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Global Food & Beverage Industry Outlook

This is an intriguing time to be involved in the global food and beverage industry. 2019 remains promising for M&A opportunities for several reasons. Giant food companies are on a spree to expand their portfolios with food innovation. Food start-ups and smaller private food companies are looking to cash in on growth and exit strategies. And private equity and venture capital firms are motivated to get their piece of the pie.  

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What Is A Strategic Partner?

A strategic partner is another business entity with which you form an agreement to share resources with the mission of growth and mutual success. There are different types of strategic partnerships.

  • Horizontal Partnership: Businesses within the same field join alliances to improve their market position. Example: Facebook and Instagram.
  • VerticalPartnership: Businesses team up with companies within the same supply chain (suppliers, distributors and retailers), often to stabilize supply chains and increase sales. Example: LiveNation and Ticketmaster.
  • Equity Partnership: An investor acquires a percentage interest in a business, providing needed capital and sharing in profits and losses.
  • Joint Venture: Two or more businesses form an entirely new legal entity in which the profits and risks are shared, and the original companies continue to exist on their own. Example: Microsoft and NBC’s creation of MSNBC.
  • Merger: Two companies agree to go forward as a single new company and the original companies no longer exist. Example: Exxon and Mobil, now Exxon Mobil Corp.
  • Acquisition: One company takes over another company and establishes itself as the new owner. Example: AOL and Time Warner, now Time Warner.

Why Do I Need One?

A strategic partnership can be an extremely powerful tactic that gives your business a competitive edge. According to a study by the CMO Council, 85 percent of business owners believe partnerships are essential for business success.There are several reasons why it is a commonly relied-upon growth plan.

  • Expansion into new markets
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Product line extension
  • Access to new customers
  • Improved supply chain performance
  • Added value for existing customers
  • Acceleration of innovation
  • Strengthening of weaknesses
  • Sourcing of capital

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

A successful partnership must be built on a solid growth strategy and make sense from a capabilities perspective. The goals, values and culture of all partners should be aligned. You also need to have the right infrastructure in place. And the timing of the venture can be critical depending on the market. A partnership is a major endeavor and you absolutely want to get it right. Unfortunately, most organizations are not armed with the proper connections, resources and management capabilities to maximize the potential of a partnership. According to a report by the Business Performance Innovation Network (BPI):

  • 43 percent of business partnerships have high failure rates.
  • 45 percent are unable to maintain long-term, successful relationships.
  • 42 percent of partnerships are not well leveraged.
  • 67 percent of companies that agree to work together lack formal partnering strategies. 

How to Get It Right

The smartest way to ensure that you are entering into a successful partnership is to seek the guidance of an advisor such as Benchmark International. We have the connections, experience, data-driven analytics, and knowledge to help you devise a carefully crafted growth strategy that is built on confidence and captures the most value. If you are a founder, an owner, an entrepreneur, or part of the leadership of an established company, we encourage you to reach out to us and start the conversation about how a strategic partnership can benefit your business.

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Real Estate Industry Outlook

The global real estate environment is off to a strong start for 2019. While uncertainties regarding trade, Brexit, and other geopolitical tensions linger, we have yet to see any major weaknesses in real estate markets. The sector continues to attract capital and pricing levels are holding steady thanks to strong capital flows. 

Real Capital Analytics (RCA) reports that acquisitions of income-producing commercial real estate last year rose by 3 percent to $963.7 billion. That is the third highest annual total on record behind 2007 and 2015.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

The Multifamily Sector

Multifamily housing is expected to continue to attract sustained investment and debt capital. Multifamily demand remains steady and is driving up rent prices as younger generations are being priced out of home ownership and older generations are downsizing. The top three emerging markets to watch in the United States for multifamily housing this year are Phoenix, Portland, and Tampa Bay.

Workforce Housing

The growing need for workforce housing is also driving the market for multifamily housing. In fact, workforce housing has actually outperformed the overall multifamily market in each of the last four years.According to a report by CBRE, workforce housing has brought in nearly $375 billion in investment over the last five years. That is more than 51 percent of the total for all multifamily asset classes.

Tech, Retail & E-commerce

Real estate fundamentals remain strong amid trends surrounding urbanization, retail, and ecommerce. Suburban markets are adapting to technology and becoming more urbanized with added focus on community-oriented retail concepts. Retail stores and shopping malls are undergoing an identity transformation, as retailers are adjusting their real estate needs to accommodate omnichannel experiences, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, e-commerce companies are adding smaller, satellite facilities to their networks of regional distribution centers as a reaction to the demand for fast, low-cost shipping.

Tech firms and flexible space providers continue to have a major impact on the global real estate market this year. Flexible space providers are targeting their focus on larger enterprises. More and more firms are leasing shared spaces. And as employees become more mobile, companies are adapting and coworking is becoming more popular. Coworking is primarily focused in high-wage markets and cities with a large number of professional services companies. Coworking spaces in tech markets are nearly double that of other markets.

Mixed-use real estate is also going to remain a significant opportunity, with the convergence of retail, office, residential, hospitality, and community-focused spaces. This adaptation is causing a shift in the types of tenants that properties are accommodating, resulting in shorter lease agreements.

REITs and Mergers & Acquisitions

Investors are expected to continue to diversify into secondary markets in search of yield. This includes real estate investment trusts (REITs), which have recently increased valuations and pay healthy dividends. Global REITs are projected to outperform other sectors and deliver strong returns in 2019. The property sectors among REITs expected to see the most M&A activity this year are industrial, self-storage, data center, multifamily, and student housing. Experts also predict the possibilities of some deals in the hotel REIT sector.

The year 2018 outperformed 2015’s prosperity for global commercial real estate investment in the current cycle, with a five percent increase in global investment volume. The U.S. accounted for 52 percent of global transactions. A total of six investors from Canada, France and China invested a record $41 billion in U.S. entities.

The value of U.S. entity-level transactions increased threefold last year, driven in majority by cross-border investment. Toronto-based Brookfield acquired Forest City Realty for $11 billion, making Brookfield the second-largest property owner in New York City, led only by the city government, and boasting a NYC portfolio worth around $32 billion. In 2018, Brookfield also acquired the second-largest U.S. mall owner, General Growth Properties, for $15 billion. Both Forest City and GGP were publicly traded REITs. 

Global Hotspots

International property is sustaining its 2018 performances as a remarkably popular market. Some of the top cities for real estate investment in 2019 include Lisbon, Toronto, Dallas-Forth Worth, Melbourne, Singapore, Berlin, New York City, Vancouver, Raleigh, Montreal, Tokyo, Madrid, Osaka, and Sydney. Specifically, the city of Lisbon has been noted to be the 2019 investment capital of Europe. This is due to increased tourism, a growing economy, and competitively lower pricing.

Contact us

If you are interested pursuing a growth strategy or an exit plan. No matter what sector you work or invest in, Benchmark International can help you take your aspirations to the next level.

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Telecommunications Industry Outlook

The telecommunications industry will be undergoing some new transitions this year, most notably due to the rollout of fifth generation (5G) technology. Global telecom revenue is forecasted to grow up to three percent through 2019.

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Retail Industry Outlook

While ongoing geopolitical uncertainties could present challenges in 2019, the overall outlook for the global retail industry remains optimistic. In the world’s top retail market, the United States, retail sales are predicted to grow more than 3 percent to exceed $5.5 trillion. But for the first time ever, China is expected to outperform the U.S. in retail sales. China is forecasted to see a 7.5 percent growth in retail sales this year, reaching $5.6 trillion.

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The Value In Hiring An M&A Advisor

When the time has come for you to sell your business, there are plenty of reasons why you do not want to embark on this journey alone. Enlisting the help of a trusted M&A advisor can make a world of difference in the process and, most importantly, the results.

A Better Process.

Selling a business takes time. It can take up to one year to complete a sale. Think about what you need to be doing during that time. You still have a company to run, and this is the most critical time for your company to be running smoothly and performing well. Selling a company requires a great deal of time and attention. For an owner, this time and attention needs to be focused on the day-to-day running of your business. You do not want be so preoccupied with the sale of your company that you end up neglecting the business that ultimately should be generating maximum results during this time. If your company falls short of expectations, it could result in a botched deal. Basically, you need to be operating your business as though you are notgoing to sell.

When you form a partnership with an experienced M&A advisor such as Benchmark International, you will have an expert dedicating their time to the sale of your business, so you can remain a strong leader for your company. You will still be heavily involved in the process, never missing an update on opportunities and negotiations. The difference is that you will not be bogged down by certain details, time critical deadlines on the deal won’t pull you away from key business situations, and your advisor will be there to resolve any issues that arise along the way.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Essentially, an M&A advisor is going to do all the heavy lifting for you. They will prepare the necessary marketing materials, find quality prospective buyers, market your business, negotiate terms, manage the due diligence process, arrange the closing, and even help you plan the transition and your exit strategy. Your time is precious and so is your business. Give them both the attentiveness they deserve.  

Better Results.  

Experienced buyers know what to look for in a company. They know how to get the most value from a merger or acquisition. Meanwhile, it is likely that you have never sold a business before, giving the buyer a major advantage in negotiating a sale. You need someone in your corner whose wholehearted motivation is to exceed your goals and get you the most value for your company. This includes the exploration of the full spectrum of your options, and even knowing when to walk away from a deal.  

In a recent study titled The Value of Middle Market Investment Bankers:

  • 100 percent of owners who sold their businesses with the help of an M&A advisor or investment bank said that the advisor added value to the transaction.
  • For 84% of business owners, their final sale price was equal to or higher than the initial sale price estimate provided by their advisor.
  • Business owners viewed “managing the M&A process” as the most valuable service provided by their advisor.

Selling your company is a very complex process. Some business owners think they can simply broker a sale through their accountant or their attorney, but these professionals do not have access to the databases, connections, and methodologies that you will gain with an M&A advisor. Another important quality that an M&A advisor brings to the table is a solid understanding of the market and precisely WHEN to sell to get the most value.

These are some characteristics that you should look for in an advisor:

  • They understand your industry, your business, and its value.
  • They have both global connections and local expertise that allow them to identify prospective buyers that are serious and high quality.
  • They know the fair market value and will work to get you maximum value.
  • They have a disciplined process and a proven track record.
  • They have opportunities that are confidential and exclusive.
  • They structure their compensation to align their interests to yours.
  • They listen to your aspirations and concerns as a true partner.

Are You Ready to Sell?

If you feel that you are ready to sell your company, you will want to partner with an M&A firm such as Benchmark International sooner rather than later. Getting ahead of the game means that your business will be properly prepared for maximized value. However, no matter what stage you are at in the process, it is never too late to ask for our expertise.

 

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New Tax Break Clarification Spurs Additional Immediate Interest from M&A Acquirers

If your business is in or serves one or more of the 8,762 neighborhoods identified by your state’s governor as a “Qualified Opportunity Zone” under the 2017 federal tax legislation, new buyers will be entering the market for your company in the coming months and they will be looking to make some quick deals.

When the tax cut law passed, investors in these zones were granted numerous attractive tax benefits including:

  • Deferment until 2026 of tax on capital gains from the sale of projects outside the zones if those profits were now invested in any zone
  • A 15% reduction certain capital gains taxes
  • No capital gains taxes on any investment held for at least 10 years

But acquirers of businesses never took advantage of the new opportunity. Reports came back to the Administration that the statute called for the Treasury Department to implement regulations laying out the details as to which investments would qualify and absent those regulations there was too much concern that the “investments” would only cover real estate acquisitions and improvements.

Seeing that the real estate industry had wholeheartedly undertaken the desired action - investing in the zones – and wanting other investors such as acquirers of businesses to do the same, the President publicly released draft regulations last Wednesday.

The M&A investment community is quite pleased with the breadth and clarity of the regulations and appear to be jumping into action to exploit the new guidelines.  And their action will likely be immediate. The incentives are set to cover only those investments made by the end of 2019.

To view all Qualified Opportunity Zones to see if your business may qualify, visit the IRS’s map here. https://www.cims.cdfifund.gov/preparation/?config=config_nmtc.xmland follow these instructions. https://www.cdfifund.gov/Pages/Opportunity-Zones.aspxAs this map of Tennessee demonstrates, you might be surprised which areas are covered. The official method of designation is by “census track” and you can also search this website by your track – if you know it.

The regulations remain complex as there are a number of independent ways for an operating business to qualify based on where income is generated, where labor is provided, where services are provided, where working capital is invested, and where tangible property is maintained – among others. But business acquirers are getting ahold of the new details, have the firepower to get command of them, and will very quickly be refocusing their searches in light of these significant benefits. 

There is still time to get your business on the market to take advantage of this increased interest and the potential boost to your sale price that it should also carry with it. Eight months from engagement to closing is not difficult with a properly motivated seller and buyer – and nothing motivates people like tax breaks!

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Author
Clinton Johnston 
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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

 

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Is a Minority Rollover Your Selling Solution?

If you are considering selling your business, but you are not completely sure you want to sell a 100% stake, “rolling over” (essentially, “retaining”) a minority interest in the business may be a favorable solution for you. Rolling over a minority interest allows you to retain less than 50% stake, along with certain rights that you can negotiate prior to sale. It is common for minority interest ownership to range from 20% to 30%. It is also sometimes referred to as non-controlling interest because you have very little influence over business decisions. This arrangement can be an ideal solution if you are not quite ready to relinquish your company altogether, but you do not want to deal with the burdens of ownership. In the case that you do want to remain involved in business decisions, there is the option to negotiate a seat on the board or certain contractual protections. These protections could apply to items such as the termination of certain employees, deviation from the operating budget, or relocation of the company’s offices, as a few examples.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Minority rollovers are becoming increasingly popular because of the many advantages these types of arrangements provide for both owners and investors. In fact, 2018 was a record-high year for venture capital spending, with $21 billion in minority rollovers. There is optimism that this activity will remain steady through 2019, depending on various macroeconomic issues across the globe.

Advantages of Selling a Majority Stake

A noteworthy benefit of being a minority owner is that you are able to share ownership in a growing business. A private equity investor is absolutely going to be driven to grow the business to boost the value for a future sale. They are going to invest the time and money (that you may not have) to make it thrive as much as possible. You get to sit back and relax while they do all the heavy lifting to grow the company that you started. The amount of money that private equity investors usually put into a business can be quite substantial and make a significant difference in the company’s value. 

