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Why You Should Spend More Time Thinking About Selling Your Company

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

1. Start Making Your Business More Valuable

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

2. Know Your Number

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

3. Know Your Buyer

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

4. Get Your Records in Order

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

5. Keep Your Eye on the Business

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

6. Have a Plan

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

Let’s Discuss Your Options

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

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Tips For Transitioning A Company's Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?



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

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

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

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

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

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

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M&A In The Ride Services And Autonomous Vehicle Industries

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

Ride Service Companies

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

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

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Autonomous Vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Us

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

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Leisure Industry in M&A

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

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

Opportunities and Challenges

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

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

 

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

 

Cross-Border M&A Considerations

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

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

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

Contact Us

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

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Benchmark International Successfully Facilitated the Transaction of Osborn Equipment Sales, Inc. to Still Holding Company

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated the transaction of Osborn Equipment Sales, Inc. to Still Holding Company. Osborn Equipment Sales, Inc. has been in business for over 60 years and serves as a manufacturer’s representative of dry process material handling equipment to customers located within Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, and the Texas Panhandle.

Still Holding Company is owned by Roy Still, an individual with an M&A advisory background, who currently owns a diverse portfolio of businesses in the Tulsa, Oklahoma region, including funeral homes in the area.

Vice President, Keith Garoutte of Osborn Equipment Sales, Inc. commented, “We are a 60- year-old company located in Oklahoma. After 40 plus years of owning the company, my business partner and l were thinking about retirement. We were contacted by Benchmark International wanting to know if we were in the market to sell our company. It was perfect timing for both of us. Benchmark International sent a gentleman to meet with us and after several phone calls we had reached an agreement to have Benchmark International solicit our company for sale in March 2019. We supplied Benchmark International with all the information they had requested, and they proceeded to market our company. Benchmark International found several companies interested in purchasing our company and after only a few months we were in negotiations. We were finally able to close and collect our money on January 6, 2020. Benchmark International did an outstanding job in marketing our company. We were very impressed with their sales team and their sales and negotiation knowledge. Their sales experience made selling our company very easy and without headaches. I would definitely recommend Benchmark International if you want a professional and aggressive sales team to sell your business.”

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

J.P. Santos, Associate at Benchmark International added, “Randy and Keith were a pleasure to work with and the Benchmark International team is excited that we were able to play a role in the successful sale of their business. From the beginning of the sales process, Randy and Keith were looking for a buyer who could continue their legacy of decades of high quality service, as well as, meet their goals from the sale as they look towards their future endeavors. Roy Still was able to accomplish both of those objectives and the company looks to continue its success under his stewardship.”

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2020 Outlook For The Global Energy Sector

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

Oil & Gas

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Coal

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

Renewable Energy

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

Some key points regarding this sector include the following:

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

 Electricity

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

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

Let’s Discuss Your Options

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

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

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

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

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

 

Learn More About the SAVCA Southern Africa Industry Conference Here

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

Schedule A Call

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2020 Global Outlook For The Media Industry

The New Media World

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

Streaming Wars

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

Podcast Popularity

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

For the Love of Data

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

User-Generated Content

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

M&A Opportunity

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

Contact Us

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

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Why 2020 Is The Right Time To Transition A Business

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

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

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

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

The 2020 U.S. Election

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

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

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

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Brexit

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

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

The Boomer Retirement Wave

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

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

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

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

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

Are You Ready to Sell?

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

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2020 Global IT Industry Outlook

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

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

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

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Forecasted IT Spending

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

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

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

Cloud Security

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

 

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The Year of 5G

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

Edge Computing

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

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

Let’s Talk Soon

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

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Tips For Evaluating A Buyer’s Letter Of Intent

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

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

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

 

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Here are some basic considerations for evaluating an LOI.

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

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

 

Author
Don Rooney 
Transaction Director
Benchmark International

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Discretion

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

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

2) Passion

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

 

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3) Analytical Thinking

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

4) Experience-based Vision

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

5) Compassion

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

Contact Us

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

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The Biggest Trends In M&A This Year

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

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

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

New M&A Motivation

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

First Quarter

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

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

 

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Second Quarter

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

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

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

Third Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

 

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High Tech M&A

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

Among the notable mega tech deals of 2019 were:

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

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

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

Globally, the largest middle-market technology deals included:

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

Is a Deal in Your Future?

