client being served. Business owners have worked so hard through their entire lives to build their companies and selling is a very personal, emotional journey. They are going to have fears and doubts that need to be mitigated. Empathy during the process is key to fully understanding a seller’s motivation and goals for their future. It also facilitates better communication and the ability to bring people together. A truly good M&A team will never force a seller into a deal with which they are not 100% comfortable. This requires a willingness to see everything from the seller’s perspective throughout the entire journey.

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If you are ready to engage in a deal to sell or grow your company, please reach out to our esteemed experts at Benchmark International. As a passionate and compassionate M&A team, we take a personal stake in formulating the ideal path to achieving your goals and maximizing the value of your business.

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How Long Does It Take To Buy A Company?

How long after I learn of an opportunity will I be expected to submit an offer?

The timing that the offer is first seen does not really play a role in setting any timing expectations. The more precise question might be, “How long will I have to put in an offer before the opportunity is lost?  Some opportunities come to market with a fixed timeline leading to a formal auction process. In this case, you would be notified of that deadline and, if you found the teaser early in the process, you would have plenty of time. This is unless you came across it later on that same timeline. In other cases, and what is more often the case for businesses in the lower-middle markets, no timelines are set. A business may be on the market one day and gone the next. There really is no way to make a prediction.

How long does a business spend planning to go to market?

Some sell-side advisors spend months or even years “grooming” their clients for the market. They attempt to ensure all the low-hanging fruit in terms of improvements to profitability is addressed before you see the business. Benchmark International’s approach is different. Our pre-marketing work focuses on getting to know our client’s business and preparing the information you need to make an informed decision rather than guessing what improvements you would like to see and then encouraging our clients to spend money on projects that you may or may not value highly. Our clients work with us for two to three months on average before coming to market. We would like to shorten that time period but our clients are typically owner-operators and, as they say, “They already have a day job.

After I see a teaser, express interest and sign an NDA, how long should I expect to wait for the next data dump?

The next round of data should come in the form of a Confidential Information Memorandum, also called a private placement memo, a CIM, a PPM, or a “book.” The process of getting your NDA to a client and obtaining the client’s approval to share this information should take about three business days.

After receiving a Confidential Information Memorandum, what is my expected response time for expressing further interest or asking additional questions?

There is no set rule here. Buyers are typically looking at multiple opportunities, comparing one to the other and then prioritizing them. The sooner you reply, the lesser the chance the company has gone off the market and the keener your interest will appear to the seller, so sooner is better than later. Aggressive buyers typically reach back out to us within three business days of sending the CIM and, if we have not heard back within one week, we follow up.

 

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How long should I have to wait to have a call or meeting with an owner?

Setting a date for an initial call or meeting should be almost instantaneous. When that exchange actually happens will depend on the parties’ schedules. Phone calls are typically held within a week of the buyer’s request. Timing face-to-face meetings depends on the distance between the parties, the time of year, and other factors, but is usually accommodated within two weeks of the request.

How long does a first call typically take?

These are generally scheduled for one hour.

How long does a first visit typically take?

This will depend on how much information has been shared prior to the meeting and where the buyer and seller are in the process at the time that the initial meeting occurs. These meetings tend to be much longer than calls, up to four hours, and often involve going to a meal together.

How long after speaking with or visiting with the seller do I have to put in an offer?

Unless a formal process has been put in place and announced, there are no rules here. As mentioned above, companies go off the market and quicker responses convey a stronger interest. It is more important that you have the right amount of information before submitting an offer. You need to be comfortable standing behind the offer, and the seller needs to be comfortable that you understand the business, otherwise the offer isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Unless there is a formal deadline, offers should not be rushed. Take as much time as you need and put forth a detailed offer that hits as many of the seller’s points of interest as possible.

How long does it take to get an offer (or letter of intent) signed?

Absent a formal deadline, we typically see letters of intent (or “LOIs”) go back and forth for about two weeks. Sellers rarely accept a first offer and, even if the terms were acceptable, there are always questions to be addressed and additional details to be added at the request of the seller. The seller should respond to your initial offer in a matter of days, perhaps three to five, but you should budget two to three weeks to get the details ironed out.

How long does it take from signing the LOI to closing?

This is almost always in the buyer’s hands. Working with a well-represented seller can help speed up the process. At Benchmark International for example, we run online data rooms for all of our clients, we hold weekly calls, we shepherd the diligence requests back and forth ensuing nothing falls through the cracks, and we push the seller for timely responses when necessary. As the buyer typically prepares the first draft of the definitive agreements, whether you decide to complete diligence first and then have the attorneys start drafting, or if you do the two simultaneously will be the single largest factor in determining timing. How much due diligence you have performed and how well you control your due-diligence providers and attorney will be the second most significant factor. All that said, we see parties aiming to close deals within 90 days of signing the LOI, though that timing sometimes slips.

I am using debt for the acquisition. What impact will my lender have on timing?

If you handle it well, run your offer by the lender before providing it to the seller, and are not asking them to do something they are uncomfortable with; they should not add time. Unfortunately, many buyers are unable to meet these expectations and the lender often becomes the long pole in the tent in terms of timing. A buyer’s inability to get the debt financing lined up can stretch on for months. These delays are what most often kill deals with our clients. If you have any concerns about timing, the most important step you should take is to get your debt financing relationship(s) in line early in the process— perhaps before you even start looking at acquisition targets—and keep your potential debt provider(s) in the loop as the process progresses, constantly obtaining reassurances from them that the deal you are working on is “fundable.”

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M&A In The Global Insurance Industry

Mergers and acquisitions in the global insurance industry carry their share of unique challenges. There is always the potential for increased regulation, and ever-changing technologies and infrastructures can make it expensive and difficult for companies to keep pace. When it comes to cross-border M&A, cultural integration is often overlooked. These factors make the world of M&A in the insurance sector complicated to navigate.