Since the majority investor intends to grow the business for a future sale, that second sale is another advantage for you as a minority owner. A larger, well-run business is going to sell with a larger price tag. This can often be the result of reduced competition, improved technologies, new products, and more efficiency. Consequently, even though you have a minority stake, you end up cashing out with a larger return.

Something else to consider when selling a majority stake in your business is the lower tax bill for the time being. Depending on how the deal is structured, you may not have to pay taxes on the equity you put back into the company. Taxes will not be owned until a future sale.

It is also worth keeping in mind that there is the possibility that you could re-purchase the majority stake in your business and re-establish control. However, the value of your company is likely going to be much higher, so there is the potential that it will be expensive. On the other hand, you may also elect to sell your equity back to the majority investor if the business does not perform as expected or should you decide that it is time for you to exit the business completely.

There is also the option of what is known as tag-along rights, which allow you to remain an owner even in the event that majority equity changes hands. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for a majority investor to require a drag-along provision. This means the minority owner would be required to participate in any sale of the company because the majority owner does not want them to be able to prevent a sale. These provisions would need to be established during the negotiation of any deal.

All owners of minority interests should assess different exit strategies and transfer restrictions. You will want sufficient protections in place while retaining the right to divest under beneficial terms and conditions. An experienced broker can help with exit planning and ensure that you orchestrate the best arrangement for you.

 

Are You Ready to Sell?

If you think it is time to sell a majority stake in your business, you are going to want to negotiate the most advantageous deal possible. You are putting a lot on the line and the process is sure to be complicated. In order to ensure that you get the right buyer, the right terms, and the right price, you need the right partner. Benchmark International has a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day. Even if you are not sure about selling, we can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business, and your exit plan. One simple phone call or email to us can start the process and provide you with the level of peace of mind that you deserve.  

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M&A Outlook for Tennessee Business Owners

The state of Tennessee is expected to see sustained economic growth in 2019. The state has a record-low unemployment rate, with nearly 43,000 new jobs projected for Tennesseans this year. The state’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product is also expected to rise. The transportation and utilities sectors are predicted to see positive gains and the healthcare and real estate markets are expected to remain strong.

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

A Healthcare Hub

Since 2017, the U.S. state of Tennessee has experienced a surge in M&A activity. The healthcare and technology industries are major drivers behind the increased action, especially in the city of Nashville. In 2018, the private equity firm KKR purchased Envision Healthcare Corp. for $9.9 billion. Apollo Global Management acquired LifePoint Health for $5.6 billion. LifePoint Health then merged with RCCH HealthCare Partners. This momentum is expected to continue through 2019, with much optimism surrounding the healthcare market in particular.

According to Mergermarket, Nashville ranks fifth in the U.S. in terms of the overall value of healthcare M&A deals closed since 2015, with $30 billion in transactions. The upswing in activity is largely due to new technological and data opportunities in the healthcare sector.

In the early part of 2019, we have already seen major M&A ventures surrounding Nashville healthcare businesses. Maryland’s Omega Healthcare acquired Nashville’s MedEquities Realty Trust, Inc. for $600 million. HealthStream, Inc. purchased healthcare-training company Providigm for $18 million. HCA Healthcare, Inc. purchased North Carolina-based Mission Health for $1.5 billion. HCA now owns and operates more than 170 hospitals in 20 states across the country.  

It is important to note that Nashville is home to the headquarters of almost 20 publicly traded healthcare companies and an overall industry that creates more than $92 billion in annual revenue. These healthcare companies employ more than 570,000 people worldwide. The area is anticipated to continue to shape the industry landscape in what is an increasingly inviting market. Strategic buyers and private equity investors will be keeping a close watch on the growing opportunities in this region as the year progresses.

The Real Estate Market

Another industry that is forecast to have a strong year in Tennessee is real estate, specifically in Nashville, which is home to more than 600,000 people. The city’s real estate market has continued to grow over the past decade. Home values increased 8.2% last year and are expected to go up 8% this year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nashville ranks as the nation's fifth-surest investment bet for 2019. This real estate market is positively impacted by several factors, such as ample redevelopment opportunities, low mortgage rates, high demand for housing, a large student population, and plenty of young families. Because Nashville is also known as the Music City and boasts a major tourism industry, there is also a large market for tourism-related rentals.

The attractive quality of life is also a big draw. Last year, Nashville was ranked 11th out of the 100 best cities to live by U.S. News & World Report, up from 13th the year before. We will have to wait and see if it climbs even higher on the list in 2019. 

In addition to the city of Nashville, the Memphis and Knoxville areas also offer attractive real estate markets for investors. This is due to affordable housing and high quality-of-life benefits.

Make a Move

If you are a business owner looking to create value, whether it’s in the state of Tennessee or on the other side of the world, contact Benchmark International to craft a strategy that best suits your company and your aspirations. 

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Questions You Should Ask a Potential Buyer

Once you have decided it is the right time to sell your company, it’s time to find the right buyer. You are going to want to sell to someone that shares your vision for the business that you worked so hard to build. At the same time, you do not want to waste your time on prospects that are not serious or financially fit. An important step in the vetting process is knowing what information you should request from potential buyers. Start by reviewing this list of questions to generate additional ideas and help you manage expectations. 

“Do you have prior experience with acquiring a business?”

A buyer’s track record is paramount when considering whether or not they have the necessary resources and competencies to handle an acquisition. What is their experience? Do they have any success stories? What about failures? Nobody wants to sell to someone who has acquired businesses only to see them fail.  

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

“Why are you interested in buying my business?”

Understanding a buyer’s motives is crucial when seeking someone who is going to operate in the best interests of your company. If they share a passion for what you created and have a solid plan to build upon that success, they are far more likely to take your business in the right direction. Asking this question can also help you ascertain how serious they are about working towards a deal.

“How do you plan to finance the sale?”

Securing capital is often complicated and you can learn a great deal about a buyer from their answer to this question. It will demonstrate how experienced and how serious they truly are, helping you to weed out the dreamers. How do they plan to structure the deal? Can they prove that they have the funds available? How much cash is on the table? A serious buyer is going to be adequately prepared to answer this question and may even provide documentation.  

“How long have you been looking to acquire a business?”

This is a serious question when it comes to avoiding giant wastes of your time. There are people who will claim to be eager and ready to invest in a business, but they really are more interested in talking about the idea of it, as opposed to actually sealing any deal. How many deals have they passed on, and why? Ask for explanations. Sometimes deals simply do not work out. But if someone has a routine of waiting around for the perfect deal for years, you probably want to move on.

“How do you plan to carry on the legacy of my family business?”

If you have a family-owned business, it is likely that it matters to you that the company’s legacy remains in tact. This means you need to find a buyer that cares about maintaining its heritage and has a plan to do so. If you have family that will continue to be employed with the company, you will want assurance that the new owner is including them in their plans.

Don’t go it alone.

There are many considerations when seeking the right buyer for your business. To help you navigate the entire process, it is vastly beneficial to partner with a mergers and acquisitions firm that has the connections and resources to match you with the right investor. A firm that cares about the future of your business. The experts at Benchmark International will do all the homework for you and protect your interests to ensure that you get the very best deal possible.  

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2019 Outlook For The Healthcare Industry

Value-based Care

Quality, affordable healthcare remains an important issue for people all over the world, from Europe and the United States to Asia and Africa. As global healthcare spending continues to skyrocket, people are demanding more bipartisan policies from their political leaders to address the problem. This is why value-based care solutions are starting to play a major role. The industry is undergoing a shift in focus from treating illness to achieving and maintaining wellness. These solutions are more productive and less wasteful, as they aim to avoid unnecessary testing and interventions. Up until now, this role has been typically driven by health plans, but physicians and health systems are getting more involved in the full spectrum of care. All of these elements of value-based care represent huge growth opportunities in the digital healthcare coming-of-age, with various forms of technology as the major impetus.  

Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Data

Technologies that automate nonclinical duties such as paperwork are being developed to save physicians time and allow them to focus on patients. The implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) and artificial intelligence tools is expected to better connect patients, physicians, health systems, and health plans. Physicians will be able to utilize EHR data to manage illnesses with fewer scheduled in-person appointments.

Virtual care is also an emerging market factor in the changing healthcare landscape. Many people put off doctor visits until their condition worsens, which increases costs such as emergency room expenses. New virtual care technologies are enabling patients to see a physician from the comfort of home. It also means that physicians are able to see more patients. TeleHealth Services is an ideal example of this trend. It uses digital information, computers and mobile devices to access and manage health care services remotely. In the last few years, nearly three quarters of major employer health plans had incorporated TeleHealth software services into their benefit packages.

Tech-enabled medical devices and services are another growing trend. This includes wearable devices, digital therapeutics, and applications that collect and communicate data. Last year, FitBit acquired Twine Health, a health-coaching platform that helps people improve health outcomes while helping health systems, plans, and providers reduce healthcare costs. Last summer, Amazon acquired the online pharmacy PillPack for almost $1 billion, and drug giant GlaxoSmithKline entered into a four-year agreement with the online platform 23andme, the world’s leading DNA-testing-kit resource for consumers. Also in 2018, Roche acquired Flatiron, which uses oncology EHRs to connect oncologists, academics, hospitals, researchers and regulators on a shared technology platform. 

Cloud technology also brings new benefits to the table, such as easy integration of immense datasets, and AI capabilities that analyze data and provide insights remotely. Cloud technology is expected to continue to gain momentum, as data—both big and small—are finally being used in ways that may make a meaningful difference for the healthcare industry.

Healthcare Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) in 2019

The industry saw ample M&A activity last year, and this activity has already carried over into 2019, with several major deals already closing in January. There are also some big moves in the works that everyone is watching. A proposed merger between retail pharmacy CVS and insurance giant Aetna has drawn much speculation and scrutiny as it still awaits regulatory approval as of this month. Walmart has been in talks to merge with insurance provider Humana, another sign of major retailers attempting to take a stake in the healthcare industry. 

With the growing digital health market and continued pharmaceutical innovations, M&A strategies remain a preferred growth plan for executives and it is expected that there will be lively M&A activity throughout 2019. Southeast Asia has drawn abundant attention, with a 92 percent increase in healthcare IPO volume last year. Plus, the stock exchange in Hong Kong introduced new rules allowing biotech companies to issue shares even before recording revenue or profits. Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia all have ripe environments for new opportunities. And even despite trade tensions, rising interest rates, and volatile markets, deal-making activity in the region remains forecasted to grow. 

What it Means for You

Whether you are seeking a new investment, looking to grow your company, or considering selling your business, a great deal of financial opportunity lies in the global healthcare industry. 2019 may very well be the right year for you to make a move. If you contact our specialists at Benchmark International, we will use our global connections and mergers and acquisitions expertise to help you carefully craft the ideal opportunity for you and your next venture. 

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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Assumptions Matter! What Assumptions Form the Foundation of An M&A Transaction?

Assumptions form the foundation of every facet of an M&A transaction. They permeate every fiber of a deal. Sellers make assumptions. Buyers make assumptions. Lawyers, accountants, wealth managers, and other advisors make assumptions. Deals are built upon assumptions.  When assumptions are thoughtful, reasonable and defensible, there is a much higher likelihood of success.Buyers may assume they can get three turns of EBITDA in senior debt and another turn of second lien debt when determining both valuation and deal structure. However, what happens to the deal if those assumptions prove faulty?  Assumptions should be tested.  Before proceeding, apply a reasonable test.Determine if the assumptions will survive further scrutiny. Are they defensible? If they are not, challenge them and make the appropriate course correction.  

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Buyers often use Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) as at least a data point to derive a valuation. However, as any finance student or professional will tell you, DCF is limited by the inputs; the assumptions you make. One has to make assumptions as to the cash flows derived by the business, a terminal value, a growth rate and their cost of capital. Each of those is a lever that a seasoned professional can pull to move the results.  So, the results are subject to confirmation bias. I can make the model spit out a number that aligns with my preconceived notion as to value. Further, I can make the results provide evidence to a narrative that portrays the business in the most positive (or negative) light. Again, assumptions matter. They need to be reasonable and defensible. 

Sometimes we will see buyers assume that all businesses in a specific industry are perfect substitutes. I’ve seen buyers point to other sellers on the market with more “reasonable” price expectations. But that assumption, on its face, is flawed at best and perhaps intellectually dishonest. No two business are alike. They are living, breathing beings with unique people, processes, supply chains, distribution channels, relationships etc.Two businesses that compete with similar services or products will yield different valuations from buyers. Those differences in valuation may be vast.  Why is that, you ask? The answer is businesses are not fungible. They are not interchangeable. They aren’t gold, silver, frozen orange juice or any other commodity.  They don’t trade purely on price as they have unique aspects to them.  As such, we at Benchmark, as a sell side mergers and acquisitions firm, really thrive when we encounter a buyer with this argument.  We love it when a buyer brings that level of analysis to defend their assumptions.  Our clients do too. 

Assumptions matter on the sell side when contemplating net proceeds. Every seller concerns themselves with the amount they will take home once all fees and taxes are accounted for.  More importantly, they want to know if they can “live on” those proceeds.  When considering this question, make sure all of the inputs into the waterfall are reasonable and defensible.  The waterfall demonstrates the net proceeds to the seller accounting for all expenses and taxes. Are your tax assumptions correct?  Make sure you engage advisors that understand transaction tax. Your CPA may not be qualified to dig in here as the questions and answers aren’t black and white.  Often times, the sell side law firm has an M&A tax specialist on the team and that person may be best suited to assist. 

Let’s address the aforementioned question; how much do you need at closing to maintain my lifestyle? Again, as before, the assumptions here matter.  You may not know the market opportunities available to you post-close as perhaps you’ve never had the power and influence that may come from a sizeable pool of investable capital. We suggest sellers speak to wealth advisors to determine if their risk tolerances and investment goals align with the cash flow they require.  We have worked with wealth managers that specialize in working with small business owners transitioning out of ownership for the first time.  They will work with you to determine the proper asset allocation for your proceeds and provide the basis for sound assumptions as to rates of return. They will also review your entire financial profile and exposure to assist you.