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

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Common Pitfalls Owners Face When Selling A Business

Not Knowing the Value of Your Business

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

Selling at the Wrong Time

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

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

 

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Misunderstanding Future Cash Flow

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

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

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

Not Having an Exit Plan

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

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

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

 

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

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

Is it Time to Sell?

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

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What Drives The Need For Companies To Consider Mergers And Acquisitions

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

Growth Creation

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

Competitive Edge

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

 

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Acquisition of Talent

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

Economies of Scale

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

Supply Chain Power

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

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

 

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Increased R&D

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

Social or Political Influence

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

Bankruptcy Solution

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

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

Is an M&A Strategy Right for You?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

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

 

Author
Clinton Johnston
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

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

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Benchmark International Successfully Facilitated a Transaction Between Pioneer Realty Capital, LLC and Luxon Realty Services

Benchmark International has successfully facilitated a transaction between Pioneer Realty Capital, LLC and Luxon Realty Services. Pioneer Realty Capital is an Arlington, Texas-based business that provides underwriting services along with debt and equity brokerage, primarily for the development of commercial real estate.

Luxon Realty Services is an Austin-based real estate brokerage, property management, and advisory firm founded in 2006. The firm actively manages real estate assets and provides consulting and advisory services nationwide. The principals of the firm have over 20 years experience as a real estate professional, and has key relationships with national capital providers with whom they work hand-in-hand with to identify and execute on capital market opportunities with demonstrable growth characteristics.

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

J.P. Santos, Associate Director at Benchmark International shared, “Benchmark International’s Austin team enjoyed working with Charles Williams and the Pioneer Realty Capital team. We were able to work towards coming to terms that were ideal for Charles’ goals for his firm. This deal shows Benchmark’s dynamic market position and our understanding of the wants and needs of our clients and how to formulate a strategy that helps accomplish our clients' goals from the transaction. Charles was looking for a partner that could provide him a broader array of products and services to offer his existing clients as well as a means to obtain a new business. The team did a formidable job at negotiating a deal that would fit this objective and allow Charles several options regarding the long-term direction of Pioneer Realty Capital. Charles was a true professional to work with, and we are excited about what the future holds for Pioneer Realty Capital.”

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How Proper Exit Planning Benefits Both Seller and Buyer

Value For Sellers

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

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

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

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

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

Value For Buyers

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

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

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

 

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

Smart for Everyone

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

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

Is it Time to Plan Your Exit?

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

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Check Out Our Newly REDesigned Website!

Benchmark International is very excited to announce the launch of our newly redesigned website - https://www.benchmarkintl.com/ 

Featuring a brand new look, and more customized information, we have built our new website with you in mind!

The streamlined user interface allows you to find the information you are looking for more quickly and efficiently than ever before! You can browse the website based on your interests and goals, meet our team, learn more about our services and success, and see how we give back to our communities. You can also browse resources, webinars, workshops, and articles relevant to you within just a few clicks. 

Check out our new website here

We can't wait for you to dive in and explore the new website. We hope you enjoy the fresh look and find that this portal serves as a valuable resource for you. 

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Benchmark International Facilitated the Transaction of BobCAD CAM, Inc. to Harris Computer Corporation

Benchmark International has facilitated the transaction of BobCAD CAM, Inc. to Harris Computer Corporation.

BobCAD-CAM, Inc. based in Clearwater, FL, is a leader in CNC programming software for milling, turning, routing, and wire EDM. It combines CAD (computer-aided-design) and CAM (computer-aided-manufacture) functionality into a single interface. Through its proprietary software, the company provides manufacturers a powerful and easy to use CNC (computer numerical control) programming software.

Larry Pendleton, CEO of BobCAD Cam, Inc. commented regarding the transaction, “We are excited to enter this new phase of our company’s growth. We’re especially thankful to the entire Benchmark International team that supported us in the process. As our M&A advisors, they were extremely knowledgeable, thorough and professional during the entire transaction. The Benchmark International team helped us secure multiple offers from strategic, financial, domestic and international buyers, and we couldn’t have gotten this transaction done without them."

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

Harris Computer Corporation provides mission critical software solutions for utilities, healthcare, local governments, public safety, and schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. Harris has offices throughout North America. Harris is a wholly owned subsidiary of Constellation Software, Inc. CSI is a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Trading symbol CSU.

