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Supreme Court Makes M&A More Difficult

Federalism has always posed challenges for middle market M&A. While compliance with federal laws and regulation does not typically lead to issues in acquirers’ due diligence on middle market companies, the companies do often have problems with those pesky out-of-state state-level issues. Experience indicates that this is true for a variety of reasons. First, many of these companies have only recently expanded into other states and, as is common in a growing business, operations often get ahead of back office tasks (such as compliance). Second, owners of middle market businesses are often selling precisely because they realize that their businesses have grown to the point that they require additional overhead expenses that the owners are not interested in dealing with. Third, ever states’ rules are different and ever-changing and it is very hard to get a handle on six, or a dozen, or 49 different sets of rules and shape a business compliant with each set. Fourth, and nobody likes to admit this, states can be a bit lax on enforcing their rules, especially on out-of-state companies.  Acquirers are well aware of these facts and, as a result, dig deep on state-level issues in their due diligence.

While very few business owners are attorneys, most have at least a vague sense that when they establish a “physical presence” in a state, they need to start worrying about that state’s laws. Most probably also realize that physical presence is a bit fuzzy and that each state interprets the term differently but the US Constitution places a limit on the breadth of that definition due to the Interstate Commerce Clause. So, this has always been a nebulous issue but at least there was a bit of a bright line test around when a company might have to start thinking about looking at the rules in a new state for things such as income tax, collection of sales tax, workers compensation and the like. 

Ah, things were so much easier before 2018.

Do you have an exit or growth strategy in place?

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Then, on October 1, 2018, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., et al. South Dakota was attempting to require the online retailer Wayfair to collect sales tax for online sales for which goods were shipped into the state’s boundaries. Wayfair had a very strong case that it had no physical presence in the state and therefore the state could not force it to do anything, especially not collect taxes for Pierre. The state argued that it had a very powerful statute that said even without physical presence it could force companies to collect sales tax on sales made into the state if the seller had an “economic presence” in the state. Wayfair responded that decades of Supreme Court rulings indicated that this statute violated the US Constitution as an unfair restraint on interstate commerce. The Supreme Court stepped in and changed its mind. 

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Since that day, the bright line with regard to when to start worrying about a state has been erased – at least with regard to sales tax. And, in the four months following the opinion, states have begun to rub that big eraser across other areas of law as well. The next to disappear is likely state income tax, then perhaps use tax, workers compensation, and unemployment insurance. As of the writing of this article, of the 45 states that have a sales tax, all but eight have already passed the economic contacts test for sales tax.  (That sure didn’t take long.) How many middle market companies (selling items subject to sales tax) have adapted their practices to this tsunami of a tax change? From what we’ve seen, just about zero. How many acquirers have adjusted their due diligence process? Let’s say the adoption rate there is at least as fast as those of the 45 states - and that is being generous to the states.

The results on M&A already include (i) longer due diligence, (ii) acquirers demanding larger escrows and holdbacks, and (iii) purchase price adjustments. The longer middle market companies go without getting up to speed on the new reality, the larger the potential penalties on the business once the acquirer gets hold of it and therefore the larger the issues will become in the deal process.

Author:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International
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What is included in the M&A due diligence?

The due diligence process is one of the final steps in an M&A transaction where the potential buyer does its obligation to best confirm and verify the seller's company data and relevant information. This information typically includes but not limited to: financials, IT, operations, legal & compliance, insurance, corporate bylaws, contracts, customers, among other important information. Typically, the due diligence process follows the execution of a letter of intent (LOI), a non-binding document outlining the intent of both parties to commit to the transaction.

Once the LOI has been executed, the buyer will request a list of items to be shared by the seller with the intention of disclosing the selling company’s key details that could uncover risk buyer. As mentioned before, items can range all the way from financials to operations to insurance to contracts, among others. In cases where the seller owns the real estate, additional documents pertaining to the real estate, such as: deeds, mortgages, tax documents, owners’ insurance, etc. will need to be provided. Given today’s advancements in technology, once the due diligence request list has been sent to the seller, the team leading the deal will proceed to open what we call in the M&A world a “virtual data room” or a “data room.” These two terms are referred to as online portals that hold and store the information requested by the buyer with high levels of security only available for certain parties, including: buyer, seller, M&A attorneys, CPAs, advisors, among others. The data room allows activity within the room to be tracked and archived so there is a file of the information exchange after closing should any issues arise.

Once the due diligence starts, it is highly recommended for the buyer to hold, at the very least, weekly meetings or calls with the seller to discuss outstanding items or any questions that may have arisen from the process. As the due diligence process progresses, the buyer will become more familiar with the seller’s company. For an instance, should the buyer find any items that may play against the seller in the due diligence process, the buyer may use this to lower the valuation of the business which may ultimately result in a lower offer price.