Assumptions matter for your advisors. Attorneys may mistakenly assume a seller is adamant about an issue that may in fact be unimportant to the seller. Other advisors may apply their own biases to a deal and assume both buyer and seller think as they do. I’ve found that making this sort of assumption, that buyers and seller think as I do on all matters, leads to poor guidance and poor decision making. 

So, what is the cure for all of these issues that result form poor assumptions you ask?  Simply ask the other party, whether on other side of the transaction or on the same side, to present and defend their assumptions. Once the assumptions are on the table it is easy to test them to determine if they are credible, reasonable and defensible. 

Author
Dara Shareef
Managing Director
Benchmark International
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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

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How To Reduce Owner Dependence Before A Sale

Build your dream team.

An important step in reducing your company’s dependence on you is to create your management dream team. Assembling the right people to take over the reigns can shift the burden off of you far before the time comes to sell. Make sure your team members know that they have your confidence by giving them more responsibility. This also means that there can be less reliance on you moving forward. Another significant benefit of having a stable and experienced management team in place is that it makes your company more appealing to buyers and ensures a smoother transition period.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options? 

Create documentation.

Before selling a business, it is imperative that your processes and procedures are fully documented. When you outline howthings work and whythey work, it can be key to your organization’s appearance of professionalism. Not having a proper roadmap to your operations could be a deal-breaker for prospective buyers, as they will want to follow guidelines that they see are proven effective or adapt those guidelines accordingly.

Having proper documentation in place also means that your management team can make informed decisions in your absence should you just want to vacation for a couple of weeks. It will also be needed to keep everything running smoothly when it is time to transition the company in the event of a sale.

Creating this documentation may seem like a tedious task that you may feel too busy to do, but remember that it is critical to reducing your company’s dependence on you and will ultimately pay off in the long run.         

 

Plan your exit strategy.

As a business owner, it is critical that you have a plan for your exit from the company. A sound exit strategy will allow your business to transition smoothly into the right hands. This forward planning will ensure that your business stays on track and is achieving your goals. After all, if you have not set any goals, how can you expect to achieve them? These goals will be crucial in increasing the value of your company prior to a sale. Your management team should clearly understand these objectives so they can work with you on the path to shared success, and eventually, without you.

Establishing an exit strategy can be complicated and somewhat intimidating, which is why most savvy business owners partner with an experienced broker such as Benchmark International. Our specialists will work closely with you to establish an exit plan that is tailored to your specific needs and helps take the guesswork out of the process. We can even help you find the right buyer because we have powerful connections around the world.

Exit planning can reduce your company’s dependence on you and arm you with confidence for when it is time to sell. Instead of worrying about where to start, just start by
giving us a call.
Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

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3 Benefits of International Mergers and Acquisitions

If you are thinking of growing your business on an international level, it might be worth considering partnering with another company through a merger or acquisition, due to these three benefits:

 Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

New Markets

International expansion allows access to new markets and a greater reach to more of these consumers, thus increasing sales. While this can be achieved by establishing a branch or subsidiary, a merger or acquisition could save time and money spent on starting a business from scratch.

Partnering with a company in a smaller country can be particularly fruitful, as the smaller the country, the larger the access to its market.

 

Diversification

An advantage of an international merger or acquisition is a wider range of services or products can be explored. This helps a business in diversifying their assets, protecting the bottom line against unforeseen circumstances. For instance, companies with international operations can offset negative growth in one market by operating successfully in another. Companies can also utilise international markets to introduce unique products and services, which can help maintain a positive revenue stream.

For example, Coca-Cola diversifies through global operations and recently reported increased sales in China, India and South Korea, which benefited Coca-Cola worldwide.

 

Obtaining Access to a Talented Workforce

One of the conditions for merging with, or acquiring, another company is to retain the staff and integrate them in the new company, which are legal requirements imposed by national and international regulations. The benefit is that international labour can offer companies unique advantages in terms of increased productivity, advanced language skills, diverse educational backgrounds and more.

 

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Five Reasons Why It’s Worth Investing in an M&A Adviser When Selling Your Business

You have come to a point in your business life where you have decided that it is time to sell and move onto the next project. Of course, you want to command the best price for your business and explore all the opportunities available. As such, you have considered an M&A adviser to help in the process – but is it really worth it? They could help you generate more value for your business but if you factor in the fee for engaging their services, will you make any more money?

Then again, there are many advantages to hiring an M&A adviser, which are not just limited to value. If you have thought about hiring an M&A adviser, but are unsure of the benefits, consider the below:

 Ready to explore your exit and growth options?


They can Minimise Distractions During the Process

You know your business the best and if you are knowledgeable about the M&A process you could facilitate the transaction yourself – although this doesn’t mean you should. After all, an M&A transaction takes a significant amount of time and the time you have to spend on the transaction could end up being detrimental to business performance. As the value of a business is more often than not linked to financial performance, you need to focus your efforts into making sure the company is performing the best it can be, rather than focusing on the transaction itself.

 

They can Source a Larger Pool of Buyers

If you’re thinking of selling your business you may have an idea of the acquirers you want to approach. This is good, but an M&A adviser constantly networks with various strategic and financial buyers on a national and international basis in various industries; therefore, they have a very large pool of acquirers at their fingertips to contact about the opportunity. Not only is an M&A adviser’s pool of acquirers large, it is also varied, which means they can think outside the box and a lucrative deal could be sourced cross-sector. Another benefit of generating interest from a large pool of acquirers is you are more likely to have multiple competing bids, strengthening your negotiating stance.

 

They can Negotiate a Favourable Deal

As mentioned, an M&A adviser can help to create a competitive bidding environment which can lead to a better deal being negotiated; however, this is not the only way an M&A adviser negotiates on your behalf. Often, deals are not for 100% cash so an M&A adviser will negotiate a deal structure so both parties can reach a compromise and agreement. This can be very beneficial for you if, for example, you have just secured a large contract where earnings will increase over the next year, as, if the deal has been based on a multiple of current earnings, then you will not be correctly compensated for the contract you have secured. Therefore, an M&A adviser will negotiate a deal which will maximise value beyond the purchase price.

 

They can Protect your Interests

It is in your best interest to keep the sale of your company confidential – if it gets out that you are selling this could potentially alienate employees and customers and give your competition the upper hand. By yourself, when approaching potential acquirers, it is difficult to protect the identity of the company as it’s not easy to solicit interest without disclosing who you are. An M&A adviser, on the other hand, will have interested parties sign a non-disclosure agreement before they are given any information about the business, including the name of the business and the owner. At this stage, it is also important to gauge whether the company you are approaching has the finances to purchase your company – again, this is something which is difficult to do without compromising confidentiality.

 

They Add Valuable Resource

They say ‘first impressions are the most lasting’ so when it comes to selling your business, it is important that a potential acquirer’s first impression is first rate. An M&A adviser can assist with this through their proven processes that help businesses to market themselves as the complete package. As well, engaging an M&A adviser can add credibility to potential buyers as they can see that you are serious about conducting a transaction, which can save time and improve offers.

 

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Preparing for Due Diligence: Sell-Side

Due diligence is a buyer’s detailed investigation into the matters of your company in preparation for a possible sale transaction. For many business owners, this is one of the most dreaded parts of selling their business. After a letter of intent (LOI) is signed and a price range is agreed to, buyers have the right to dig into the business to ensure that they know what they are buying, and to identify any potential risks of owning the business. While buyers and sellers have different objectives and motives, both parties benefit from a thorough and efficient processes. Whether your company is pursuing a capital infusion or positioning itself for an acquisition by a strategic or financial buyer, due diligence is a critical component of every investment.  It’s an intrusive process and, like everything else about the sale of your business, you need to be prepared.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

When a potential buyer assesses your company, they will want to fully understand the essentials of the business such as organizational information, financial records, regulatory matters and litigation, employment and labor matters, and many others. When your company is well-prepared for the exit process, long before it is anticipated, not only will it make the company look more attractive to potential buyers but it will also maximize the value and expedite the transaction timeline. If not properly prepared, this can result in an incredible demand on a company and its resources, give a buyer the perception that the company is disorganized, and create operational difficulties within the company.

Below are four ways to prepare for due diligence and secure the deal you want:

Start with a Due Diligence Checklist

Most buyers will provide the target company with a due diligence checklist but, before receiving that list, sellers should ensure that common checklist items are available, up-to-date, accurate, and organized. The data needed for the due diligence process should be in order and ready to be uploaded to a virtual data room within a couple of days of initiating due diligence. This is not only necessary in the event of an acquisition, but it is also a valuable discipline to maintain as the company grows.

Invest in Professional Accounting Practices

The due diligence process is dependent upon the strength of the seller’s accounting system. It is essential that the company’s financial reports present potential buyers with a clear story, allowing them to fully evaluate the company’s earning potential. Buyers will be concerned with all of the target company’s historical financial statements and related financial metrics, as well as the reasonableness of the projections of its future performance. A business’ financial records should be clearly stated and easy to follow. If not, this could create confusion, misunderstanding, and devaluation.

Planned transactions have failed, even though the business itself was healthy and growing, when the financial reporting was outdated, inaccurate, or incomplete, and the buyer could not trust the data. Accurate financial statements are also necessary for the seller to support the business valuation. What assets does the business have? How profitable is the business? What is the working capital? What are the growth trends? All of these are major factors in the valuation of the business, so the data representing them needs to be accurate and precise.

To avoid issues, it is recommended that, before going to market, a seller contacts an independent accounting firm to review or audit the company’s financial statements. This will help to ensure that the company financial data is accurate and complete, will instill a sense of confidence from the buyer, and will more likely result in an efficient and successful due diligence process.

Engage Qualified Representation

A team of good professional advisors is crucial to a successful sale of a company. These advisors will steer sellers in terms of what they need to do to get their company ready for sale. Tap into these resources because they will have dealt with enough transactions to know what you should be focusing on to ensure a successful sale. Some recommended professional advisors include, but are not limited to, a M&A broker, an accountant, a tax advisor, a M&A lawyer, a wealth advisor, an investment banker, and a trusts and estate lawyer, if needed. With advance planning and the help of good advisors, a seller can ensure that his or her best interests are fully represented, common pitfalls are avoided, and the transaction will run smoothly and efficiently.

Responsiveness to Requests

During the due diligence process, potential buyers will seek to comprehensively understand the business practices behind a company’s earnings. It is the sellers job to guide the buyer through the learning curve. Respond to the buyer’s due diligence requests in an organized, detailed, and complete manner. If there are requests for missing data, respond punctually. This responsiveness allows the seller to gain credibility with a buyer, and provides buyers additional comfort with the quality of the business they are buying.

Conclusion

Due diligence is a vital and complex part of M&A transactions. Preparing beforehand can help a company position itself for higher valuations, stronger negotiations, and better outcomes. Understanding the importance of due diligence to both parties in a transaction, planning in advance, enlisting the support of specialists, and investing the time to run a thorough due diligence review early in a transaction will help prevent unwelcome surprises and potential liabilities for both parties.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Author
Kayla Sullivan 
Associate
Benchmark International

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

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Should I Start a Business or Buy One?

Maybe you are a lot like Sam. Sam has been working at a job that he doesn’t love, going to work each day and feeling unfulfilled.  Sam would really like to quit and go into business for himself but he has a wife and a child to support.  This leaves him with a big decision to make; should he start a business or buy an existing one?  As Sam does his research, he discovers the many factors that will influence his decision.

Sam, like many of us, has a family to support so most important to him is to have sufficient income to continue supporting his family.  Taking on the risk of possibly not generating any income for several years with a startup is not a realistic option for Sam.  Since starting up is not an option for Sam, buying an existing business will allow him to have the necessary cash flow from day one as he will be taking a salary directly from his business.  In addition, depending on the way he chooses to acquire his new business he will be able to keep investing back into the business so it can continue to grow.  While Sam understands that there will be many headaches and long days because of his new business owners he will be free to be his own boss.  Furthermore, this new business will likely relieve a lot of the financial stress that he currently has as his family’s expenses continues to grow. 

Like most people going into business for themselves, Sam will need to secure financing and/or attract investors to help him get started.  He quickly learns that banks and investors strongly prefer dealing or lending to a business that has a proven track record and strong historic financial performance rather than a higher risk start up business with so many uncertain factors such as high debt, or customer concentrations.  With the right guidance from a reputable M&A firm such as Benchmark International, Sam will be able to find financing to be on his way to fulfilling his dream of business ownership.

Like many young entrepreneurs, Sam is excited and motivated by the idea of growing a business.  He understands that there is a marketplace for businesses he is currently looking for and is much less interested in the grueling legwork and struggle of getting one up and running.  He knows that buying a business will give him an established brand that has been tried and tested along with any patents, copyrights and valuable legal rights that may come with that.  Having acquired a business, rather than starting one, will have be doing the work he is most passionate about from day one.

Sam’s wife Helen is a very active member in their community and their home is usually filled with family and friends. Like many of us, friends and family are very important to Sam and he wants to make sure he will still have time for those things and does not miss out.  Sam is especially enthusiastic about four children’s school activities.  He realizes that by buying an existing business, he will have an established vendor, customer base, goodwill, equipment and suppliers.  Things he would otherwise need to spend countless hours acquiring.  Sam will also have an experienced and trained staff in place ready to go that will know and understand the business so he can take a couple of hours and see his children flourish.  The seller has spent time teaching and training those people and Sam will reap the benefits of that.  From day one, he will have people in place who are able to help run the business and teach him things while he gets settled in.  Sam understands the target business and he knows that with a few tweaks and changes here and there it will be running the way he wants to in no time.  While at the same time being able to spend the evenings at home with his wife and kids. 

Business ownership may seem like a daunting thought but it really should not be that hard.  Sam’s experience shows us some of the things to think about when making such an important life decision.

So, what about you?  Are those advantages important to you as well?  Do you have a unique idea that may be easier to get off the ground by incorporating it into an existing business?  As we move into a time where more and more baby boomers are looking to retire and sell their businesses, the opportunities are endless for budding entrepreneurs.  Your time may be now!