This acquisition represents a tremendous opportunity for both businesses and their teams to strategically accelerate the rate of profitable growth.

Benchmark International's Transaction Director, Leo Vanderschuur commented, "It was a pleasure to represent BobCAD CAM in this transaction. Throughout the process, Larry and his team were exceptionally responsive, diligent, and professional. This acquisition represents a tremendous opportunity for both businesses and their teams to strategically accelerate the rate of profitable growth. On behalf of the numerous Benchmark International personnel that worked on this opportunity, we congratulate both teams on reaching this goal."

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Don’t Delay Your Exit Strategy

In the latest to happen in the rollercoaster that is Brexit, another delay has been granted to the UK with EU members agreeing to an extension until the 31st January.

Meanwhile, reports from the EU are warning that economies may be falling into a recession with the potential decline in part due to Brexit, with countries particularly struggling when dependent on exports.

Despite this, M&A activity has not halted as there are still plenty of opportunities as it’s a way for companies to grow and develop and dealmakers are always on the lookout for strategic acquisitions. In fact, while dealmakers may be cautious and their timelines may be extended on deals, the uncertainty caused by Brexit has carved opportunities for dealmakers as they are ready to take advantage of factors such as the weak pound sterling making for cheap UK assets. This has resulted in the corporate mid-market remaining relatively robust with last year’s figures at record highs.

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

Therefore, if thinking of an exit strategy the time to act is now before it is too late. Potential recession could be a sign of things to come and while M&A has prospered so far despite Brexit, too many business owners are leaving their planning for Brexit until the last minute to wait for certainty from politicians. If certainty is guaranteed, this could lead to the market becoming saturated once a deal has been agreed or, if uncertainty continues to persist more and more economies could fall into recession – so it’s best to strike while the iron is hot.

Still unsure if now is the best time to sell? Read the below: 

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There is a Buyer for Every Business

“I am in a niche market space.” “Who would want to buy my business?” These are just a couple of the concerns that owners have when putting their business on the market for sale, which often leads them to limit the types of prospective buyers. However, business owners should not limit themselves to one particular type of buyer. The various buyer types often have different acquisition strategies and end goals. Receiving offers from each type enables sellers to explore the best of all options. Investment banks commonly group buyers into three main categories: Strategic, Financial, and Individual.

Strategic Buyer

Strategic buyers are typically the first group that owners will think of when deciding who will have an interest in acquiring their business. These are businesses that are similar to the seller’s and can include competitors. Within this category, horizontally-integrating strategic buyers seek to increase their market share through segment expansion, such as adding new regions, new markets, or a new customer base. This could be a buyer that is located on the opposite side of the country seeking expansion through acquisition to reach a new customer base. On the other hand, Vertically-integrating strategic buyers desire to expand their internal capabilities, such as bringing a portion of the supply chain in-house. For instance, a distributor may be seeking expansion by bringing manufacturing in-house. This allows the company to reduce costs and become less reliant on critical or high-risk suppliers. This works for all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the service provider. A strategic buyer can come in many forms, each with their unique set of goals for a transaction, which will drive deal value.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Financial Buyer

Financial buyers are the next main type of prospects buying businesses. The most common buyers in this category are private equity groups. Private equity buyers seek a return on the invested capital for their investors. A private equity group can bring resources that a strategic buyer may not have access to, such as growth capital, strategic management resources, and new growth opportunities. While some of these groups aim to grow the business for a period and then resell the expanded operations for a gain, others seek to buy and hold, with no plans to resell. Typically, these buyers will invest in industries where they have experience and can bring new ideas and opportunities to a business. Sellers often think that private equity groups only look at very large businesses to acquire but that is not the case. Private equity buyers often seek add-on acquisition of all sizes. The add-on can be any business that has synergies with their larger platform companies, which can expand operations, geographic coverage, or fill small gaps in the portfolio. For example, a private equity firm that has a large HVAC platform business may add on several smaller HVAC companies throughout the supply chain. The private equity buyer that is adding on to an existing platform has similar operations in place and can therefore be thought of as both a financial and strategic buyer.