Key Drivers of M&A in the Insurance Industry

M&A activity in the global insurance sector becomes more dynamic as a result of several contributing factors and strategic objectives.

  • Companies acknowledge the need for economies of scale and seek to expand by moving into global markets.
  • Lower policy rates push industry players to consolidate to maintain profitability and find ways to remain competitive by uniting two synergistic companies and gain more value through scale efficiencies.
  • Stagnant domestic markets result in cross-border targets.
  • Organic growth cannot be relied upon to meet company goals.
  • Heightened interest comes from a broad range of backers, from hedge funds to international investors.
  • Low profitability results in low investment yields.
  • Insurers need ways to spend large cash reserves.
  • They need to integrate new technologies (such as mobile apps and big data) to revitalize flat business models, improve internal capabilities, reach customers, or gain market insights.

 

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Due Diligence

As with all M&A transactions, meticulous due diligence in the insurance industry is critical to a successful deal. While many due diligence topics for an insurance company overlap with that of all types of M&A transactions (property, tax records, employee issues, etc.), the insurance industry is subject to some unique scrutiny, such as:

  • Regulatory issues (licensing, permitted practices, regulatory filings, and interactions with government agencies)
  • Assessment and adequacy of reserves
  • Structure of investment portfolio
  • Underwriting and claims administration
  • Market conduct and producers
  • Reinsurance collectability
  • Intercompany agreements
  • Data security
  • Compliance with privacy laws

Crafting of the purchase agreement in insurance M&A transactions is also an important part of the process. If done correctly, it will address both the unique nature of insurance companies and the regulatory environment in which they operate.

Insurance-Specific Indemnities

Indemnification provisions within insurance M&A agreements are similar to that of other industries, with exception of a few differences. An M&A transaction can call for unlimited indemnity protection for specific circumstances in which the buyer asks the seller to assume the risk. Common areas for specific indemnities include:

  • Policyholder claims for extra-contractual obligations or claims that exceed policy limits
  • Litigation specific to the insurance industry (i.e., class action policyholder lawsuits or regulatory actions for improper business conduct)

Cultural Integration in M&A

Global insurance executives have reported that overcoming cultural and organizational differences following a deal has been a significant challenge.

In order for cross-border M&A to be successful, leaders must look beyond financial motivations and consider how cultural integration can result in improved synergy and innovation. This can happen in several ways:

  • The acquirer can completely assimilate the culture of the target company.
  • The acquired company can maintain its own identity and independence.
  • The two can meld, creating an entirely new culture.

The route a company chooses to take depends on the size of the two companies, the post-deal organizational structure, and the advantages generated by different cultural traits.

When companies carefully take culture into account, they can greatly benefit from the positive outcomes and lower the risk of failure in M&A. A cultural assessment should be conducted alongside due diligence far before the deal nears completion. This assessment should study the geographic locations, management styles, work habits, and attitudes of both companies. Successfully uniting employees from diverse backgrounds calls for a customized process that should not be rushed and includes clear and honest communication.

 

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Steps for Success

When insurance companies are considering M&A for financial growth, geographic expansion, and bolstered competitiveness, there are certain steps that leadership should take to find the right type of deal and ensure a positive outcome.

  • Assess the future of the industry, the trajectory of the business, and where the two align.
  • Plan for different scenarios that could trigger economic changes in the next one to two years.
  • Craft an M&A strategy that aligns with ownership’s goals.
  • Choose target companies consistent with leadership’s overall strategy and long-term goals. What seems like a good idea today may not make sense for five to ten years down the road.
  • Remain cognizant of the changing tax and regulatory environments.
  • Evaluate in-house corporate development and overall integration abilities.

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Do You Really Want a Management Presentation?

These are customary in bulge bracket deals. And the middle markets are growing more sophisticated to become similar to larger markets. However, not every tool used in larger markets warrants transplanting. Benchmark International clients rarely offer management presentations and we have no plan to change that practice. Here are reasons why we take that view, and why you should welcome the decision as a buyer.

  • Management teams at bulge bracket companies have seen management presentations. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. Yet, this is rarely the case in the middle markets. As a result, presentations on these smaller deals require significantly more preparation time, tend to be derailed, and rarely make it to the end of the anticipated content.
  • There is simply not enough to talk about. Middle-market businesses often have single lines of business and single locations. They tend to lack vertical integration, complex supply lines, and paths to market. They do not typically use complex financial engineering that must be understood by buyers. And they simply do not have a slew of issues that require a structured introduction.
  • Many middle-market businesses are owner-operated businesses and their owners are driven by intuition, not data. For that reason, they do not collect much data and, accordingly, there is very little for management to analyze and summarize in a presentation.
  • The management teams are smaller so the number of team members brought “into the know” when a management presentation is given is typically very limited—sometimes even limited to one person, the owner.
  • These management teams do not have the bandwidth to set aside the time required to develop a quality presentation. Many of these businesses are selling precisely because the owners have not invested in overhead. Spending a few days to prepare for management presentations means key employees are taking their eye off the ball and no one is backfilling.
  • Deals are done in the middle markets for a far wider variety of reasons than you see in larger markets. Because buyers are coming from so many different angles (and they themselves have a more diverse range of M&A sophistication), developing a standard presentation poses unique difficulties and results in the audience sitting through a higher percentage of unproductive dialogue.

 

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Understanding these realities, as well as your interest in learning as much about our clients as possible and doing so in the most efficient manner, Benchmark International takes the following steps to compensate for the absence of management presentations.