And what happened to Sam you wonder?  Sam did make the decision to purchase an existing store rather than start his own and was very successful in growing it.  In fact, Sam Walton grew his Wal-Mart stores to be the largest retail chain in the United States.  What business will you grow? 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Administrator
Benchmark International

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: alonso@benchmarkcorporate.com 

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Rising Interest Rates – How Does This Affect the Sale of My Business?

Most business owners have become acutely aware of how a change in interest rates can impact their financing decisions.  Whether it means taking advantage of a competitive rate and refinancing previous notes or whether it means holding off on acquiring a needed piece of equipment until the monthly payment becomes more manageable; the interest rate associated with obtaining debt can play a major role in the decisions a business owner makes in the day-to-day operations of their company.  But, how do interest rates impact the sale of a business?  Is there a correlating relationship between interest rates and activity in the M&A market?  If there is, what is the importance of timing the sale of a business based on the indications provided by the Federal Reserve?  All of these questions are important to consider as a business owner begins to contemplate the potential sale of their company.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

The Federal Reserve has indicated that it is planning on increasing interest rates as it is continuing to pull back from its decade-long effort to stimulate economic growth.  As of November, 2018, the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate was 5.25% whereas one year prior it was 4.25%.  This metric is important as it consists of a survey of the 30 largest banks and is the rate at which banks will lend money to their most credit worthy customers; additionally, this rate will move up or down in lock step with changes made by the Federal Reserve Board.  So, what does this mean for those who are in the market to sell their business?  An increase in the federal funds rate increases the cost of borrowing and hence affects the value of merger deals, especially if a portion of the transaction is being financed through loans.  If the company to be acquired is highly leveraged and the cost of debt goes up, the internal rate of return is impacted, lowering the valuation of the company. 

The timing of when a business enters the open market for sale as well as the speed at which interest rates rise also plays a role in the impact that interest rates have on activity in the M&A market.  A methodical rise combined with a strengthening economy, which the United States has experienced over the past 18 months, should not have a detrimental impact on the aggressiveness with which buyers enter the acquisition market.  The reason that a controlled and steady increase in interest rates mitigates the risk associated with increased cost of debt has to do with the corresponding increase in corporate confidence.  With interest rates having been at historical lows over the past several years, many companies in the market to buy are armed with strong balance sheets earned via normal operations of the business as well as having taken advantage of low market interest rates to issue debt.  This cash held on the balance sheets of acquirers in the market may deflect some of the increase in borrowing cost due to the availability of deployable capital.  Specifically addressing those sellers looking to sell a business in the middle to lower middle market space – a slow rise in rates will give them an opportunity to cash out and use this new-found liquidity to put their money back to work in a recovering and dynamic market. 

In conclusion, the general consensus is that rising interest rates aren’t going to put a damper on mergers and acquisitions activity, at least not in the near-term.  However, as interest rates continue to increase, there will come a time when the increased cost of borrowing shifts the economics of valuation and activity.  The buyers most affected by the increase in rate will be those that rely heavily on financing through loans to complete an acquisition.  Fortunately for sellers, interest rates being at historical lows has helped buyers compile large amounts of cash on their balance sheet which, when combined with acquirer confidence in the business and consumer marketplace, a taxation environment that can be viewed as business friendly, the ideal conditions for selling begin to take shape.  It is important to take note that an increase in interest rates does not have as large of an immediate impact as the speed at which those interest rates increase.  As the Federal Reserve continues to be relatively transparent with their intentions regarding gradually increasing interest rates, and with firms having taken advantage of historically low interest rates and compiling large amounts of cash on the balance sheet, the ideal time to sell a business, particularly one in the lower middle market space, will be sooner rather than later.  As time goes on and increased rates continue to take a bite out of returns on investment, there will come a time when the balance will shift from a sellers’ market to one that is in favor of the buyer.

 

Author
JP Santos 
Senior Deal Associate
Benchmark International
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

T: +1 615 924 8522
E: Santos@benchmarkcorporate.com 

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What to Do When You’ve Lost the Entrepreneurial Spirit

When you first started your own business, you were probably brimming with entrepreneurial spirit, otherwise the company would never have got off the ground in the first place. Now, however, you are feeling lacklustre towards your business, as the mundane tasks to keep the business going are taking over and hampering your entrepreneurial spirit. Here are four steps to take action and get your business moving forward again:

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

Delegate Tasks

As your business grows you might find yourself doing increasingly more menial tasks to keep the business going. To ensure you have time to focus on the business, these tasks need to be delegated. Granted, this is easier said than done as you might want to stay in control rather than train somebody else to do them; however, if you continue to do this you are working in the business rather than on it. To ensure that you are the visionary and troubleshooter that you need to be, delegate work – you’ll be able to work on the bigger picture and your employees will appreciate the trust and responsibility you give to them.

 

Work on Goals for the Year Ahead

If you have got to a point where you have grown from a start-up then it might seem like the largest hurdle has been overcome. Nevertheless, you need to keep this momentum going to watch the company flourish. To do this, it’s a good idea to have plans and goals for the upcoming year, setting aside time to break down your goals into smaller steps with these to be actioned monthly, or even weekly. If these tasks are scheduled, and you ensure they are actioned, then this helps to make sure these goals are accomplished.

 

Encourage Innovation

If the day-to-day has become monotonous and the business is plateauing then you might want to encourage innovation to take the business in a new direction. To innovate it is useful to listen to both your customers and employees, as well as encourage your employees to take risks and think outside the box. This way, new ideas can be created and prevent the business from stagnating.

 

Take Some Time Out of the Business

Taking some time out of the business can help you to recharge. Whether this be scheduling time for yourself each evening, making sure you take time off at the weekend, or going on holiday, taking time out can help you to take a step away from the business and refresh, helping to stimulate fresh ideas.

 

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What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition? How do you handle it?

Picture this for a moment: you’re up to bat with two outs, two runners on base and the Florida Championship on the line.  Base hit up the middle scores one, possibly two, but if you pop up, ground out or strike out, it’s game over.

Is transformation important to your business?

If you could visualize yourself in that situation, chances are you’re feeling a little nervous.  Especially if you’ve never been there before.  What if you’re a business owner in the process of transitioning your business or considering a transition?  You’re up to bat with two outs and two runners on base – how do you handle it?  Ideally, we’d all like to confidently drill the first pitch deep into the outfield to win the game, but what happens when the thoughts and concerns about the transition and life after the transition get in the way?  Things might not work out as planned. 

In the decades of serving high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals and families, our team has worked with many who have made their wealth through the sale of the family business. Many of them were faced with a number of overwhelming thoughts and feelings: stress, anxiety, frustration, confusion and worry.  Here are some of the questions we’ve often heard:

  • Will this wealth be enough to sustain me and my family? How do I know?
  • What about taxes? What’s the impact to me?
  • How in the world am I going to invest this money to serve me and my family?
  • What about my legacy and charity – how does all this fit in?

Finding the answers to these questions requires preparation.  Unfortunately, many business owners are unprepared to address the complex financial decisions that need to be made for both themselves and their families both before and after the sale.  Many would rather wait and leave the planning to another day.  But a lack of planning and preparation has killed deals that should have closed, broken up families, and, in rare occasions, landed business owners in the hospital due to stress.

At BNY Mellon Wealth Management, we follow a collaborative, holistic, team-based approach to each business owner and family that we serve.  Leveraging the strength and expertise of our global firm, we help provide clarity by working with business owners to implement:
Wealth transfer and tax mitigation strategies

  • Pre- and post-sale cash flow optimization
  • Pro forma net worth statements and estate flow projections
  • Custom post-transaction investment strategies
  • Family governance and next generation education plans
  • Strategic philanthropy

Proper planning takes time, and having the right team of experienced professionals is critical to success.  Armed with an experienced team who can assist with planning and preparation, you too can confidentially step up to the plate and win the game. 

Author:
Christopher Swink
Senior Wealth Director
BNY Mellon Wealth Management
T: +1 (813) 405 1223
E: christopher.swink@bnymellon.com
Visit the BNY Mellon Website

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How to Avoid Leaving Money on the Table When Selling a Business

The sale of a privately-owned business is often the most significant financial event in the life of the owner. It marks the culmination of years of hard work and converts paper wealth into real wealth. It is a one-time opportunity with no do-overs. Every business owner surely desires the best economic outcome, yet, time and time again, business owners leave money on the table by not adequately preparing for the sale of their company. This article suggests five actions that private business owners can take to avoid leaving money on the table when selling their business. 

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What Funding is Available to Grow my Business?

When you are ready to take the steps to grow your business, you need to determine the funding you can receive to help make it happen. Many different funding options are available, but how do you know which is right for you?

The first method that comes to mind for many people is borrowed funds. There are multiple options for gaining funding through lenders, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, traditional bank loans, micro-loans, and online business loans. SBA loans and traditional bank loans typically take months to secure and the repayment terms can run up to twenty-five years with interest rates varying. Micro-loans and online business loans can take less time to secure but they carry higher interest rates than bank loans and may have pre-payment penalties. Additionally, even if you get a loan, business growth is not guaranteed. If the borrowed funds are not used wisely, you can end up paying back money with interest that never helped you make any additional money in the first place, just digging you further into debt.  

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

Another method of funding is retained earnings. This approach uses a combination of operating cash flow and profits left in the business to fund your growth plan. Using retained earnings avoids adding debt and interest payments. You also stay in full control of your company by not involving outsiders in your business. However, use of retained earnings can be a very slow process if you must wait and build up the funds you need. You also run a major risk of not having the finances necessary to keep your company operating from a healthy perspective. 

Private equity is a way to acquire funding by selling shares in your company to outside investors. Through this long-term growth strategy, you avoid getting involved with a bank and you minimize your risk. With venture capitalists or angel investors, you also gain the benefit of added expertise and personal interest in the success of the business. One aspect of using equity capital is that shareholders will be expecting a return on their investment. This could result in the consideration of a merger with another company or having the company acquired by a larger company. 

Many companies choose to use mergers and acquisitions strategies because the growth is more imminent. Instead of waiting years for the business to grow itself, merging with another company can double the company’s size, reduce competition, and increase profitability. Merging with another business also gives you the advantage of acquiring intellectual property and expanding innovation. 

Working with an experienced growth partner such as Benchmark International will help you figure out the best direction for you, whether it is a merger, an elevator deal in which you retain a stake in the business, a cash-on-completion arrangement, or a complete exit strategy. There is a range of options available depending on how you want to see your company transformed. The best strategy will also depend on the state of your company and the current market. It is important that there is careful consideration of the cultural fit between the two companies and a firm understanding of how to manage expectations. Having the right connections around the world in various sectors is also a key attribute you want in your representation because it opens up a wealth of opportunities. 

The right partner can maximize value and make your vision a reality for the business that you have worked so hard to build. Benchmark International can be relied upon as a leader in the global landscape to get you the results you deserve. Ready to explore your exit and growth options? 

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The Best-Kept Secrets for Business Growth

Expand your reach.

By finding ways to increase your exposure to the world, you can give your business the momentum it needs to grow. Examine your marketing plan. Broaden your social media footprint. Immerse yourself in the trade by publishing articles and having a strong presence at trade shows. Think of creative ways to interact with customers and target markets to generate buzz and get people talking. The extent of the opportunities available to you will vary depending on your company’s industry, but you will want to be sure you are doing everything you can to reach as many people that you can.   

Embrace change.

Doing business a certain way may have gotten your business where it is today, but you should not be afraid to make some changes. Is there a new process or department you can implement? Is there a sales opportunity you are missing? Are there adjustments you can make to save time or money? Always be open to hearing new opinions, ideas, and ways of doing things. Markets can change quickly and you will want to adapt seamlessly. By closing the door on change, you could be closing the door on growth. 
 

Value relationships.

It is just as critical to maintain existing relationships as it is to cultivate new ones. You will want to network in new circles and expand your horizons. At the same time, you will want to show your long-term customers that they are important to you. After all, they have been with you through it all and are partially responsible for your success. Stay engaged with them and focus on their needs. Your track record of lasting relationships is a reflection of your company and its values, making doing business with you more appealing to new customers. Those relationships can also be a source of referral of new business opportunities.
 

Get a boost through mergers and acquisitions.

Consider using mergers and acquisitions strategies as a smart option and faster route to generate growth. While greatly beneficial, pursuing a merger or acquisition can also be quite complex. This is especially the case if you are planning to expand into a global market, which presents its own host of challenges. Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

You will need to determine if you need a cost synergy or a revenue synergy solution. For example, buying direct competitors to increase your company’s size and decrease competition is a revenue synergy. So is adding value by purchasing companies that are market adjacent to your own. This method can help you add new talent or gain ownership of intellectual property. In contrast, a cost synergy solution reduces costs through consolidation of overlapping entities. Getting this right can result in a valuable deal for all parties involved.

Major deals include a large amount of small details, such as timing, tax planning, and logistics. Additionally, if you plan on leaving the business as part of the transition, you need assistance crafting your exit strategy. Consult a resource that has vast knowledge and experience in all of these areas. By partnering with a reputable mergers and acquisitions firm, it will be easier for you to navigate these complicated waters and ensure that you find the best strategy for your company’s growth.

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Top 10 Places to Retire in 2019

Are you considering selling your company and retiring? Once you have an exit strategy planned, it is time to think about where you will spend the best years of your life. We have compiled a list of inviting destinations to inspire you to make the most of your retirement.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

New Zealand
Relocating to New Zealand has the power to change your entire outlook on life. It is home to a pristine environment, quaint communities, and amazing weather. There is plenty of sunshine and little variance between summer and winter temperatures. The unique landscape offers black sand beaches, expansive mountains, glowing caves, and delightful wildlife such as seals, penguins, and dolphins. The island nation is also home to world-class wineries, mind-blowing golf courses, luxury sailing, and exclusive spas

Monaco
The gorgeous French Riveria is home to this ultra-glamourous city-state that is often noted as one of the best and safest places in the world to live. Settle in among the worlds VIPs and high rollers in this tax haven of luxurious real estate and natural Mediterranean beauty. The climate is quite temperate, the location is in close proximity to all of Europe, and the healthcare is first-rate. Monaco has quite the gambling and cultural scene, and you can expect to be surrounded by luxury homes, vehicles and yachts.