Individual Buyer

The third category of buyers that play a role in the M&A community is an Individual Buyer. These buyers seek businesses to own and sometimes also to operate. Individual buyers span all industries and have various goals for the acquisition. There are many ways an individual can finance a transaction, including high net worth, commercial bank loans, SBA loans, and investment sponsors. When the individual buyer is an entrepreneur that uses funds from investors in order to search for, acquire, and personally operate one company, this is referred to as a “Search Fund” model.  Search Fund investment vehicles often have several operators, sometimes referred to an entrepreneur in residence, simultaneously seeking businesses in which they can take a day-to-day leadership role. The goals, value propositions, synergies and valuations of this buyer group varies significantly, and can often produce the best cultural fit for a departing seller.

There are companies, investors, firms, and individuals, both domestically and internationally, seeking to acquire businesses in all industries and of all sizes. Likewise, sellers have varied goals for a transaction and no single buyer type is guaranteed to align with those goals. There are countless prospective buyers and, by considering all types, a seller and his or her broker will uncover the right buyer.

 

Feeling unfulfilled? Explore your options...

 

Contact Us

Contact Benchmark International today if you are ready to sell your company, grow your company, or explore your M&A strategies. Our team of M&A experts will guide you every step of the way and will make you feel at ease that you are going to get the best deal possible.

 

Author
Nick Woodyard
Associate
Benchmark International

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

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The Digital Marketing Industry and M&A

The trillion dollar advertising space is a rapidly changing industry with most of the action happening on the digital marketing side. As the world’s digital advertising revenues increase, there is a global demand for more online content. Lead generation, advertising, search engine optimization, and affiliate partnerships are major drivers of income in the 21st century marketing industry. This demand drives up the value of content-related businesses and digital marketing agencies in an era where everyone is glued to their connected devices. All of this screen time has caused traditional advertisers (print, TV, outdoor, radio) to shift their largest spends to digital marketing tactics and mobile internet advertising, even outspending television ads.

Worldwide digital advertising spending is predicted to reach $517 billion by the end of the year 2023.

The robust growth, sheer size, and high fragmentation of the digital marketing sector has led to healthy mergers and acquisitions activity involving digital agencies. Everyone from traditional advertising agencies to private equity investors is seeking target companies that offer growth benefits.

The establishment of digital capabilities and relationships has become a major priority for traditional ad agencies and their large holding companies as they look to grow their digital revenue and expand their portfolios. As conventional media continues to be displaced by digital marketing, the percentage of media spend on digital marketing on behalf of traditional ad agencies will continue to grow.

Evolving Technologies

In the digital marketing industry, there is also growing popularity of technologies that offer individualized features and more in-depth experiences. Brands are being pushed to invest and acquire these types of technologies while post-sales marketing has become a more prominent element along the customer journey.

  • The use of chatbots and personalized messaging is enhancing customer experiences.
  • Audio queries made possible by smart devices and digital assistants are driving voice search.
  • Online video advertising is a quickly growing segment.
  • Artificial intelligence analytics are helping to better target marketing strategies based off of real-time data. This data leads to meaningful insights that are used to improve customer interaction, and optimize media budgets and marketing strategies.
  • Social search is changing e-commerce and vehicles for product reviews and recommendations.

This industry is sure to see more and more future technologies that have yet to be developed, continuing to drive rapid change and growth, and create opportunities for M&A.

Large User Platforms

Giant platform companies such as Google and Facebook provide free digital products and services but are still able to profit because they reach such massive audiences.

The larger the platform, the more consumer data is collected. The more a consumer uses the platform, the more information is gleaned about them. And with more data, the platform can better tailor the content consumers see, and keep them on the platform longer. This results in improved customer experiences and more advertising capacity, which means better understanding of consumers, heightened influence, and more revenue from targeted advertising.

Affiliate Partnerships

Affiliate partnerships use affiliate websites to promote products or services that belong to another company. The valuation of an affiliate website depends on the specific terms of the affiliate program. These factors include longevity, product category and seasonality, commission tiers, high caliber content, and the link portfolio. Websites that fulfill these attributes often have the better earnings, margins and lifecycle, which are attractive to investors. For valuation purposes, advertising agencies are similar to affiliate businesses because they are dependent upon content and end-user action to produce revenue.

These types of partnerships that monetize content also apply to offline businesses that need new and better ways to generate access to audiences. Investors also tend to be drawn to this segment based on existing relationships that can be used to an advantage.