  • We frontload much of the material that would be in the presentation into the Confidential Information Memorandum (CIM). We believe our CIMs are far more detailed than what you typically see for businesses of similar size and this is a big reason why.
  • We set up online data rooms early in the process. We strive to get as much raw data into your hands as possible through this approach. This is not a feasible approach for larger businesses that have too much data for you to sort through (a reason why they summarize their voluminous data in management presentations). But given how manageable the amount of data is for most middle-market companies, it makes sense for you to get to the unvarnished raw data sooner rather than later.
  • We encourage early and frequent informal conversations with our seller clients. In cases where the CIM and the raw data do not cover everything, these less structured conversations allow you to get straight to the point and fill in the remaining gaps.

With all this in mind, we hope you will agree that our approach is actually the most efficient for you. If not, we invite you to comment below and we will reconsider our position as we are constantly attempting to give buyers the best possible experience.

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The Biggest Trends In M&A This Year

As we approach the end of 2019, it’s a great time to take a look back at trends in mergers and acquisitions activity that emerged around the world throughout the year. Overall, there was an increase in the number of reported M&A transactions and total deal value worldwide.

Four industries experienced significant increases in deal value from the first half of 2018:

  • Industrial (22.6%)
  • Energy and power (11.2%)
  • Health care (6.1%)
  • High tech (2.8%)

New M&A Motivation

A growing trend that is permeating all industries is the deal activity that is occurring as a result of companies needing to integrate technology into their offerings, altering the business landscape. Companies are being compelled to work with a much wider scope of partners to accomplish their tech-enabled goals. For this reason, we are seeing more non-traditional partnerships with different depths of cross-industry integration. These nontraditional deals include joint ventures and alliances, corporate venture capital investments, and the purchase of minority stakes. An example of these types of alliances in 2019 include Uber Advanced Technologies’ (their self-driving car unit) raising of $1 billion in funds from Toyota, Softbank’s Vision Fund and auto components manufacturer Denso.

First Quarter

During the first quarter of 2019, we saw relatively few cross-border megadeals. This could be because of fluctuating geopolitical factors such as increased trade tension between the United States and China. Amid this year’s early cross-border megadeals was the acquisition of Canadian company Goldcorp by Newmont Mining Corporation, a U.S. company. The deal was a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $10 billion.

In the middle market, M&A activity remained robust through the first quarter. Transaction volume was up slightly over the previous year’s period. Private equity funding and a high level of strategic buyer activity continued to drive deals significantly. Foreign buyer activity increased to account for almost 16% of middle-market deals. 

 

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Second Quarter

Megadeals heated up in the second quarter of 2019, especially in North America. Of the 21 megadeals announced in the first half of 2019, the highest in value included:

  • AbbVie’s $62 billion buyout of Allergan
  • Fidelity National Information Services $35 billion purchase of Worldpay
  • Saudi Aramco’s $69 billion majority-stake purchase of petrochemicals group Sabic
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb’s $74 billion acquisition of rival Celgene
  • The $121 billion merger of United Technologies and Raytheon

The second quarter also saw an increase in deal volume in the middle market, up from the same period in 2018. Foreign buyer activity accounted for almost 14% of middle-market deals. 

Third Quarter

By the third quarter, global M&A activity dropped 16% year-on-year to $729 billion, the lowest quarterly volume since 2016.

In Europe, M&A activity reached $249 billion, up more than 45% over the same third-quarter time period in 2018. With a 6.4% share of global M&A and $177 billion worth of transactions, Britain was Europe’s biggest M&A market in 2019. This is due in part to the uncertainty regarding Brexit turning companies into bargain acquisition targets. Additionally, Ireland showed strong M&A activity through the first half of 2019 with deal value up 24% compared with the previous year, while later slightly slowing amid economic uncertainty.

Third-quarter megadeals in the U.S. included:

  • The $24.6 billion merger of drug giant Pfizer’s off-patent branded drugs business with Mylan NV
  • Media companies CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc.’s $20 billion merger in an all-stock deal

In the middle market, global third-quarter deals closed totaled $600 billion, remaining on pace with the first three quarters of 2018. The largest of these deals included Norwegian company Equinor ASA’s $965 million acquisition of U.S.-based Caesar Tonga Oil Field.

 

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High Tech M&A

The technology sector continued to be ripe for M&A transactions in 2019. However, we have witnessed a softening in tech M&A activity in the second half of the year. This could be due in part to enhanced scrutiny that tech companies are facing around issues of consumer privacy, regulations, and misuse of market power. Such scrutiny can be the source of some apprehension to invest in these types of businesses.

Among the notable mega tech deals of 2019 were:

  • Apple’s $1 billion purchase of Intel’s modem business
  • Google’s $2.6 billion acquisition of Looker
  • Nvidia’s $7 billion acquisition of Mellanox
  • Salesforce’s $15.7 billion acquisition of Tableau
  • Uber’s $31 billion purchase of their rival Careem

In the first half of 2019, the largest North American middle-market technology deals (each valued at $500 million) included:

  • JPMorgan’s acquisition of InstaMed
  • Envestnet, Inc.’s acquisition of PIEtech, Inc.
  • Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. takeover of OneStream Software LLC

Globally, the largest middle-market technology deals included:

  • Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Insight Venture Partners LLC’s acquisition of Switzerland’s Veeam Software AG
  • GEMS Education’s purchase of Ma’arif for Education & Training
  • TPG Capital/Insight Venture Partners’ buyout of Kaseya Limited

Is a Deal in Your Future?

If you feel the time is right to sell or grow your business, our team of M&A advisors at Benchmark International would love to hear from you. We look forward to partnering in your success and making extraordinary things happen for you and your company.

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Common Pitfalls Owners Face When Selling A Business

Not Knowing the Value of Your Business

As important as it is to know the value of your own business, the reality is that 65 percent of business owners do not know their company worth. Valuation is a crucial step in taking your business to market. Simply put, you cannot negotiate the best selling price for your company if you do not know what it is worth.