The Dalmation Coast, Croatia
The scenery in Croatia is breathtaking along the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea, with lush mountainside forests and spectacular castles. The country offers a rich culture, with Gothic and Renaissance architecture showcasing a unique background of centuries of heritage. The local cuisine is delectable and the country is also boasts a renowned wine region. From skiing to sailing to diving, there is a wealth of things to do while you enjoy all four seasons.

Algarve, Portugal
One can live quite well in this culinary paradise on very little money. Rent is inexpensive, the area is safe, English is widely spoken, and the scenery is rich with churches, pagodas, temples, mosques, and British-colonial buildings. The cost of healthcare is also low. Malaysia is one of the top five countries in the world for medical tourism with several private hospitals that are internationally accredited.   


The Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands may be one of the most relaxing countries in the world in which to retire. Spend your days basking on pristine white beaches, indulging in the hundreds of restaurants, and taking in the vibrant cultural scene. The tropical climate, clean air, and high quality medical care make the country ideal for a healthy, stress-free lifestyle. It is also quite possibly the safest of the Caribbean Islands, with one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world.

Costa Rica
The tropical climate is a big attraction for anyone looking to move to Costa Rica. But the region offers much more to consider. Gorgeous beaches, rainforests, and mountains compliment the bustling cities and quaint towns. There is excellent medical care, modern infrastructure, a rich culture, and a laid-back way of life. It is truly one of the most peaceful places in the world. You’ll also find a very welcoming expat community and irresistible real estate opportunities.


Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic
Enjoy a relaxed Caribbean life balanced with the benefits of a growing economy. The country’s infrastructure has improved greatly over the past 10 years. It has two international airports to accommodate convenient travel needs. Plus, the area offers a uniquely sophisticated European lifestyle with incredible dining, shopping, culture, and history. Whether you’re strolling the cobblestone streets alongside glass skyscrapers, or sailing around the thousands of miles of aquamarine coastline, Santo Domingo is a place of worldliness, charm and excitement.

Did you see the Top 10 Places to Retire in 2018?

Abruzzo, Italy
Located in central Italy, Abruzzo is comprised of beautiful small cities that are abundant with culture and warm, friendly faces. Considered the most romantic corner of Italy, the sprawling countryside is sprinkled with vineyards, orchards and groves. You’ll have access to amazing cuisine, majestic castles, and picturesque parks. Beaches and mountains are both nearby, and it is only a one-hour drive to the metropolis of Rome.

Malta
Enjoy a warm and sunny climate along with a luxurious lifestyle on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta. It is Europe’s smallest country but it is big on culture and things to do. Imagine yourself dining al fresco along the coast while basking in beautiful sunsets, or sailing around the islands while taking in the enchanting architecture. Malta is also home to many organized groups for expats, offering horseback-riding clubs, running clubs, dinner nights, and more.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
BelIf you’re seeking an extravagant lifestyle, Dubai is definitely one destination to consider. Every inch of this city is built with luxury in mind. Make your home at the top of one of the world’s most majestic skyscrapers and overlook this spectacular oasis in the desert. Or settle into a luxury villa in a gated community on iconic Palm Jumeirah island. Here you’ll find plenty of glitz and glamour, a popular boardwalk, beach clubs, spas and a nightlife scene. Dubai is also a great location for making new business connections.

If you’re ready to start planning your retirement, contact Benchmark International for help with your exit strategy.
Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

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How Can I Expand My Business Internationally?

Expanding into new markets around the world is an exciting opportunity for business growth. But where do you start? There are several factors you will need to consider when undertaking a venture of this magnitude.

First and foremost, you will need to determine if expanding into a new country will be profitable. Identify your target market and assess the need for your commodity in that market. Perform a product gap analysis or SWOT analysis to determine demand and how your product or service stacks up to local products. You basically need to determine whether anyone will buy it, so it can be a wise move to test your product in that market before going any further.

Create a localized business plan to evaluate your preparedness for the venture, and set reasonable goals for the process. Expanding into new markets is akin to starting something new and it’s going to bring a new set of challenges. Consider if you need to create a new executive team to help manage the transition or if your existing team can hit the
ground running.

One of the most important steps you can take in expanding to a new market is to make sure you take the time to understand the country’s culture. Etiquette, language, and business culture can vary greatly and impact the success of your endeavor.For example, make sure your product or business name translates appropriately into the native language.

You will also need to think about the country’s logistics and how you plan to distribute your product or service. Consider legal regulations, tax laws, insurance needs, banking transactions, transport costs, data protection, and labeling requirements. You should also protect your intellectual property by looking into trademarks, patents, and design rights. Hiring an international business consultant can help you avoid any pitfalls and ensure that all your bases are covered.

Taking a product into new markets also means understanding the ins and outs of exporting. The good news is that it’s often in the best interest of most governments to boost exporting, so seek out ways that they can help you with market research, trade support, and exportation training programs. This information is typically available on government websites. You can also contact trade commissions, chambers of commerce, and other organizations
for assistance.

If you plan to acquire an existing business, you will need the proper guidance from an experienced business acquisitions firm to help find the best opportunities and broker a successful deal. There is plenty of due diligence required to adhere to local laws and make sure the terms of the acquisition suit all parties involved. At the same time, the right acquisition can be quite advantageous and reduce some of the risk that comes with an international venture. The business to be acquired has existing infrastructure in place and understanding of the local market’s regulations and relationships, offering some stability to a complex process. A sound strategy can make all the difference when buying a company.

There is a great deal to manage when expanding a business internationally, but you don’t have to do it all alone. World-class business experts with strong global connections, such as Benchmark International, can help you analyze the market, navigate the process, and tackle the world.

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Upcoming Webinar: 12 Biggest Mistakes Sellers Make in the Term Sheet

Date:
Tuesday, February 12th at 10:00am - 11:00am EST

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Details:

Maximizing value isn’t only about the headline price. It’s about getting the deal right, using your leverage when you have it, and knowing where you stand in the deal at all times. 

Sellers lose more money at the Term Sheet stage than in any other part of the process. Buyers know the ins and outs. They know how to best use the Term Sheet and the process that surrounds it to make their offers look better than they might end up being. For sellers, this is typically the least understood part of the company sale process. This experience gap is unfortunate for sellers because it results in not only lost value but at times the loss of the entire deal; a loss that comes after a great deal of financial and emotional investment. 

For sellers to truly maximize the value of their business in a sale, they must look beyond the headline number that usually appears in the first paragraph of the Term Sheet and understand the other key value drivers in the rest of the document. If the headline number was the only key term, Term Sheet’s would be one paragraph long. This quick introduction will concentrate on the 12 most common sell-side errors in the Term Sheet process.

Hosts:

Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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How to Deal with State Income Tax when Calculating EBITDA

As we all know, EBITDA is not defined under either accounting’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).  What’s worse is that there is no other evenly mildly authoritative source that delves into the specifics of the definition beyond much more than a one-word description of each letter’s meaning.

Despite its murky definition, EBITDA remains the lengua franca between buyers and sellers when discussing valuation of privately held companies. Regardless of the true manner in which the seller sets the minimum price for which she will part with her business and whichever of the likely more academic methods the buyer has used to determine its maximum purchase price, the parties tend to lob multiples of EBITDA back and forth across the negotiating table.

While the exact meaning of each letter in the acronym is worthy of its own discussion, there is perhaps no more frustrating issue than how to deal with state income tax in the “T” portion of the term. The frustration arises because some parties refuse to acknowledge that what is so eminently clear - that state income taxes should be treated in an identical manner to the treatment of federal income taxes.

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The very purpose of using EBITDA in these discussions is to place the concerned enterprise in neutral position with regard to capital structure, accounting decisions, and tax environments.  This is why, and all parties do agree on this point, federal income taxes would always be added back to earnings when making this calculation. The proponents of not adding back state income tax are never able to explain why differing treatments would result in better serving the objective of using EBITDA.

State income taxes, like federal income taxes, are only due when a business is profitable.  A business’s profitability is effected by, among other things, its capital structure (because more debt means more interest and interest reduces income and is therefore a tax shield whereas dividends do not and are not) and its depreciation (because, again, depreciation reduces earnings and serves as a tax shield). These factors have the same effect on state income taxes as they do federal income taxes.  Thus, the amount of federal and state income tax a business pays in a given year will vary depending on the quantity and rate of loans outstanding that year and the method and amount of depreciation employed (i.e., the entity’s capital structure and accounting decisions).  The amount of state income tax paid in a given measurement period is no more or less a function of the business’s operations than is its federal tax paid over that same period.

Further, while also not defined under GAAP, “profit before tax” (PBT) is a term more commonly used by accountants than EBITDA, appearing on a fair number, if not the majority, of companies’ routine income statements.  As accountants will always take this measurement before including the expense of both federal and state income taxes, why should the same logic not apply to EBITDA?  EBITDA is, of course, simply PBT minus interest, depreciation and amortization charges.

Proponents of disparate treatment suggest that the state income tax is an unavoidable cost of doing business. But this argument fails for two reasons.  First of all, it is not unavoidable. As discussed above, high debt levels and aggressive depreciation can allow the minimization or avoidance of state income tax (just as they can for federal income tax).  But more significantly, it is not the job of EBITDA to take out only the “avoidable cost of doing business.” Eliminating 401k matching, reducing salaries, renegotiating a better lease, or relocating to smaller premises may also be ways to reduce the cost of doing business. Yet no one proposes adding benefits, salaries, and rent to EBITDA because they are wholly or partially “avoidable”.

Continuing with this logic, state income taxes are avoidable by changing domicile just as federal income taxes are avoidable by changing domicile.  Ask Tyco, Fruit of the Loom, Sara Lee, Seagate or any of the other 43 formerly US companies that the Congressional Research Service identified as redomiciled for this purpose in the decade leading up to the 2014 election.  Would the EBITDA of any of these companies not have included an addback for federal income tax because it was an “avoidable cost of doing business”?

Ah, state income tax, the poor runt of the litter in the world of finance. Too small to be taken seriously, too complicated to be understood, and too varied to warrant the time.  Five states have no such tax on corporate entities. Most of the other 45 do not impose it on entities making federal S-elections.  Those who do impose it do so in many different ways.  And the names are so confusing, often being called by another name that allows the state’s development board to claim they do not have a state corporate income tax. Capped at 6% or less in most states, it pales in comparison to the 35% federal rate. (Though Iowa hits double digits at 12%, it is the only state to do so and there exists no documented record of anyone ever buying a business in Iowa.) How unfortunate that this scrawny beast seems to raise its head so uncannily when a deal is on the line, in those final days when the parties are so close yet so far away on valuation and the closing hinges on the fate of this oft-misunderstood adjustment to earnings.

Author
Clinton Johnston 
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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Retirement Tips for Business Owners

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task, but if you follow some basic principles and seek the proper help, the process can be reassuring and even empowering. 

Start with the numbers.

The first step you will want to take in planning your retirement is to figure out how big of a nest egg you will need in order to live comfortably. Once you set your goal, you can assess your current position and determine how much time you will need in order to meet that goal, and any additional steps you’ll need to take to make it happen. Consider the amount of income you expect to earn over your remaining working years and how much you want to contribute to retirement plans. A quick Google search for online retirement calculators can give you an easy starting point. 

Determine your company’s valuation.

Before you can thing about selling, you need to know what your business is worth. Your company’s cash flow, market value comparable to other companies, and precedent transactions are all factors in business valuation. You’ve worked hard to build your business and you shouldn’t have to make compromises when you want to retire. Consulting a company broker such as Benchmark International will help you get an accurate picture of your company’s worth and take the next steps in selling your business in the smartest way possible and with the smoothest transition. After all, you want your freedom to retire, but you also want your employees to be taken care of and your core business values to remain in tact.

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

Invest early.

It’s crucial to start investing in your retirement as early as possible. Whether it’s a 401k or an individual retirement account (IRA) or both, investing sooner means earning more interest. 401k plans have higher maximum contribution levels and a preselected list of limited investment choices. IRAs allow you to invest in a wide variety of mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and individual stocks and bonds. 

Another option to consider is a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan. It gives the business owner a vehicle to contribute to their employees’ retirement savings as well as their own, with easy setup and flexible options for funding. Annual earnings are not taxed and it grows tax-deferred, and there are no maximum contributions. 

Most importantly, all of these options allow your money to grow tax-free. If you have already begun to invest, take a step back to look at your investment plan and see if you need to make it more aggressive to achieve your goal within the expected timeframe. Consulting a financial expert can help you choose what type of retirement plan is right for you and create a blueprint to make the most of it. 

Strike a balance.

Saving and investing are not one and the same—and you’ll need to do both. Place money into a savings account that has slow but guaranteed growth. As a counterbalance, invest money in an investment account that carries some risk. While there’s always a risk you can lose your principal, the return may be quite high if invested wisely.

Diversification of your financial portfolio is also an important component of your retirement plan. Factor in goals, risks, and think about how to reduce vulnerabilities. The younger you are, the more aggressively you can invest. Consulting a financial planner can help you easily determine what is right for you.

Get exit planning advice.

You’ve put everything into building your business. When the exciting time comes to move on from that business, you’ll want to start planning your exit strategy sooner rather than later. Think about how you would like to see the business make a successful transition. Think about increasing the value of your business and selling at the right time. The smartest way to do this is to partner with a trusted M&A firm such as Benchmark International to help you make your dreams a reality. They will help with your company valuation and offer a winning strategy tailored to your specific needs, and even help you find the perfect buyer. Even if you only wish to partially retire, creating an exit plan opens up your options and gives you peace of mind for when the time comes for a transition.  

Take the next step.

If you are ready to plan for your retirement and create a successful company exit strategy, call Benchmark International today.

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Is The End Near?

For the last several years, the saying has been “There’s never been a better time to sell.” Multiples have been high. Buyers have been plentiful. Debt has been cheap.  Optimism has run strong. The truth is, it is undeniably still a great time to sell; it’s never been better.  But …

It takes time to sell and for the first time since emerging from the Great Recession, certainty about whether or not the later part of the new year will be a good time to sell- the best ever – is down. Anyone who says they can predict these markets is a fool.  But the probability of a turn is certainly high and increasing as we begin this year.