Exit Opportunities

Some digital marketing agencies are being established with the goal of selling in mind. There are extremely low entry barriers when it comes to creating a digital marketing firm, but there are also limited benefits to growth. Some brands do not wish to work with a huge firm. And low employee tenure means lower retained corporate knowledge in an industry where talent retention is already incredibly challenging.

An agency with strong historical growth and projected growth of more than 20% can lead to strong multiples. The purchase of smaller agencies offers opportunities for growth for the large advertising agency groups and an easy way to cash out for the leadership of the smaller agencies.

Contact Us

Please feel free to contact our M&A advisors at Benchmark International to discuss your next move. Our industry expertise and global connections are true game changers when it comes to selling or growing a company, and forming an exit plan.

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Benchmark International Successfully Facilitated the Transaction of Jordan Human Resources To Vinton Holdings

Jordan HR is a niche human resources firm that specialises in the recruitment of medical practitioners, with a keen focus on Locum Pharmacists.

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Why You Shouldn’t Wait For The New Year To Sell Your Company

A new year always conjures up the feeling that it’s a clean slate, so that may seem like a good time to take your business to market. And, yes, timing is everything, but waiting for the new year could mean that you miss out on the opportunity to get the maximum value for your business.

Get Ahead of Economic Uncertainties

No one can say for sure what the state of the global economy will be next year. But we do know what it is NOW. These are certainties that we know, understand, and can work within. We know what M&A strategies can be advantageous today based on the level of:

  • Buyer demand
  • Bank generosity
  • Current valuations
  • Tax breaks
  • Interest rates
  • Retiring competitors
  • Inflation
  • Political unrest

It is not uncommon for business owners to want to postpone a sale with hopes that they can sell at a higher price in the future. This can be a dire mistake. 

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Waiting too long could mean that you end up trying to sell during a recession, a down cycle, or under other unfavorable circumstances that result in you not getting all that your company is truly worth. It can also mean that if you miss out on your ideal window of opportunity, you may have to wait five to seven years for such an opportunity to arise again.

Take Advantage of a Seller’s Market

What may be a seller’s market today, can just as easily become a buyer’s market tomorrow. If you decide to wait, you could end up losing your upper hand as a seller. There are millions of business owners that are approaching retirement age and if there is an influx of these sellers onto the market, it can result in increased competition and buyers will enjoy having their pick of the litter. That also means lower valuations for your company. You can easily get out in front of this scenario by not hesitating to start the process.

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers will celebrate their 65th birthday every day through the year 2030.

Act Early for a Patient Process

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to selling a company. Ironically, getting into the sale process sooner rather than later will afford you the ability to be patient through the process. If you wait too long and end up in a situation where you are panicking to sell your company, buyers will sense your desperation and will try to low-ball you on a deal. By demonstrating to buyers that you have been carefully considering and planning for this, rather than appearing to just “want out” without an exit or succession plan, it will likely increase your sale price. 

 

Feel like it's a good time to sell?

 

Test the Market

Maybe you are feeling too uncertain about selling now. Keep in mind that you can always test the market. Prepare your company for sale, put it out there, and see what kind of offers you get. You might find that there is interest in your company that you were not aware of, and eager buyers might come to the surface, surprising you with offers that are hard to turn down. In the case that the offers are lower than what you were hoping for, you can simply take the company of the market for the time being and wait for a better time.

Ready to Talk?

The process of selling a business can take several months. Even if you are simply considering a sale, reach out to one of our M&A advisors at Benchmark International to start the conversation. We can help you get a better understanding of the market timing, if you feel that you are ready to sell, and what exit strategy is right for you. We also understand that you have worked hard to build your business, and parting with it is going to be an emotional process. That is why we always work in the seller’s best interest, working relentlessly to arrange a deal that is the absolute very best for you and your family and with which you feel truly comfortable.

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Webinar: How To Navigate A Deal With Private Equity Funds And Be Successful

For many sellers, the notion of selling the business they built from the ground up to a private equity fund is unimaginable. Many have heard horror stories from their friends, perhaps read books about the pitfalls of private equity buyers, and may even have some personal experiences. While dealing with private equity funds can be problematic for sellers, they often also are the best, most logical buyer. They are well-funded, so there is little risk the deal will fall through because of the inability to fund. Also, today’s private equity funds generally will leave their portfolio companies to operate free of interference, only offering support, guidance, and growth capital. However, if unrepresented by a capable M&A advisor, sellers can run into many problems in the midst of a transaction with a private equity fund. 