In addition, this process can result as a discovery of potential opportunity to better structure the deal, find real synergies among parties, review any benefits and challenges for potential system integrations, and any associated risks that may arise from the result of this potential acquisition. 

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Webinar Video: Now That the Valuation is Set, Here's Where You Will Win or Lose the Deal

 

 

M&A Webinar: Now that the Valuation is Set, Here’s Where You will Win or Lose the Deal

Many sellers think they have reached the finish line once the buyer has been selected or perhaps when the letter of intent is executed. Even those who know they haven’t reached that line often believe all key elements of the transaction have been ironed out and all that remains is the “technical” part. To better understand many of the material issues that remain open after the letter of intent is executed, this webinar will walk participants through a wide array of those open issues. 

  1. Stock versus asset deals, which is really better?
  2. Tax elections = dirty words
  3. Monetizing the real estate portion
  4. Protecting yourself with employment and consulting agreements
  5. Seller notes and earn outs – never say never
  6. Escrows, who needs them?
  7. Winning the net working capital fight
  8. Your indemnification of the acquirer
  9. How the disclosure schedules protect you
  10. Can reps and warranties insurance assist you?
  11. The inevitable non-competes
  12. Meet the Grim Reaper of your sale process- Delays

You can also watch it here on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/282908864

Hosted By:
Clinton Johnston
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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Benchmark International Advises on The Sale of American Precision Fabricators to Apline 4 Technologies, LTD.

The acquisition of American Precision Fabricators Inc. to Apline 4 Technologies, Ltd. is complete. 

American Precision Fabricators Inc. is located out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and it is a steel-sheet manufacturing business. It provides assemblies and sub-assmeblies to original equipment manufacturers (OEM). The company supplies several industries with fabricated parts that it creates in-house. It offers several production capabilities with its state-of-the-art machinery. For over two decades, the company has been an industry leader for customers in the OEM markets.

Apline 4 Technologies, Ltd. (ALPP) is a publicly traded enterprise with business-related endeavors in software, automotive technologies, electronics manufacturing, energy services and fabrication technologies, and industries that support those market segments. This acquisition was important for Apline 4 Technologies to complete its industry platform strategy.

President of American Precision Fabricators, Andy Galbach, said “Pulling Alpine and APF together would not have happened without Benchmark International’s reach and knowledge of the market. As a first time seller, the team at Benchmark International guided me all the way, from preparing to go to market to the actual closing table. The team was always responsive and always willing to help when needed. I would recommend any seller to engage Benchmark International for the sale of their business.”

Benchmark International Senior Associate, Luis Vinals, shared his thoughts on this transaction: "The Austin, Texas team truly enjoyed working with Andy in preparing the business to market and managing buyer relationships," he said. " We were always conscious that time was of the essence in this deal, and we focused our efforts in finding the right buyer within our client’s time expectations.”

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Benchmark International Facilitates the Sale of Technical Resource Group to White Wolf Capital, LLC.

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the sale of Technical Resource Group to White Wolf Capital, LLC. Technical Resource Group is a Texas-based IT Staffing firm that provides contract, contract-to-hire, and direct hire placement services to technical professionals in a number of industries, including transportation, IT, food, financial, healthcare, and government.

White Wolf Capital, LLC is a private equity firm that began operations in late 2011 and is focused on making control-investments in leading middle market companies. It practices a solutions-oriented and flexible investment approach with experience in leverage buyouts, management buyouts and recapitalizations.

In reference to the transaction, Scott Clary, owner of Technical Resource Group, explained his experience with Benchmark International. “I never thought there would be such an aggressive market for my company. The Benchmark International team was very professional and knowledgeable throughout the entire process. Having an experienced M&A advisor, like Benchmark International, allowed us to solely focus on top-quality buyers in the market for our company” he said. “In addition, the Benchmark International team also ensured that any buyers they presented culturally aligned with the values my company stands by.”

Benchmark International Director, Luis Vinals, added “Having a client like Scott, a man who loves his business, is always a joy. Throughout the entire process, he was communicative and collaborative. With the Benchmark Team at his side, Scott was able to procure the deal he desired. Open communication allowed us to have strategic conversations that ultimately lead to a great deal for our client.”

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Upcoming M&A Webinar: Now that the Valuation is Set, Here’s Where You will Win or Lose the Deal

July 26th @ 10am EST

Register Now >> http://bit.ly/2Nvampu 

Many sellers think they have reached the finish line once the buyer has been selected or perhaps when the letter of intent is executed. Even those who know they haven’t reached that line often believe all key elements of the transaction have been ironed out and all that remains is the “technical” part. To better understand many of the material issues that remain open after the letter of intent is executed, this webinar will walk participants through a wide array of those
open issues. 

READ MORE >>
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