The good news is that the signs indicate not an immediate downturn but rather one that can still be beaten to the finish line. Selling a business should take six months to a year. Thus anyone moving out now on a process should be able to take advantage of these good times – if they get started fast and, more than ever, move diligently and place a higher emphasis on certainty of close when selecting their winning bidder.

The change in the tea leaves really began in November and accelerated throughout December. Some of the key indicators include:

  • In a December Duke University poll, almost half of responding U.S. CFO’s stated that they believed a recession was likely to occur in 2019. Even more compelling, more than 80% of those CFO’s felt recession would strike by the end of 2020.[1]Right or wrong; the respondents to this poll are the key influencers of the amount of M&A activity generated by strategic buyers – and those most responsible for bad deals. If the economy does sour, or they simply believeit is going to sour, they will not be sticking their necks out for adventuresome acquisitions at record multiples.
  1. The public markets provide several signs.  The first is the relative comparison of the large caps, to the midcaps, and then to the small caps. The M&A market for privately-held companies can essentially be seen as a microcap extension of the public markets. While we all know the public markets did not do well last year, what most have not commented upon is that in the last four months of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal, (2) large caps were down 5.5%, midcaps were down 8.6% and small caps are down 16.4% going into the last trading week of the year.We’ve not yet seen the extension of this extrapolated line into the private markets but one must wonder how long the trickle-down effect will take.  Smaller companies tend to do well at the beginning of an upturn and larger cap companies do better at the end.
  • Debt is becoming a more attractive alternative for investors. This will be problematic to the sellers of businesses for various reasons. Most obviously, M&A buyers are large consumers of debt. They use it to buy companies. If they must pay more for their debt, they have less money left in their accounts to offer sellers. Less obviously but probably more significantly, the historically abysmal returns debt has offered for much of the last decade have led many typical debt investors, including insurance companies and pension funds, to provide equity to private equity funds. Flush with this extra cash, PE funds have been on a buying spree which is commonly stated to be the driving force behind today’s frothy valuations. As those investors shift back to the more normalized bond markets, private equity will have less energy and vigor for aggressive bidding.
  • The financial press seems to be of the mind that the artificial boost to strategic buyers provided by the recent tax cuts has run its course. Is this a fair assessment or simply “Trump-bashing”? We have no idea but we all know that in the markets, sentiment is often more important than reality. Perhaps the fact that 2018 saw increasingly attractive results for sellers was a result of those tax cuts carrying the bull market on around for one last lap. Again, we are not talking certainties here, just indications and probabilities.
  • The strong dollar has dampened the ability of foreign buyers to compete in the US markets.With yet another class of buyers lowering their activity levels, it may not be long before the laws of supply and demand kick in and the equilibrium point on the old supply and demand curves shifts down and to the left.
  • China has largely gone home. As 2018 proceeded, the Chinese government tightened its grip on the export of capital. In the last half of 2018, the US government began to make Chinese investors feel unwelcome as well. Numerous high-profile deals were killed in a very visible fashion as a result of regulatory interference on both sides of the Pacific. These included, most notably, the purchase of Recurrent Energy Developments operations by Shenzhen Energy in August and then Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm.  According to CNN Money, Chinese investment in the US fell by 92% between the first half of 2018 and the first half of 2017 – 92% - and has been declining steadily since the second half of 2016.[1]Add to this the late 2018 US-China financial cold war and China’s slowly increasing realization that it has been splurging on debt that is now coming due and proving hard to pay down, and the spigot is now approaching the closed position.
  • Forecasted growth of companies in the US public markets has taken a definite downturn. The S&P 500 saw collective growth of 7.3% in sales and 8.2% in profit year-over-year in the third quarter. The Wall Street Journal has been consistently predicting over the last three months that those same figures in a year will have fallen to 5.4% and 4.1% respectively.[1]While the private markets are not the public markets, both are selling that intangible asset known as future cash flows and if buyers feel the big companies can’t continue to deliver outsized returns, they are likely to share at least some of that sentiment when it comes to the private markets.
  • Divided government might bring an end to the pro-business approach demonstrated over the last two years. The people that matter state that decreased regulation, lower taxes, and a more tolerant enforcement environment have benefited their businesses and increased the prices they are willing to pay for companies. But a period of more compromise is now inevitable and the uncertainty of the 2020 elections will likely only grow and bring with it a sense of increased risk that will affect valuations.
  • All good things must come to an end. We have enjoyed a ten-year bull market in M&A, both private and public.  That qualifies as “long in the tooth” to be as polite as possible.  It seems that 4% GDP growth is not sustainable. Unemployment can’t go any lower. Further tax decreases seem unlikely. The federal deficit and debt are growing. Interest rates are not likely to drop. Confidence and sentiment could not be higher than they were three months ago and are in fact a bit lower now than they were then.

The good news is that we’ve seen absolutely no indication that the market for private companies has yet been affected by these indications. Furthermore, changes in valuation, whether favorable or unfavorable, have not historically occurred rapidly. If there is to be a drop in multiples, it will be perhaps not gradual but at least measured. That said, the probability we now face is that we are more likely than before to look back from a spot twelve months in the future and say “I remember when it, was the best time to sell.”

Author:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: 1-813-898-2363
E: Johnston@benchmarkcorporate.com

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2019 is the Year to Put Your Exit Strategy in Motion; Here’s why:

M&A Activity has remained steady over the last year, but can the same be expected of the years to come? A closer review of the annual activity for 2018 indicates that the peak of the M&A cycle is slowly coming to a plateau. It’s time for business owners to reflect and decide whether riding out the next few years is truly worth it.  

Here’s what we know about M&A activity and what we can predict based on current trends. Year over year, the total number of completed deals has been on a slow and steady decline from 2015 to 2018. In 2015, there was a total of 16,566 deals completed. Whereas, in 2018, there have been 10,734 deals completed so far. Although there has been an impressive total deal value of more than $800 billion completed in deals so far in the US for the 2018 cycle, that value is a decrease from previous years.  

What business owners have to look forward to in the coming years is a bit of uncertainty, especially following the anticipated 2020 presidential elections. 2019 is expected to be another great year for M&A transactions, but it may very well be one of the last for this incredibly hot activity we have experienced recently 

Following the 2016 elections, there was a short pause in activity followed by a quick uptick and a wave of transactions. The 2018 midterm elections were an indication of the coming “blue tsunami” predicted in 2020, with the Democratic Party taking hold of the House of Representatives. A change in political leadership can unsettle the ship that so many have been sailing upon for the last four years. President Trump’s 2016 campaign was centered on economic surety, and that surety brought a wealth of support for M&A transactions to follow. Should a new leader be at the helm of the nation following elections, volatility in the market is certain 

In addition to an anticipated election, there is no denying that the successful economic swing that has taken place thus far has also had an effect on the current market standing. A fourth interest rate increase is anticipated before the end of 2018, and three additional hikes are estimated to take place in 2019. Buyers will be wearier of transaction decisions as interest rates increase. They will not want to pay high valuations as those seen in previous years because the purchase risk will increase as a result.  

Now is the time for business owners to act before the market shifts from a sellers’ market to a buyers’ market. Steadily increasing interest rates will give more power to buyers in transaction negotiations. Business owners should keep this in mind before they decide to wait a few more years to put their exit plans in place.  

Moreover, the market is predicted to become somewhat saturated over the next decade as more adults are coming to retirement age. Baby Boomers make up approximately 60% of privately-held businesses in the in the US, and this means the number of businesses on the market are going to increase a great deal.  

As a result, valuations for businesses will likely decrease. Buyers will have many options at their disposal for their ventures, so they will have a higher competitive advantage against sellers. Sellers can take advantage of the current market and get ahead of the game now.  

A transaction can take anywhere from one year to eighteen months to complete on average. Getting a business on the market sooner rather than later will give sellers the power to take advantage of lower interest rates and getting a deal locked in before the market is filled with a myriad of new businesses.  

A sell-side mergers and acquisitions firm helps business owners derive the most value for their businesses in a sale. Benchmark International is a firm with decades of experience and a wealth of dedicated professionals who are looking out for our clients’ best interests in a transaction from start to finish. If you want to learn more about where the market is headed and what your options are, we can help you formulate an effective exit strategy now. 

 

WE ARE READY WHEN YOU ARE. 

Call Benchmark International today if you are interested in an exit or growth strategy or if you are interested in acquiring.

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

Americas: Sam Smoot at +1 (813) 898 2350 / Smoot@BenchmarkCorporate.com

Europe: Carl Settle at +44 (0)161 359 4400 / Settle@BenchmarkCorporate.com

Africa: Anthony McCardle at +2721 300 2055 / McCardle@BenchmarkCorporate.com

 

ABOUT BENCHMARK INTERNATIONAL

Benchmark International’s global offices provide business owners in the middle market and lower middle market with creative, value-maximizing solutions for growing and exiting their businesses. To date, Benchmark International has handled engagements in excess of $5B across 30 industries worldwide. With decades of global M&A experience, Benchmark International’s deal teams, working from 13 offices across the world, have assisted hundreds of owners with achieving their personal objectives and ensuring the continued growth of their businesses.

Website: http://www.benchmarkcorporate.com
Blog: http://blog.benchmarkcorporate.com/

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Top Mistakes to Avoid When Selling

So you’ve made the big decision – you’re going to sell your business. This is likely a stressful time for you as have probably spent a lot of time and resource building up the company and may be nervous about seeing it pass over to new hands. So, from here on in, you would like to minimise the amount of stress involved by avoiding any mistakes which can easily be averted. The following are common mistakes to avoid and how Benchmark International can help:

Only Pursuing the Largest Acquirer

Surely pursuing the largest acquirer is in your best interests as they will be able to afford a premium for the company?

While they may be able to pay a premium for the company, they may not necessarily do so. An acquirer is likely to pay a premium for your company because there are synergies in place such as similar markets, products or customers that could be combined, but a large acquirer typically does not need to make the acquisition to enter these markets. An acquisitive party could also benefit from economies of scale and, therefore, will pay more for the target, but a large acquirer is unlikely to benefit from this. Even if a large acquirer is willing to pay a premium, they may absorb operations into their own company, which can cause complications for the handover, particularly if you are loyal to existing staff.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at all aspects of the deal and how it can benefit your company. Benchmark International can assist with sourcing the best fit for your company.

 

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

 

Not Looking at the Bigger Picture

You’ve just received an offer from a potential acquirer – on the surface of it, it looks good, surpassing your expectations. However, the structure of the deal as a whole needs to be considered, not just the total value. For example, the consideration could be deferred, or contingent on future earnings, meaning you are not receiving all cash upon completion. It is also important that if you do decide on a structured deal, that these elements are protected, ensuring you receive the consideration.  

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will thoroughly analyse all offers received, negotiate earn-out protections and can assess any contingent targets to ensure that the seller is able to maximise the consideration received. 

Not Creating Competitive Tension

It can certainly be a benefit to enter into the M&A process with potential acquirers in mind, perhaps one of these has even approached you at some point. However, even though it may be tempting to dive straight into a deal with an acquirer that wants you and complements your company perfectly, it is still vital to create competitive tension by generating interest from other potential acquirers. If the acquirer in mind can sense that they are the only one with an offer on the table and that you are anxious to sell to them, they could take advantage of this with a low offer.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International will employ an approach where all potential acquirers are approached and exhausted before accepting any offers.

Using an M&A Sector Specialist

This may seem like an odd ‘mistake’ to make – why wouldn’t you want to use an M&A specialist operating specifically in your sector, surely you don’t want a generalist?

The reasoning behind this is that a general M&A firm will be able to think outside the box and target a large pool of acquirers, not limiting itself to those just in your sector.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Benchmark International has a vast and growing number of contacts giving you the best chances of receiving multiple offers, as well as significant experience across a broad number of sectors, leveraging this to identify the areas where the greatest synergies can be exploited.

Leaving it Too Long

To obtain the best price and right fit for your company, it is crucial to enter the market at the right time. It is important to strike a balance between seeking to sell when the company is on a growth curve, but also not missing the window of opportunity in the market cycle. Equally, it is important not to sell when you become desperate (e.g. you are looking at retiring soon) as acquirers could become aware of this and lower their offer accordingly.

How Benchmark International Can Help: Look at selling earlier than anticipated, not when you want an imminent exit. Benchmark International can best advise on when the right time is
to sell.

Neglecting the Day-to-Day Running of the Business

M&A transactions can be time consuming, but it is important not to let it get in the way of running the business. If an acquirer is interested in the business because profits are increasing, or a new product is due to be released to the market, for example, and this does not come into fruition because  you have taken your eye off the ball, then this could lead a buyer to renegotiate, or call the whole deal off.

How Benchmark International Can Help: The pressure of selling your business can be alleviated by Benchmark International as it will handle negotiations, leaving you to focus on running your company.

Not Negotiating Effectively at Critical Stages

Offers may go back and forth between yourself and the potential acquirer and at this point you are in a good position to negotiate. It is not until the Letter of Intent (LoI) is signed that the advantage swings to the buyer. Although the LoI is not typically legally binding it does usually stipulate a period where the seller cannot pursue further leads in the market (an exclusivity period), so competitive tension is lost. It is important, therefore, that you are completely happy with the terms (which can include such things as price, length of the exclusivity period etc.) before the LoI is signed to avoid either having to back out of a deal that could have been lucrative or being tied to a lengthy exclusivity period.

How Benchmark International Can Help: In all stages of negotiating, Benchmark International will do this on your behalf with your best interests in mind.

Author:
Lee Ritchie
Senior Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Ritchie@benchmarkcorporate.com

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What type of attorney should I use for selling my business

The sale of a business owner’s business is a testing time and it requires the most talented teams in order to successfully consummate a transaction.  As a business owner, it is very likely that you have already worked with legal representation that has assisted you through various legal processes such as the incorporation documents, customer/vendor contract negotiations, and other day to day and routine business transactions. So, you may ask yourself ‘Why not use the same business attorney that I have been using already?’ While you may have been using this attorney for your business needs, he or she may not have technical experience that is required for your long-term protection.  Given that many deals require the involvement of a seller post-closing, an attorney must be highly specialized and experienced to ensure that you have the proper protections at the time of sale.