What are these pitfalls? Here are a few:

  • There’s a pronounced gap between what is expected from the fund as it relates to data and what is readily accessible from the seller. How do you bridge that gap?
  • Be aware that Private Equity math is very complicated. Will they bring leverage to the transaction? Where will that debt sit? Will it appropriately dilute their equity? What is a Net Working Capital Peg? How is it calculated? How can buyers use it to erode deal value?
  • How do you know that the deal being offered is competitive with what is out there in the market? PE Funds buy companies for a living, so they are very shrewd negotiators.
  • Due diligence in PE deals is very rigorous. While diligence is a fact of life in all deals, how do you know that a buyer's request is reasonable? How do you know that the timing of each diligence item won’t interfere with your business?

Fear not. An experienced and capable advisor can help you navigate through each of these obstacles. In this webinar, we will discuss the pros and cons of partnering with a Private Equity fund and pay particular attention to how best to handle the complexity these deals inevitably introduce.

Click here to Sign Up For the Webinar

Hosts:

Dara Shareef
Managing Director
Benchmark International

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Break Beyond Limitations – Become a Generalist

Although prior knowledge of how to approach a particular problem helps us to some extent, it can largely hinder our decision making process. Instinctively, the human mind causes us to succumb to second guessing ourselves and making a decision out of fear, rather than from intuitive knowledge. Additionally, the human mind also has a predisposition towards cultivating an inside-view during decision making. An inside view considers a problem based upon the surface level information of the specific task at hand, and makes predictions based upon the narrow set data points relative to the problem. Comparatively, an outside-view draws upon similar or even distant analogies to the problem at hand, by purposely setting aside information relative to the problem, in a conscious effort to minimize biases. 

We allow fear to control our actions and decision making. Sometimes, we may not even know it because we have done such a good job at convincing ourselves otherwise. We think of the future and obsess over adverse outcomes that can happen as a direct result of our actions. We are cautious and methodical, intentionally as to not make the “wrong decision.” This is how we involuntarily hedge our own personal risk. Often, this fear serves a constructive purpose, enabling us to safeguard our assets. But sometimes, this developed habit can act as a mental barrier to sound decision making when fear inhibits our ability to approach problems differently. Research suggests that approaching a problem with the same mindset developed from previous problems that are similar, may actuallyinhibit our ability to make the best decision or the correct valuation. Sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? That’s because our brains are hardwired to draw upon our learned experiences when problems and solutions repeat. To approach a problem differently poses a risk, so naturally we develop a habit to approach the same problem in the same way despite how greatly the variables of each situation change. By critically evaluating past events, and applying previously learned knowledge gained from similar experiences, we are limiting our problem-solving abilities.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

The trouble in using no more than one analogy, particularly if it is a similar situation to the problem at hand, is that it does not help battle the inside view since we make judgement on the narrowed details that are the most apparent to us. The outside view is deeply counterintuitive because it causes the decision maker to ignore unique surface features of the current project, of which they are the expert.

In 2012, University of Sydney business strategy professor Dan Lovallo conducted an inside-view research study, to test the idea that drawing upon a diverse range of analogies would naturally lead to an outside view perspective and improve decisions. They recruited investors from large private equity firms who regularly consider potential projects in a variety of domains. The researchers believed that the investors’ expansive experience might have naturally lent itself to the outside view. The private equity investors were instructed to assess a real project they were currently working on and write down a batch of other investment projects they knew of with broad conceptual similarity. The results showed that the investors estimated a 50% higher return on their own project than the outside projects they had identified as conceptually similar. The investors initially judged their own projects, where they knew all the details, completely differently from similar projects to which they were outsiders. This is a widespread phenomenon – the more internal details you learn about any particular scenario, the more likely you are to say that the scenario you are investigating will occur. Therefore, the more internal details an individual can be made to consider, the more extreme their judgment becomes. The results of the study suggest that broad conceptual similarities should be considered when making a decision. In Range, author David Epstein argues that referencing distant analogies relative to the problem at hand, enables the highest rate of successful decision making. The outside view probes for deep structural similarities to the current problem relative to different problems. One way to achieve sound decision making is to develop self-awareness of the natural inclination to make self-proclaiming assumptions, and the limitations of becoming buried in details that may inhibit optimum decision making.