Selling at the Wrong Time

Market timing is important to a business acquisition because it can directly affect a company’s value based on competition, demand and economic factors. You do not want to rush to sell, but you also do not want to wait too long. Finding this delicate balance is crucial to maximizing your company value prior to your exit. Professional M&A experts can assist you in properly determining the right time for you to sell your business because they have a strong understanding of the markets and have exclusive access to opportunities that can play into the timing.

Lack of Preparation
The most frequent mistake made by business owners in sale is not properly preparing for it. Before taking a company to market, there are several factors that must be addressed. These include detailed documentation regarding finances and profitability, contracts, personnel, exit planning, and other issues that will affect both value and salability. Proper preparation can take anywhere from months to years, depending on the size and complexity of your business. It is smart to seek the guidance of a professional M&A advisor to help you with these details to ensure that nothing is overlooked. 

 

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Misunderstanding Future Cash Flow

As a business owner, it is easy to focus on liquidity as a result of a deal and fail to consider how timing and proceeds will be factored into your retirement plan and how it conforms to your standard of living.

Studies show that 70 percent of business owners do not know what after-tax income they need to support their lifestyle. 

You need to have a clear and detailed understanding of your risk and liquidity profile to help you discern if and when you should sell your business. This includes the calculation of your net worth by comparing your financial assets with your financial liabilities, sources of cash flow, and income tax liability.

Not Having an Exit Plan

A staggering 85 percent of business owners have no exit strategy—something that every business owner absolutely should have in place. 

Exit planning is extremely important for several reasons. A solid exit plan will help you outline your goals for the future of your business as well as your financial retirement goals. It also helps you determine a timeframe for when you want to sell, can enhance the value of the company, gives you a blueprint for success, and protects you in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Misrepresentation
Of course you want to portray your company in the best light, but you must be careful to not misrepresent it to prospective buyers. Avoid the urge to inflate numbers, exaggerate projections or try to hide issues. Providing inaccurate information can blow a sale and erode your reputation with other potential buyers, derailing any possibility of a deal. Your honesty and transparency will also earn the trust of investors, increasing the likelihood of a sale.

 

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Breaking Confidentiality
When selling a business, even if only considering it, it is important to carefully handle who knows what—and when. It will not be a good situation if your staff hears about the sale from anyone other than you or your leadership team and they descend into a panic. You also do not want your customers or clients finding out and jumping ship. Another reason to be careful with confidentiality is because it can affect the sale if a buyer feels that you cannot be trusted or that they are getting damaged goods.

Not Addressing the Transition
Selling a business is a major undertaking and it is easy to get so caught up in the details of the sale that you overlook the transition process that will need to happen after the deal is closed. You will need to work with the acquirer to determine if you need to stay on with the company for a short time to help move the transition along smoothly, or if it will be an immediate exit. There are also other factors that will play into the transition, including how it will affect the management team and the staff. It is important to make plans for the transition completely clear to avoid confusion, frustration and fear of the unknown.  

Is it Time to Sell?

Enlist the expertise of the M&A advisors at Benchmark International as your partners in achieving the highest standards for the sale of your company. Our team will make sure you avoid pitfalls that you are not even aware may exist, and we are dedicated to arranging the very best deal with your goals and best interests as our top priority every step of the way.

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M&A And The Chemical And Plastics Manufacturing Industry

The chemical manufacturing industry converts raw materials such as gasses and oils into chemicals such as ethylene, propylene, methanol, benzene, chlorine, and paraxylene. These chemicals are feedstocks for value chains that produce a wide array of intermediates, plastics, and performance materials that are used to create more than 70,000 registered productsaround the world. It is an extremely diverse and complicated industry. Because many of the industry’s products are intermediates, the customers of chemical companies are often other chemical companies.

M&A Strategies

Among the many factors that influence multi-billion dollar investment decisions include energy market trends, global economic growth, and regional trade dynamics. Investors seek sustainable competitive advantages regarding the costs of energy and feedstock, technology and scale, proximity to markets, and degree of integration.

Mergers and acquisitions have been a long-time tactic used among chemical companies to create growth, change strategic course, and consolidate segments. In an industry that has seen major expansion, certain factors can complicate M&A. This includes the substantial size of some transactions and merger-of-equals deals that are more complex to carry out.

Key drivers of M&A in the chemical manufacturing industry include:

  • The pace of organic sales growthin sub-segments
  • Consolidation driven by a need for innovation and fewer opportunities to differentiate from competitors in high-value and specialty-chemical areas
  • The state of capital-markets returns and a campaign for higher valuations
  • An abundance of capital and private equity interest and access to low-cost finance

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Digitization & Optimization

Technology continues to transform all industries in the modern world, and the chemical manufacturing industry is no different. Data management through advanced analytics is enabling plant optimization across sites, improved supply chains, and infrastructure synergies. Digital solutions reduce downtime and costs as a result of maintenance and repairs. Sensors monitor plant and warehousing conditions, improving logistics. Also, a vast amount of field operator workload can be transferred to automation and robotics, allocating people resources elsewhere in the business and creating more opportunities for up-skilling. Implementation of these technologies results in revenue improvements.

The Circular Economy of Plastic Waste Recycling

Plastics production accounts for more than one third of the chemical industry’s manufacturing activities. But only a small percentage of these plastics are being recycled, resulting in resources that are lost forever into landfills. Global plastics waste volumes are expected to reach 460 million tons per year by 2030. Public outcry for sustainability is rising and raw material supplies are growing tighter, forcing the chemical industry to adapt on this issue. New plastic recycling methods offer new opportunities for value-creating growth for petrochemicals companies. Instead of focusing on the problem that plastic waste creates, companies are starting to recognize the billion-dollar profit pool it represents through new types of businesses, resulting in an entirely new landscape for M&A activity.