Having legal representation that specializes in M&A transactions is critical during the due diligence process.  It is during the due diligence process that both the buyer and the seller’s teams begin formulating the definitive purchase agreement documents. When engaging an M&A attorney, it is important to understand the amount of experience the attorney has. M&A transactions tend to be much different than the aforementioned routine business dealings. A good indicator of an attorney’s experience is the amount of deals or transactions and attorney has worked on.  The answer to this question will help a seller understand if this is a representative that can effectively represent him or her. The attorney’s legal team should not only be seasoned in M&A transactions but should also have expertise in specialty areas including but not limited to, tax, corporate finance, real estate, intellectual property, compensation and benefits, litigation, and employee matters. M&A transactions will involve complex deal structures, agreements and legal issues that are often argumentative and tasked to be completed quickly. Your lawyer must be a skilled advisor and negotiator that has the ability to work around imperative demands to keep the deal moving forward. Since each deal presents its own set of challenges, having representation that practices M&A transactions full-time is essential for being effective and time efficient when working with the opposing party.

Additional key components when considering legal representation for the sale of your business are the size and capacity of the firm. Like businesses, there are law firms of all sizes ranging from sole practices to firms with thousands of attorneys. In the lower-middle market, businesses typically range from $1million to $100 million in revenue. If you choose too large of a law firm, you run the risk of paying exuberant legal fees and your deal may not be a priority. If you choose too small of a firm, there is the concern of inadequate capacity and closing delays that can potentially break the deal apart. Choosing the firm that specializes in your deal size, geography and industry will ensure you have the right attention and expertise to achieve
a successful closing.

Our team at Benchmark International takes great consideration in ensuring our clients are backed by a strong and experienced team of advisors from accounting and wealth management to legal representation. If you would like assistance finding a specialist, Benchmark can arrange a no-cost, no-commitment meeting with experienced, specialized counselors appropriate to your budget, geography, and industry. These firms do not share fees with Benchmark, but in the past our clients have enjoyed tremendous success with each of the firms we would present.

 

Author:
Billy Van Buren 
Senior Associate
Benchmark International

T:   +1 (512) 861 3312
E: VanBuren@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Taking Your Business to the Next Level

The art of starting a small business is a craft to which not every business person is well suited. It involves countless late nights, blood, sweat and tears, to turn an idea into a thriving small business. But, you’ve done that.  You’ve successfully turned a one-bedroom or small machine shop, and spark of inspiration, into a community staple with a name that will outlast your time in business.  But, you’ve also reached a point where your talents have been exhausted. And, you’re not sure what the next step is in taking your business to the next level.  Once again you have an idea, but this time you need outside help to turn that vision into a reality.

Many businesses reach this point at which they feel that they are unable to further increase the scope of their operations.  They find themselves turning away business or not able to expand into new and lucrative markets.  Perhaps, what is holding you back, it is a lack of cash on hand, or a deficit in managerial expertise.   Whatever the reason, bringing on additional investors is a key, and proven strategy through which a business is capable of gaining an infusion of needed capital and knowledgeable partners capable of taking a company to the next level.

Your passion is your business, and your clients have come to cherish your services.  Bringing in new partners with an influx of capital is an excellent way for you to continue doing what you love while growing your company’s client base and expanding the services you offer.  New partners may sound like dirty words you never thought you’d speak.  You might think of new partners as greedy investors who will come in and milk your business dry without care for the name brand and quality you are known for. 

That’s not always the case, and that’s where we at Benchmark International come in.  You can rest assured that Benchmark International will help you find new partners that care about your business as much as you do. Partners who can bring the capital and experience you need in order to keep your business growing and thriving. These new partners could bring in experience in managing larger organizations, or experience in advertising a small business to a new market, they might even have connections to customers who could grow your client base.

In engaging Benchmark International, you can expect our deal preparation and transaction teams to present your business to the market and find the perfect fit to take your business to the next level.  First, our deal preparation team will delicately craft marketing materials which accurately reflect the successes of your business and its potential for growth. After your approval of the marketing materials, the deal transaction team will take over and bring your company to the market.  Whether a trade buyer or a fellow competitor, the team will work tirelessly to find the right partner to help you grow your business.  This will ensure, that you take your business to the next level, without losing the heart of the business you painstakingly grew from an idea into a name synonymous with quality.

The process of staying onboard after a sale of your business or an injection of new capital is typically referred to as an elevator deal.  For more information on how elevator deals function, please see.

Author:
Patrick Seaworth
Senior Associate
Benchmark International

T:   +1 (512) 861 3314
E: Seaworth@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Understanding EBITDA

In arriving at a valuation for their business, many managers come across the term EBITDA.  For some this term is Greek and for others it’s a term they vaguely remember being mentioned during their days in business school. For many business owners it’s a completely new term, with no context, and why it is important is a complete mystery to them.  But to buyers, EBITDA seems to be an incredibly important term.  So what is EBITDA?

To begin let’s spell out the acronym.  EBITDA stands for “Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization,” that is, a company’s earnings before items which can be disassociated from the day to day operations of the business.  EBITDA is therefore a measure of the financial strength of the business, and presents a proxy for the total cash flow which a potential buyer could expect to garner from the purchase of your business.

Let’s break down each part of the acronym, beginning with Earnings. In the case of your business, Earnings is represented by the bottom line income, what is labeled “Ordinary Business Income,” on your tax returns.  This is the number arrived at by subtracting all expenses from Revenues and adding or subtracting any additional cost or income.  Distributions and dividends are items which occur after “Earnings” is calculated and are therefore not included in this equation.

Interest payments are associated with debt that the company currently holds.  Those interest payments whether they are on a Line of Credit to the local bank or for outstanding debt the company has taken on to purchase machinery or warehouse space, will likely be in some way included into the sales price of your business.  Meaning, that when a new owner takes over operations, or comes on board to help grow your business, the business will be starting fresh.  From the time of the sale going forward the new owners can expect all of the money previously paid to the bank, to flow through to bottom line earnings instead.  For this reason, in valuing your company it is important to add back interest payments to your bottom line earnings.

Next, we arrive at taxes. Each and every business pays taxes, but the amount is variable by state and subject to current legislation.  For that reason, we add back some, but not all taxes to your bottom line profits.  In most cases the only tax added back will be your Franchise Taxes. Franchise Taxes are those taxes charged by a state to a company, as the cost of a business in that state.  The tax varies based on the size of the business and the state in which the business is incorporated.  Because a company may be incorporated in a different state, or the size of the business may drastically change after an acquisition, these taxes are therefore variable and not a reflection on the business’ earnings.

Depreciation is a fancy accounting term for something we all know.  The amount of value your car loses the moment you drive it off the lot, is the most common form of depreciation we deal with during our lives.  Say you purchased new machinery ten years ago, and it is still running and in good condition, humming along each day spitting out all the widgets you can sell.  But your accountant may send you tax returns each year saying your machine is worth less and less.  This amount that gets deducted by your accountant isn’t an actual amount of cash leaving your business, but it decreases your bottom line earnings.  For this reason, we add depreciation back, to put back into your bottom line, an amount which was taken out on paper, but not out of your company’s checking account.  An additional note, as we are dealing with your company’s Profit and Loss statement, we ignore the total amount of accumulated depreciation which is shown on your Balance Sheet, in order to capture the expense associated only with one accounting period.

Amortization is Depreciations baby brother. If you purchased a business ten years ago, you may have paid more for that company than what it was worth at that very moment based on the amount of assets and business you were garnering by purchasing that company and its clients.  Let’s say that the business you bought was worth one million dollars, but you figured that the business’ client list and trademark was worth an additional half million dollars to you over the long run, and so you paid one point five million dollars for the business.  This additional half million dollars is sometimes referred to as “good will”. It’s a value which can be reflected on paper and then turned into cash over a period of time.  Just like your new car though, each year your accountant is going to take some part of this half million dollars and subtract it from your profits before he or she arrives at your bottom line net income.  Since this number is an adjustment made on paper, just like depreciation, adding it back gives a better picture of the amount of cash flowing through your business.

In sum, each of these components of EBITDA combine to create a clearer picture of your company’s true value to potential buyers, and is therefore something buyers are particularly interested in.  In order to understand Adjustments to EBITDA please see my coworker Austin Pakola’s piece on adjustments to EBIDA.

Author:
Patrick Seaworth
Analyst
Benchmark International

T:   +1 (512) 861 3314 
E: Seaworth@benchmarkcorporate.com

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I want to buy a business, where do I start?

Many individuals or companies feel that the best way to either enter an industry or expand within an industry is through buying a business. While this is often true, it is hard to know where to begin the process of buying a business.

Define your search criteria?

The first step to buying a business is to comprise a list of features that you are seeking in a business. Similar to the car buying process. Do you want leather seats, a certain brand, navigation, power windows, etc. Narrowing your search criteria will help save you time, resources, and frustration.

Here’s a few questions you will want to be able to answer as you begin your search:

  • What size business are you seeking? This question relates to both revenue and profitability.
  • Do you want the owner to remain apart of the business post-closing? If so, for how long?
  • What geographical areas do you prefer?
  • What industry and sectors are of interest to you? Be as specific as possible. If you are looking to buy a marketing firm, what type of end customers do you prefer? Do you want the business to cater to government customers, healthcare companies, etc?
  • What is your budget?

Begin your search

There are many ways to uncover businesses for sale. You can search various websites, reach out to a Mergers and Acquisitions’ (M&A) specialist, or network to try to find deals that have not hit the market yet. Some buyers will approach business owners directly to see if they are interested in selling their business directly to the buyer.

Websites featuring businesses for sale often can be overwhelming. If you search several websites, you may see the same listing on multiple websites.

There are M&A specialist that work with buyers to find businesses for sale and others that work with sellers to find buyers. Some M&A specialist represent both buyers and sellers. If you are working with a specialist that represents both parties in a transaction, you will want to understand the intermediary’s incentives. It is hard to keep interest align if there are conflicts between the parties. If you are working with a sell-side M&A specialist, often times they will have exclusive listings meaning that you can only have access to that specific deal through that specialist. Also, a sell-side M&A specialist may take a commitment fee. This will show the seller’s commitment to the sale process.

Some potential buyers build a network to look for opportunities to purchase businesses or build their own database of potential businesses they would like to purchase and begin reaching out to those business owners. While this sounds like an easy process, do not be fooled by the amount of time and resources you will use trying to speak with the business owners and convenience them of completing a deal with you. Typically, business owners that are open to exploring the idea of selling will entertain a conversation but they eventually to want to go to market to test the valuation. Often times buyer will get close to the end of a transaction but then the seller will decide not to sale. If you are willing to pay an amount that is acceptable to the seller then they often wonder if there is someone that is willing to pay more and if they have undervalued their business.

Begin to review businesses

Sellers will want a Non-Disclosure Agreement in place prior to releasing confidential information. This practice is very typical in the lower mid-market. As a buyer, you will want to have the opportunity to speak directly with the business owner. They will know their business better than anyone and you will have specific questions that only the business owner will be able to answer. You will also want to visit the business’ facility. This visit will tell you a lot about the company, its cultural, and what type of liabilities you may want to explore further during the due diligence process. Once you find the perfect business, you will want to move swiftly to the next stage of the purchasing process as there are probably other buyers looking at the same opportunity and you do not want to miss out.

I found the perfect business, now what?

After you find the perfect business, you will need to comprise a valuation for the business. The valuation will be covered in a Letter of Intent (LOI) as well as the structure (how is the valuation going to be paid to the seller) of the offer and other high-level details. In the LOI, you will want to also include the seller’s involvement post close, an exclusivity clause allowing you the exclusive right to review the opportunity, the requirements of due diligence along with a timeline if possible, and the anticipating closing date. An LOI tends to include many more details, but above highlights some of the details a seller will want to understand prior to agreeing to move forward.

The LOI is executed. Where do we go from here?

After an LOI is executed, due diligence begins. As the buyer, you want to confirm that what you think you are buying is what you are actually buying. You will want to understand the risk associated with the purchase of the business. You will also want to engage your advisors to provide legal advice for the purchase agreement and tax advice for the structure of the transaction. 

While purchasing a business sounds like a quick and easy process, it can take months, if not a year or two, to make the purchase. There are a lot of factors that you will encounter and unforeseen obstacles that stand in your way. An M&A specialist can help you navigate these obstacles and help you purchase a business within your desired timeframe. Whether you choose to seek to purchase a business on your own or bring in an M&A specialist, we wish you the best of luck with your journey. 

Author:
Kendall Stafford
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T:  +1 (512) 347 2000 
E: stafford@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Women in Power

Posted on November 12, 2018 By in US Election + Business Tips + Economy + business owner + Women

“If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation;” these words were spoken by Abigail Adams, First lady of the United States and wife to John Adams, one of the founding fathers and writers of the Declaration of Independence.  

There is no doubt that women have been aggressively challenging the status quo in their pursuits for independence, equality, and active leadership over the last couple decades. This past Tuesday November 06, 2018, women took their achievements to a whole new level and broadened the gamut of political representation to include the largest body of female members of Congress thus far.

The ladies deserve a round of applause after the turnout of this year’s US midterm elections. There were some notable historic voting records surpassed. So far, there will be at least 119 women serving in the 116th Congress. This number is up from the historic high of 107.

The central message being supported by both sides of the fence is that this turnout of elections was a huge success for this gender group as a whole. Women are playing a much larger role in law declarations than ever before, and their voice is being represented at a louder volume than ever before.

This group of elected women represents several firsts for this minority. The next Congress will have a record number of women of color, a record number of non-incumbent women, its first Native American women, its first Muslim women, and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Exit polls illustrated that 8 out of 10 Americans said it’s important to elect more women to public office.

Women are upending the idea that “men wear the pants,” and are taking the reins in corporate settings as well. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, “more than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people, and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017.” Moreover, women-owned firms account for 39% of all privately held firms. These stats have been growing consistently for the last two decades as women start to play larger roles in business development and implementation, and they are only expected to continue growing.