Additionally, possessing a diverse range of experiences enables the decision maker to be better prepared to approach any given problem with a broader mindset. With the work world changing faster than it did in the past, it is essential to broaden your specialty in order to optimize your decision making ability and expand your knowledge across a variety of domains. The people who make the biggest impact have a diverse background of prior experiences within their intellectual toolbox to draw upon when determining the best solution for a problem at hand. In 2016, LinkedIn conducted a study to analyze the career paths of 459,000 members to determine who would become an executive. One of the best predictors is the number of different job functions an individual had worked within a given industry. The study concluded that each additional job function provides a boost that, on average, is equal to three years of work experience. Therefore, to optimize your decision-making ability and create competitive advantage in the ever-changing workforce, take on new challenges and roles to strengthen your weakest abilities and become as well-rounded as possible. For us to be the best for our clients, we must approach each problem with a broad and open mind, while being cognizant of the transferability of our past experiences. Each experience has added value to who we are and has shaped our unique insight. The reward of learning a new skill develops new habits, strengthens the mind to overcome the fear of doing something new, and enables us to become the best version of ourselves for our clients.

 

Author
Jordan Stenholm 
Transaction Support Associate
Benchmark International

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

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How A Sovereign Credit Downgrade Might Impact M&A Activity

While still managing to avoid a downgrade in April, South Africa has found itself at a crossroads of uncertainty since Moody’s Investors Service’s bleak budget reaction that sparked junk status fears for the country.

The speculation about the credit downgrade has been amplified by the fact that South Africa is in the middle of an election year – a factor that has also been blamed for a decrease in foreign investors’ confidence in the South African market.

An analysis of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity pre-and-post downgrades in Brazil and Greece suggest that although foreign investment will not end, investors do adapt their investment portfolios to align to the parameters of their investment mandates. 

Government bonds and treasury securities become largely un-investable instruments post a sovereign downgrade. However, statistics suggest that while capital outflows are a reality, some funds do remain behind in these countries, and new funds do flow in. These investments will naturally seek viable and alternative high-return investment opportunities – options often presented by M&A. One theory that emerges from this analysis is that mature economies have more stable but lower growth rates. While developed economies also represent a seemingly lower risk, they do not offer sufficiently high returns.

In order to achieve the required overall return on investment in a risk-on environment following a credit downgrade, fund managers will inevitably still require some form of investment in emerging markets.

 

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In order to understand the impact a credit downgrade has on M&A activity in a country, we compared M&A activity as reported by Zephyr, a Bureau van Dyk company that offers a database of deal information.  

We compared M&A activity before and after a credit downgrade in Brazil, which has a similar economy to South Africa due to slow growth and political instability in both countries, as well as in Greece. The raw data suggests that a catastrophic capital flight is unlikely because the sums invested may be lower and the investment profiles between the countries are different. But opportunity abounds and returns remain strong as there exists a direct correlation between risk and reward.

According to Trading Economics, Moody’s was the first to downgrade Brazil in September of 2014 for political and economic reasons. Fitch Ratings followed suit with a downgrade in April 2015. In July 2015, S&P downgraded the country too.

The Bureau van Dyk / Zephyr data looked only at transactions where the targets were Brazilian companies and considered deals that were both completed and announced each year. The transactions analysed include mergers, acquisitions, institutional buy-outs as well as venture capital and private equity.

It is evident from the data that the volume of transactions was relatively flat after the first downgrade by Moody’s in 2014. The volume of transactions decreased by approximately one-third after the remaining agencies downgraded the country in 2015.

While the total value of transactions reported also decreased, it is evident that the average transaction value in 2017 was similar to 2015.  For example, the average value per transaction in 2015 was R973 million and R929 million in 2017. On a cursory view, transaction values held up well after the Moody’s downgrade.

Analysing the data for Greece, which was downgraded in 2010, the following graph illustrates the effect on both volume and values reported by Bureau van Dyk over a similar period to Brazil.

The data illustrates a clear downward trend in M&A deal values over the period of the financial crisis in 2008, 2009 and well into 2010. While there was an initial slump in volumes and a slight decrease in value immediately after the downgrade in 2010, it is only 2017 that has subsequently underperformed the deal values as they were similar to levels seen in 2010. Again, the average deal size in the period following a downgrade is shown to have increased.