Activist Investors

Additionally, activist investors are playing a larger part in the chemicals sector. Activist investors attempt to create change within a company by purchasing a large number of shares or board seats. These players are emerging influencers of M&A activity and they have an ever-increasing role in the chemical industry through restructuring initiatives. This creates new challenges for industry executives because long-term strategic planning is not a typical priority of activist investors. Although activist investors are capable of delivering solutions that add value, they usually are more interested in shorter-term, higher valuations and results. This often results in cost-cutting measures, shareholder buybacks, and the splitting off of company divisions. 

 

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Successful Chemical Industry M&A

Deals that employ proven M&A best practices will yield higher total returns to shareholders. Capturing the full value potential of a deal requires specific industry knowledge and expertise. To craft a successful deal in the chemical sector, sellers should enlist the advice and methodologies of dedicated M&A experts such as those at Benchmark International. They should also:

  • Monitor the field to identify potential opportunities
  • Review their portfolios to ensure current assets fit their core business
  • Look for gaps that may need to be filled for fast action when opportunities arise
  • Prepare non-core businesses in order to maximize value from a deal

Contact Us

Are you thinking about selling your business? Set up a time to quickly chat with one of our global M&A specialists to discuss your options and opportunities. Our expertise spans several industries and continents and our talented people are dedicated to achieving your personal objectives. 

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How Do I, as a Potential First-time Buyer, Value a Business?

For an academic, this may be an easy answer: prepare a discounted cash flow, look at comparable transaction numbers, or use comparable trading prices of public companies with appropriate discounts. But for an individual on the verge of potentially making their first acquisition, that is all far from useful advice.

In reality, the answers are more complex for an individual buyer. While these academic procedures are well defined in textbooks and on various websites and can certainly be of assistance, our experience indicates there are a few more meaningful yardsticks for assessing the value you might offer on a lower-middle market or middle-market business. These include the following questions:

What will I do with the business? As the academic methods of valuation are all either based on historical performance or rely heavily on historical performance to paint a picture of future cash flows (and thus value), you as a new owner are not likely to run any acquired business the way the selling owners have done it. If you cannot squeeze more growth, margins, and/or cash flow out of the business than the current owners, the two of you are not likely to (and in fact should not) be able to agree on a value for the business. If you cannot bring something to the table that is going to make the business worth more in your hands than it is in their hands, your valuation—however derived—should be lower than their valuation. In other words, every business has a different value in the hands of different owners. You should place whatever unique competitive advantage you would infuse into the business into your valuation.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

How do I account for the risk of taking over a business? Another mantra of the academic community holds that the riskier the investment, the higher the required return is on that investment. It is typically fairly easy to account for the risk inherent in any business you may be looking to acquire, but the actual act of acquiring itself carries its own risks. Your valuation must take into account these risks as well. Unlike the inherent risks in any ongoing business, these risks tend to be short-term in nature. For example, the changes you may make in culture may cause personnel issues and the handoff of key customer and supplier relationships may result in some turbulence. Understanding these risks and structuring your transaction correctly can mitigate these risks significantly but both the risks and the desired structuring will play a factor in your valuation. 

How much can I afford? While you may be able to calculate a valuation on paper, if you lack the wherewithal to come up with the required funding, the business actually has no value to you. It is actually quite surprising how little “cash down” is necessary to purchase a business in today’s markets. The high valuations that abound only add to the concern here. However, to take one example in the United States, Small Business Administration loan guarantees are often used to cover up to 80% of the purchase price of a business. The SBA and the lending institution will typically allow another 10% to be “seller financed” meaning that the buyer can pay that amount out later, using the cash flow generated by the business itself to pay up to 90% of the purchase price. While this is an extreme example of leverage, we have seen this and similar structures work on many occasions to the mutual benefit of the seller and buyer.

How do I structure the deal at the right value but avoid a cash crunch?  “Cash is king,” say business school professors. And in this case they are speaking both in academic and practical terms. Your valuation must take into account the cash flow needs of both the business and yourself. The fastest car in the world can’t win a race if it runs out of gas. Financial statements, income, and EBITDA are important, but cash flow is the company’s (and your family’s) true fuel. Missing a mortgage payment at home or a payroll in the office can be a one-time event that is catastrophic. But again, thanks to the ability to structure an acquisition, the struggle between strong cash flow and valuation is not a zero sum game. With proper structure, an attractive offer need not lead you to be overexposed.

Interestingly, all these valuation issues point in one direction: valuation cannot be thought of in a vacuum. If a company is to be bought with 100% cash at close (which sellers love) then the right valuation for you is probably lower than would be the case if you were able to work in some fair structural enhancements to your offer. Unfortunately, most sellers are not up to speed on all the ins and outs of various available structuring options. When looking for a company to acquire, it therefore makes sense to look at represented companies like those in Benchmark International’s portfolios. While we will always represent and work solely for the seller, we have been hired by that seller to help get a deal done. To achieve that objective, we bring our structuring expertise to bear on each and every transaction. If there is a deal to be had but a gap in valuation, you can count on our involvement to find ways to bridge that gap and get that business into your hands with the right valuation for both you and our client.

 

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkcorporate.com

 

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What Drives The Need For Companies To Consider Mergers And Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are an ideal pathway to stimulating positive results for businesses such as creating growth, gaining a competitive advantage, boosting market share, or improving supply chains via the consolidation of companies.

Growth Creation

A merger or acquisition is an extremely effective method for growing a company’s market share or creating stability in the market. When one business either buys out or combines with another business, it can result in increased productivity, sales and brand loyalty, as well as improved cost synergy. Having a larger share of the market usually means a company can raise their prices and generate more profits. Growth can be created by access to emerging markets, new geographies, new technologies and the acquisition of intellectual property.

Competitive Edge

In many cases, M&A transactions enable acquirers to grow their market share by eliminating the competition through the purchase of a competing company. In today’s technologically savvy world, the aim to improve tech capabilities and drive innovation is a huge driver of consolidation.