Benchmark International supports women in their pursuits of their passions and their drivers for success, and this is highlighted by the success of one of our very own inspirational women. On November 06, 2018 Managing Director, Kendall Stafford, challenged the mainstream middle-market mergers and acquisitions sector when she was awarded the title of Investment Banker of the Year by The M&A Advisor.

The awards presented by The M&A Advisor are essentially the equivalent to the Oscars for the M&A world. Stafford is a key player in transactions completed by Benchmark International, and she is a valued team member. Stafford was among a list of eight finalists, and she was the only woman on that list, and she came out on top. Benchmark International believes in fostering success and supports our employees and our clients in all they wish to achieve.

When it’s time to sell your business, you want a team that is on your side. If you are a woman looking to get the most from a full or partial sale of your business, we are dedicated to facilitating an acquisition that gets you the best value for your business in every facet.

If you are ready to start your exit strategy, you can call the Benchmark International headquarters at (813) 898-2350 to speak with a professional who can get you on the path you seek.

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

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Midterm Elections: The Results Are In, What Do They Mean for M&A?

Posted on November 9, 2018 By in US Business + US Election + US M&A + Business Tips

The 2018 midterm elections have presented little in the way of surprises this go around. As predicted, the Democratic Party took hold of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. The growth of Democratic representatives taking hold in Congress and some changes in historically Republican districts could be indicative of what’s to come in the 2020 Presidential campaign. 

It might not be as easy as first anticipated for Trump to remain at the top of the pyramid. Amidst some talk of a coming “blue tsunami,” this election may not have brought an overwhelming surge of Democratic leadership taking the helm, but there is no denying that the political party is coming ashore. What does this new shift in power and presence of a check on the executive branch mean for business owners considering a sale? 

Not knowing what’s to come in 2020 presents a feeling of uncertainty. With the results of the midterm elections, this feeling is heightened. Uncertainty is one of the most hindering factors for M&A activity. Investors are hesitant to make significant investments if they are unsure about future changes to fiscal policy. Thankfully, low interest rates and the tax cuts have contributed to a healthy M&A market producing high valuations for exiting business owners the last few years. The now divided Congress reduced the chances of any changes in policies that would significantly impact the market conditions before 2020. Unless we see significant bipartisanship, the most likely outcome is gridlock, which is good for the markets in the short-term. 

However, as the 2020 elections get closer the uncertainty will increase significantly. Rising interest rates combined with uncertainty in 2020 will likely put a halt to the favorable conditions sellers have enjoyed. This makes waiting to see who wins the 2020 elections quite the gamble if business owners are considering a full or partial sale before 2024 or even later. Owners must think hard about their plans for the next several years to avoid entering the market at the wrong time, which would bring haunting memories for many business owners going through the process from 2008 to 2013. 

Benchmark International specializes in facilitating exit and growth strategies for business owners in the lower middle market. The most important factor in achieving a successful exit is going to market when the market is strong and the business is ready. If an exit is at all in sight, it is critical now more than ever for business owners to speak to an M&A advisor and begin implementing a strategy because the market conditions will be changing very soon. 

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If Business Valuation Was A Science…

Determining the value of your business is not as simple as looking at the numbers, applying tried and tested formulas, and concluding. Were it that straightforward all business valuations would be virtually identical. The fact that they are not is sure proof that valuation is not a science, it can only be an art.

If Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) was as straightforward as calculating the theoretical value of a business, based on historical performance and using that to determine market value I would need something more constructive to do with my time.

Valuation is not as primitive as we have been led to believe. Whilst transaction values are commonly represented as a multiple of earnings this is merely the accepted vernacular used to report on a concluded transaction and almost never the methodology used to arrive at the value being reported.

The worth of a business is often determined by the category of buyer engaged. Financial buyers can add significant value to a business in the right stage of its life cycle but may not assume complete ownership, thereby delivering value for the seller simultaneously with their own. The right strategic acquirer for any business would be one that can unlock a better future for the business, and is willing to recognize, and compensate, a seller for the true value the entity represents to them.

Comparing the experience of so many clients, over so many years, and avidly following the outcomes of all the transactions published in South Africa there is little dispute that businesses are an asset class, like any other, and that the best value of all asset classes are only ever realized through competitive processes irrespective of whether the acquirer has financial or strategic motives.  

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

1.  The itch of business valuation

Simplistically, for the right acquirer - one seeking an outcome that extends past a short-term return on their initial investment - valuation is more a function of the buyer's next best alternative, than it is a businesses’ historic performance.

It would be naïve to think that the myriad of accepted valuation methodologies have no place in the process but identifying, engaging and recognising the benefits of the acquisition for a variety of strategically motivated buyers is essential in determining value in this context.

Considering a variety of appropriate valuation metrics, the parameters applied and then being able to balance these against the alternative investment required to achieve a similar outcome is where the key determinant of value lies. This is a complex process that unlocks the correct value for buyer and seller alike and it is a result that is rarely achieved without engaging with a wide variety of different acquirers and being prepared to "kiss a few frogs"

The most valuable assets on the planet are only ever sold through competitive processes where buyers have the benefit of understanding and determining value in the context of their own motives, having considered their available alternatives. It is for this reason that when marketing a business, it should never be done with a price attached. 

2.  An aggressive multiple

Whilst conventional wisdom is firm on industry average multiples, case studies abound, and the business community is regularly astounded by stated multiples achieved when companies change hands.

Beneath the glamour, the reality is that multiples are rarely used as a determinant of value, but almost without exclusion applied to understand it. Multiples represent little more than a simplistic metric that reflects an understanding of how many years a business would need to reliably deliver historic earnings in order for the acquirer to recoup their investment.

In the same way as a net asset value (NAV) valuation would unfairly discriminate against service businesses, multiples discriminate against asset rich companies. For strategic acquirers, with motives beyond an internal rate of return - measured against historic earnings - valuation is sophisticated.  It relies on an assessment of whether the business represents the correct vehicle to achieve the strategic objectives, modelling the future returns and assessing risk. Valuation in these circumstances will naturally consider it, but places little reliance on the past performance of a business constrained by capital or the conservatism of a private owner to formulate the future value of such investment. 

Whilst there are Instances where the product of such an exercise matches commonly accepted multiples, there are equally as many valuations that, on the face of it, represent unfathomable results. 

3.  A better tomorrow for the buyer

It would be irresponsible to advocate that that return on investment is not a consideration when determining value - corporate companies and private equity firms typically all have investment committees, boards and shareholders that assess the financial impact of any transaction. It is rare that such decisions are ever vested with a single individual, or that the valuation is derived from their personal desire to own a company or brand.

The art of valuation requires a reliable determination of the synergies between buyer and seller and an accurate assessment of the risks and benefits of the investment. Risk and reward are inherently related and skilled negotiation is required to find solutions that mitigate, or de-risk a transaction for buyer and seller alike, in order to underpin the value
of a transaction.

Financial buyers can be very good acquirers, especially in circumstances where they are co-investing alongside existing owners, staff or management to provide growth funding. When seeking a strategic partner for a business the acquirer should always be unable to unlock value beyond the equivalent of a few years of historical earnings. It is for this reason that the disparity between valuations by trade and financial buyers exists, and why determining the appropriate form of acquirer for any business is a function of the objectives of the seller.

4.  Passing-on the baton, or living the legacy

The motives for a sale can be varied and extend from retirement to funding and growth, from ill-health to a desire to focus on the technical (as opposed to management and administration) aspects, of the business.

Value for buyers and sellers comes in many different forms. For sellers it is their ultimate objective that determines whether they have achieved value in a transaction. For sellers it may be as simple as the price achieved or it could extend to value beyond the balance sheet as diverse as leveraging the acquirer’s BEE credentials, unconstrained access to growth capital or even to secure a future for loyal staff.

For both local and international buyers alike, the intangibles may be as straightforward as speed to market in a new geography who would otherwise not readily secure vendor numbers with the existing customers of the target business. An acquisition may be motivated by access to complimentary technology, skills or distribution agencies to diversify their own offering. Whatever the motives, an assessment of the future of the staff will always be an important aspect to both parties.

There are few, if any businesses, that are anything without the loyal, skilled and hardworking people that deliver for the clients of a business. The quality of resources, succession and staff retention are all factors that weigh on a decision to transact. Navigating the impact of a transaction on staff is a factor that cannot be ignored and the timing of such announcements can be meaningful.

Author:
Andre Bresler
Managing Director
Benchmark International

T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Bresler@benchmarkcorporate.com

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Five Ways to Value Your Business

The first question you will probably want to ask when thinking about selling your business is – what is it actually worth? This is understandable, as you do not want to make such a big decision as to sell your business without knowing how much it could command in the market.

Below are five different ways a business can be valued, along with which type of companies suit which type of valuation.

Schedule a call to speak to an Analyst

Multiple of Profits

A common way for a business to be valued is multiple of profits, although this typically suits businesses that have an established track record of profits.

To determine the value, you will need to look at the business’ EBITDA, which is the company’s net income plus interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. This then needs to be adjusted to ‘add-back’ any expenses that may have been incurred by the current owner which are unlikely to be incurred by a new owner. These could be either linked to a certain event (e.g. legal fees for a one-off legal dispute), a one-off company cost (e.g. bad debts, currency exchange losses), are at the discretion of the current owner (e.g. employee perks such as bonuses), or wages/costs to the owner or a family member that would be more than the typical going rate.

Once the adjusted EBITDA has been calculated this figure needs to be multiplied; this is typically between three and five times; however, this can vary – for example, a larger company with a strong reputation can attract towards an eight times multiple.

This provides an Enterprise Value, with the final ‘Transaction Value’ adjusted for any surplus items, such as free cash, properties and personal assets.

Asset Valuation

Asset valuation is suitable way to value a business that is stable and established with a lot of tangible assets – e.g. property, stock, machinery and equipment.

To work out the value of a business based on an asset valuation the net book value (NBV) of the company needs to be worked out. The NBV then needs to be refined to take into account economic factors, for example, property or fixed assets which fluctuate in value; debts that are unlikely to be paid off; or old stock that needs to be sold at a discount.

Asset valuations are usually supplemented by an amount for goodwill, which is a negotiable amount to reflect any benefits the acquirer is gaining that are not on the balance sheet (for example, customer relationships).

Entry Valuation

This way of evaluating the value of a company simply involves taking into account how much it would take to establish a similar business.

All costs have to be taken into account from what it has taken to start-up the company, to recruitment and training, developing products and services, and establishing a client base. The cost of tangible assets will also have to be taken into account.

This method for valuing a business is more useful for an acquirer, rather than a seller, as through an entry valuation they can choose whether it is worth purchasing the business, or whether it is more lucrative to invest in establishing their own operations.

Discounted Cash Flow

Types of companies that benefit from the discounted cash flow method of valuing a business include larger companies with accountant prepared forecasts. This is because the method uses estimates of future cash flow for the business.

A valuation is reached by looking at the company’s cash flow in the future, and then discounts this back into today’s money (to take into account inflation) to give you the NPV (net present value) of the business.

Valuing a business based on discounted cash flow is a complex method, and is not always the most accurate, as it is only as good as its input, i.e. a small change in input can vastly change the estimated value of a company.

Rule of Thumb

Some industries have different rules of thumb for valuing a business. Depending on the type of business, a rule of thumb can, for example, be based on multiples of revenue, multiples of assets or of earnings and cash flow.

While this method may have its merits in that it is quick, inexpensive and easy to use, it can generally not be used in place of a professional valuation and is instead useful for developing a preliminary indication of value.

To summarise, the methods of valuation can very much vary in terms of complexity and thoroughness, and different industries will find different methods more useful than others. A good M&A adviser can best suggest which way to value your business, as well as help to counter offers in the latter stages of the process with an accurate valuation in mind.

 

Author:
Tony Yerbury
Director
Benchmark International
T: +44 (0) 1865 410 050
E: Yerbury@benchmarkcorporate.com


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Why Do Buyers Take the Mergers and Acquisitions Route?

A merger is very similar to a marriage and, like every long-term relationship, it is imperative that mergers happen for the right reasons. Like many things in life, there is no secret recipe for a successful transaction. While the strategy behind most mergers is very important to obtain the maximum value for a business, finding the right reason to execute a merger could determine the success post-acquisition.

When two companies hold a strong position in their respective areas, a merger targeted to enhance their position in the market, or capture a larger market share, makes perfect sense. One of the most common goals for transactions is to achieve or enhance value; however, buyers have different reasons for considering an acquisition and each entity looks at a new opportunity differently. The following points summarize some of the primary reasons that entities choose the mergers and acquisition route.

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  1. Increased capacity

When entertaining an acquisition opportunity, buyers tend to focus on the increased capacity the target business will provide when combined with the acquiring company. For example, a company in the manufacturing space could be interested in acquiring a business to leverage the expensive manufacturing operations.  Another great example are companies wanting to procure a unique technology platform instead of building it on their own.

  1. Competitive Edge

Business owners are constantly looking to remain competitive. Many have realized that, without adequate strategies in place, their companies cannot survive the ever-changing innovations in the market. Therefore, business owners are taking the merger route to expand their footprints and capabilities. For example, a buyer can focus on opportunities that will allow their business to expand into a new market where the partnering company already has a strong presence, and leverage their experience to quickly gain additional market share.

  1. Diversification

Diversification is key to remain successful and competitive in the business world. Buyers understand that by combining their products and services with other companies, they may gain a competitive edge over others. Buyers tend to look for companies that offer other products or services that complement the buyer’s current operations. An example is the recent acquisition of Aetna by CVS Health. With this acquisition, CVS pharmacy locations are able to include additional services previously not available to its customers. 

  1. Cost Savings

Most business owners are constantly looking for ways to increase profitability. For most businesses, economies of scale is a great way to increase profits. When two companies are in the same line of business or produce similar goods or services, it makes sense for them to merge together and combine locations, or reduce operating costs by integrating and streamlining support functions. Buyers understand this concept and seek to acquire businesses where the total cost of production is lowered with increasing volume, and total profits are maximized.

The above points are merely four of the most common reasons buyers seek to acquire a new business. Even if the acquirer is a financial buyer, they still have a strategic reason for considering the opportunity.

Author:
Fernanda Ospina
Senior Associate
Benchmark International

T: +1 (813) 313 6150
E: opsina@benchmarkcorporate.com

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