 

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Acquisition of Talent

In many industries, there is an ongoing shortage of talent. These shortages can obstruct a company’s ability to grow and hamper its ability to serve existing customers. A business can address their pressing need for talent by purchasing another company that has the type and amount of talent that can address their needs. It can also be a faster route to getting the needed talent versus trying to develop it organically.

Economies of Scale

When two companies combine forces to create synergy, the pooling of their strengths tends to bolster overall performance and lower operating costs. This can be especially beneficial in industries that have high fixed costs and require large amounts of capital such as airlines, auto manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies.

Supply Chain Power

When a business acquires one of its suppliers or distributors, an entire layer of costs can be eliminated. Buying out a supplier is known as a vertical merger. It allows a company to save money on the margins the supplier was adding to its costs. Buying out a distributor enables a business to ship products at a lower cost. These changes can translate to lower costs for consumers, which can increase sales.

Another benefit of a vertical merger is that it gives the acquiring company more control over supply, eliminating the risk of price gouging by suppliers. Depending on the type of business, a vertical merger can also result in improved technologies or expertise.

 

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Increased R&D

When a company acquires another company, they can often make more investment into the areas research and development. Studies show that M&A activity strongly increases the incentive of companies to conduct R&D. This is less so for large firms, as they may buy smaller firms to gain their technology.

Social or Political Influence

In certain industries, there can be a motive to increase social or political influence by gaining a greater stake and, therefore, more of a voice. This can pertain to media companies, newspapers and the like. An M&A transaction can also change public perception of a company. If a company has struggled with negative publicity, an acquisition by a company with a stronger, more positive image can alter public perception of the business.

Bankruptcy Solution

An M&A strategy can be employed to prevent a firm going into bankruptcy and being liquidated, often referred to as distressed M&A. A thriving company may wish to acquire a struggling company with the objective of turning it around and making it profitable. These transactions can be particularly risky, as well as legally and financially complicated.

Research indicates that M&A in bankruptcy is more likely at times when the cost of financing a stand-alone reorganization is expensive relative to the cost of selling the company’s assets to a buyer with internally generated funds or lower capital costs.

Is an M&A Strategy Right for You?

If you are considering selling or growing your company, our M&A experts at Benchmark International would love to hear from you. Our globally connected team is dedicated to helping business owners maximize the value of their companies and complete deals that go above and beyond expectations. Setting you on the path to the future of your dreams is what drives us to do great things.

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Why Owners Call Benchmark International after M&A Firms and Business Brokers Fail

We recently noticed the fact that a significant number of deals we’ve closed this year involved clients that had been to market with other M&A firms and business brokers. This led us to look internally at our processes and to contact some of these former clients to identify a few of the key factors that drove successful outcomes for our clients that had been previously snubbed by the market.

Our approach to outreach. Benchmark International has always prided itself on having the most robust and broad outreach in the market. Each client’s team includes four outreach specialists dedicated solely to distributing teasers far and wide, securing executed non-disclosure agreements, and conveying those expressions of initial interest to their client. We’ve long known that this sets us aside from the competition and is a key to our success but what we didn’t know:

  • Other M&A firms and business brokers build a single buyer list near the initiation of the process.
    • They don’t have anyone dedicated to continuously update that list with new ideas and market feedback.
    • They don’t have an internal feedback loop that allows other team members assisting the client to easily offer new insights to the outreach professionals.
    • They build their buyer list too early in the process, before they actually understand each of the value propositions the client can offer potential buyers and they thus miss out on large categories of potential acquirers willing to pay top dollar.
    • Similarly, some do not get to know the client’s business well enough to identify all of those value drivers, regardless of when they “build their list”.
    • They have a “usual suspects” approach to buyers. We find this particularly problematic for our clients when they were with “industry specialist” brokers. Given our process, we find that the best buyers for our clients are actually very rarely the “usual suspects” but instead are buyers for whom we have identified a particular need which our client can satisfy for them. As they say, “You can’t find what you’re not looking for.”
  • Many lack the software and systems to conduct and execute a thorough outreach process.
    • Outreach can be mundane, there is no getting around it. For each hour spent on outreach, the broker will have more than a few doors slammed in their face. Accountability is thus key to achieving top results. Other M&A firms and business brokers typically lack the necessary hierarchical team approach and the software necessary to monitor and motivate outreach professionals.
    • Building a list using a variety of ideas arising from as many investment theses as possible for the client requires access to vast data bases of buyers. Benchmark International has built up a proprietary data base of buyers built over 30 years of experience in the market and over 1,000 closed deals. In addition, we pay significant license fees for the world’s leading M&A acquirer data bases. We ensure that our outreach professionals have access to these best-in-class resources and the training necessary to exploit them to their maximum benefit.
    • For any individual engaged in a broad outreach effort, keeping track of who’s been reached, who’s been left messages, who’s responded, etc… is a daunting task. It can’t be efficiently performed with pen and paper or even spreadsheets. Only an interface specifically designed for the task can ensure that all buyers on the list are contacted, follow ups occur at optimal times, responses are not only captured but also analyzed for insights into the outreach effort, and nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Lack of a global approach limits results.
    • There are actually very few clients that need a “local buyer”. Yet we learned that many of our smaller clients had been marketed solely via local contacts, country clubs and Rotary meetings, and local online portals.  But taking the US as an example, Benchmark International has sold clients from the smaller end of its portfolio from Miami to a buyer from Sri Lanka, and an “as-seen-on-TV” business to a buyer from France.
    • The key here is not just having access to a global buyer base but more importantly running the process with the philosophy that the buyer can and will come from any corner of the globe.

 

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Our handling of acquirers. Though they could not fully explain why, our clients stated that they noted a distinct difference in buyers’ interactions with both them and the broker when Benchmark International was the introducing party as opposed to their former broker. When describing the differences on their initial calls with buyers and, for those who had gotten that far with the prior broker, their negotiations with buyers; our clients referred to being treated by the buyers more as peers, having a more cordial relationship and being more comfortable, getting more quickly to the key issues, and seeing quicker term around times from buyers. To augment our clients’ insights as to the sources of these differences, we also then reached out to a few recent acquirers of our clients and, putting all the inputs together, learned the following.  

  • The markets have gotten more complicated.
    • We continue to see more complex deal terms and structures filtering down to smaller and smaller deals. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, many M&A professionals that formerly ran larger, perhaps publicly-traded, deals in the billions have moved “down-market” and are now doing deals in the millions. They have brought with them all their complex financial training and tricks. As a result, buyers have gotten sharper, and deals have gotten harder and longer.
    • Our clients tell us that their former M&A firm or business brokers weren’t up to speed on these new issues, couldn’t stand toe-to-toe with the sophisticated buyers, and even that they “didn’t speak the same language” as the buyers. Most significantly, they couldn’t bridge the gap between the seller’s understanding of the process and the buyer’s.
    • Getting deals done at today’s high multiples requires knowing how to use these new tools to find win-win solutions for buyer and seller. Our clients tell us that they saw their former M&A firm or business brokers utilizing the old-fashioned bazaar mentality of zero-sum-game negotiating and when they saw how Benchmark International handled the negotiation process, they could tell that our process was built on a different foundation.
  • The broker’s reputation with buyers matters.
    • Our clients described their former M&A firm or business brokers as aggressive, antagonistic, and even “churlish” when negotiating with buyers. That’s not our style. Our style is to build respect and goodwill with buyers. The respect is there to be preserved and used to allow buyers to make a leap of faith with us when necessary.  The goodwill is to be burnt strategical and only if and when required to get the client the right result.
    • Because of the number of deal teams we field, the quality of the clients we bring, and the experience buyers have had with us in the past, they take our calls and they read our confidential information memorandums. They know that we have great “deal flow” to show them, that we only bring serious clients, and that our clients are prepared for the process. Buyers have told us time and time again how important these three factors are to their decision to return our call first, open our outreach emails, and sign our non-disclosure agreements.
    • M&A firms and business brokers who burn their bridges on deal after (broken) deal aren’t doing any of their clients a favor. If the buyer can’t trust the broker – or even worse, won’t take their call – deals don’t get done.
    • Being a household name is important. But if your name is bad, its important in a bad way. Smaller M&A firms and business brokers aren’t a household name and many larger ones lack the quality control across their offices to ensure that the name is a good one. So say a few private equity funds Benchmark International contacted on this point.
  • Thinking like a buyer is important.
    • While Benchmark International is a sell-side only firm, many of our professionals have worked for trade buyers, private equity funds, venture capital firms, and the like. They are not only staffed on many of our clients’ sales but have also provided input into our processes and training to ensure cross-pollination of their insights. This allows us great visibility into their needs, their negotiating techniques, and their next moves. It also helps us relate to them, build trust, and (as mentioned above) truly “speak their language”.
    • While some brokerages provide both sell-side and buy-side services, serving in this capacity is not the same as being a buyer or having been a buyer. Unlike sellers, buyers are experienced in setting up and executing M&A transactions because, among other reasons, they do it repetitively. As a result, buy-side M&A firms and business brokers don’t typically get in there and get their hands dirty molding the clay of an introduction into the statue of a closed deal. They are more in the nature of “finders” or introducers, leaving the heavy lifting to their buy-side clients (i.e., the people many of our professionals used to be).
    • Empathy and emotional intelligence are important for managing the relationship that is formed during the sale of a business. Our clients have been telling us for years that they appreciated our attention to the personal side of the deal often manifested in family issues, a strong attachment to the business, the occasionally irrationality that pops up in this high stress situation, etc…. But undertaking this process of determining what distinguished us from other M&A firms and business brokers led us to realize that our emphasis on these aspects of each transaction has a spill over to the nature of our interactions with buyers. While they like to give the appearance of detached, entirely-rational Vulcans; they are in fact people too and bring their own subtext to every deal. Based on our conversations with acquirers, building a process that can absorb such unavoidable distractions – from both sides – is perhaps Benchmark International’s single largest distinguishing characteristic. They tell us its an intangible that would be almost impossible for other M&A firms and business brokers to match unless their firms were built from the same DNA as ours.

 

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Lastly comes a point we here at Benchmark International already knew. We hire people who seek challenges to overcome, the bigger the better. Knowing that a client has come to us disappointed by a prior process, whether they focus that disappointment on the market or the broker, fires us up.  Anyone can sell a business that is easy to sell for a normal multiple to a decent buyer. But true satisfaction comes to us only from selling the difficult business, achieving the aspirational valuation, or finding the perfect buyer. So the last answer to the question set out in the title above is  - we rise to the challenge.

 

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

T: +1 813 898 2350
E: Johnston@benchmarkcorporate.com

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How Proper Exit Planning Benefits Both Seller and Buyer

Value For Sellers

Proper exit planning is critical for any business owner that intends to sell their company. When you are going to sell, you must know the amount of money that you will need to have on hand in order to make a comfortable exit, which involves assessing your cost of living. You may need to formulate a plan to decrease your annual cost of living, for example, by downsizing your living arrangements or selling unnecessary luxuries such as cars, boats, or vacation properties.

Selling a company is a complicated venture. There are complex considerations from financial, legal, tax, estate, operational, personal, family, and legacy perspectives. Having professional assistance from a reputable M&A advisor can help you navigate these matters and ensure that nothing is overlooked. They can also help to make the process less stressful and give you peace of mind that your exit plan is a sound one. They will also help you maximize the value of your business in a sale and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Also, once you know your number, you can take steps to increase the profitability of the business and make it more attractive. The more marketable your company is, the more prospective buyers you will entice, and they will be higher quality buyers. Another reason that having a solid exit strategy in place will make your company more appealing to buyers is because it shows them that you are serious and have been smart about how you run your business.

There are several options for your exit strategy. You can sell to an outside buyer, sell to an inside buyer, do a partial sale, pass the company onto family, or liquidate the business altogether or over time. Astute exit planning can help you figure out which course of action is right for you.   

Value For Buyers

Exit planning simply primes a business for easier transfer in ownership. An acquirer wants to know what they are getting into regarding how the business will operate after the sale.

  • How involved will they need to be?
  • How much work will be required on their part to grow the business?
  • Will existing customers and clients remain in the relationship?
  • What is the state of the management team and will it remain in place?

A buyer is going to prefer to take on a business that will continue to run seamlessly through and after the transaction.

 

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Smart for Everyone

When done properly, exit planning gives the seller a clear plan for their retirement and mitigates risk for the buyer so that both parties can feel good about closing a deal. The entire process is about setting concrete goals and following a timeline to keep your exit plan on track so that you can exit on your own terms. Failure to have this plan in place can result in disastrous circumstances, such as:

  • Being forced to sell at an unfavorable time by unexpected events
  • Having your business undervalued and leaving money on the table in a fire sale
  • Wasting time and money on transactions that fail
  • Failing to fulfill your retirement goals
  • Burdening family with matters they are unprepared for and undercutting your legacy
  • Paying more taxes than necessary

Is it Time to Plan Your Exit?

Even if you do not foresee retirement in the near future, it is never too soon to have a plan for the future. It is also extremely prudent and can protect you and your company from unforeseen circumstances. Take the time to do it right. Contact our experts at Benchmark International and begin the conversation about selling your company and your exit plan options. We will work at your pace to achieve your goals and lay out a blueprint for a future that you can feel wonderful about.  

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Why Cultural Synergy Is Imperative When Selling Your Business

When selling a company, of course the numbers are important. You want to obtain the most value in a sale and it can be easy to get caught up in revenue potential and expansion goals. But if you are truly concerned about the completion of a deal and the long-term success of the business, cultural fit between the converging companies is something that should never be underestimated or overlooked. 

M&A Culture Shock

The culture affects everyone in the company, from the CEO and management down to every last employee. Values matter, communication is critical, morale is extremely influential when it comes to productivity, and these topics become even more important in cross-border transactions. Synergy in this respect can directly impact the bottom line of the business. Culture clash can utterly shatter the prospects of the merger or acquisition’s success.Research shows that complementary competencies contribute significantly to the enhanced overall M&A performance.This is why cultural integration must be considered before a deal is done, and why many savvy acquirers have formulas in place to address the fusion of two organizations’ cultures.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

What Defines Company Culture?

The culture of a company is typically outlined by certain key factors:

  • How the company defines essential capabilities and competitive strategies
  • The normal behaviors of leadership and staff members
  • The business’s operating model including structure, accountability, supervisory systems, and day-to-day operation guidelines
  • National and regional customs, observances, language barriers, dress codes, work ethics and ideologies  

Talent Retention is Key

Talent is a major factor in the acquisition of a company, as is the retention of that talent. Cultural fit has proven to be a critical factor in the retaining key talent after a sale due to issues related to autonomy and disruption—all things that should be negotiated upon a transaction. Research demonstrates that giving decision-making autonomy to the acquired business can improve integration and overall acquisition performance. Routines, relationships, and processes that are already embedded in a target company’s culture need to be understood by a buyer to avoid potential disruptions and ensure performance that is conducive to success. This can be especially important in the acquisition of high-tech companies.

Studies have indicated that if national and corporate cultural differences are not properly addressed during pre- and post-acquisition integration, it can have disastrous consequences on the overall success of the M&A transaction.

How Cultural Differences Can Actually Help

Cultural differences in cross-border transactions are not always a bad thing. It has been demonstrated that these differences can actually enhance the competitive advantage of the combined firms when cultural integration is properly handled. These benefits include:

  • Access to distinct and valuable capabilities that may be rooted in the different cultural environment
  • Development of deeper knowledge structures
  • Lessened inactivity within the organization
  • Excellent source of learning, innovation and value creation
  • Greater manager involvement in social and cultural factors that are sometimes overlooked in domestic M&As 

“Cultural learning” can change negative stereotypes, create positive attitudes, and improve communication between the two companies. For this process to work, there should be a controlled dispersion of information between parties that enables them to obtain accurate information about each other in a constructive way. This eliminates misconceptions and shines a light on actual differences that can be seen as the best aspects of both cultures.

 

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Culture & the Due Diligence Process

Due diligence is crucial to every M&A deal, and this includes assessment of the cultural factors that may have impacts on the transaction and its success. Some questions to consider include:

  • Does the target company have the right talent to carry out the acquisition strategy?
  • Which team members are essential to continued value?
  • What are potential deficiencies within management that can hinder long-term success?
  • What is the overall cultural compatibility between the two organizations?

Cultural differences that can be deal killers need to be identified as early in the process as possible, keeping in mind that cultural differences can, in some cases, be beneficial. In any case, cultural differences should never be disregarded. Because they are so important to the success of a deal, they must always be evaluated and effectively managed.

Ready to Sell?

If you feel the time has come to sell your company, start the process off right by reaching out to the M&A experts at Benchmark International. Not only will we help you craft a winning exit strategy and use our global connections and proprietary methodologies to find the very best match for an acquirer of your business, but we can also ensure that you achieve cultural synergy before a sale. As a global company, we understand the importance of culture and know exactly what to look for in the alignment of two organizations.

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