In conclusion

The data analysed makes no currency or inflation-related adjustments. And the data, being Euro-denominated, indicates that the M&A sector remained resilient even after credit downgrade events.

Although Moody’s did not downgrade South Africa to junk, the data from Greece and Brazil does indicate that deal flow will not evaporate should this happen. Volumes may initially drop but average deal values can be expected to increase.

While we continue to work to avoid it and acknowledge the punitive impact thereof, the statistical reality is that a downgrade is not likely to be as detrimental for the M&A sector as otherwise perceived.

 

Author
Andre Bresler
Managing Partner
Benchmark International

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

 

 

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M&A In The Global Mining Sector

The Role of Mining in the World

The global mining sector employs millions of people worldwide and its role in the global economy continues to significantly evolve. Standard functions in the mining industry include production of metals, and metals investing and trading. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between the global mining industry and other industries. For example, elements such as copper, nickel, and aluminum are core components used in the construction, aviation, automobile and other industries. In areas where mining is more concentrated, the industry plays a more important role in local economies.

According to the International Council on Mining and Metals, at least 70 countries are extremely dependent on the mining industry, and most low-income countries rely on it to survive. The same study shows that in many low-middle income countries, mining accounts for as much as 60-90% of total foreign direct investment.

Increased populations and urbanization drive the demand for growth in mining activities, as there is more demand for cars, buildings, and consumer products.

 

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M&A Challenges and Considerations

Mergers and acquisitions can be intense in the global mining industry. They are heavily influenced by timing, fluctuating commodity prices, supply uncertainties, and come with many variables depending on transaction size, volatile markets, and the geo-location of the mine. There are certain considerations that are unique to the industry:

  • Mining projects can have limited lifecycles depending on the availability of deposits.
  • Mines cannot be relocated to areas that may be more beneficial economically or politically.
  • Because there are great technological and geological constraints, mining companies are not able to adjust production to increase revenue.
  • Funding is less readily available, access to bank financing is limited, and investors tend to be more cautious and selective.
  • Countries may have greater government regulations, and indigenous mining agreements designed to mitigate negative effects and to share the benefits from commercial mining activity.
  • In some parts of the world, there are human rights concerns, increased policing for corruption, and environmental impacts.
  • Once the ore is extracted, mine closure procedures can take several years, in turn, expending money and labor for activities that are not yielding any profits during that time frame.

Gold Mining Sector 

The gold mining industry is known for placing a high premium on growth. As of 2019, analysts reported that the leaders of gold mining companies say that they find mergers and acquisitions to be an easier path to growth than exploring for new untapped deposits underground. Modern M&A deals in the business of gold mining now focus more on capital efficiency and operational excellence, with heavy emphasis on evaluation of the management team.

Copper Mining Sector 

Copper is an essential metal needed by industrial economies. Globally, the copper mining industry is one of the leading metal mining markets. The continued innovations in battery technology continue to attract investment into metals such as copper, which plays a critical component in the function of batteries.

Coal Mining Sector

Coal has been widely used to provide power since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s. In the 21stcentury, coal mining faces new challenges alongside the pursuit and popularity of renewable energy sources. At the same time, innovation in the coal mining industry remains alive. New, state-of-the-art technologies are being developed. Sophisticated robotic mining machinery and computerized systems are being used to streamline mining and boost production to unprecedented levels. And industry leaders are looking into new uses for coal beyond its long-standing role in the energy sector. An example is the development of carbon fiber, currently used in the aerospace field, and potentially used in prosthetics, electrodes, 3D printers, and more.

 

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Shared Buyer and Seller Risk

In the mining sector, both buyers and sellers alike face risks of deal failure, but are more likely to see success if a strategic plan is followed. Two of the most important factors are pricing efficiency and post-sale integration. Both buyers and sellers tend to be more cautious in this industry.

  • Sellers should expect buyers to be on the lookout for the risk overpaying for your company, not being able to integrate the company as efficiently as possible, and dealing with issues such as uninsured legacy liabilities. Buyers may become interested in underperforming assets because they have more experience and access to financing that the existing owner, as well as better government relationships, a different risk profile, and the option of consolidation with existing mines or facilities.
  • Sellers risk facing purchase price disputes and post-deal issues with warranty and indemnity claims. Plus, fluctuating markets, especially in mineral-rich regions such as Africa, can make valuation difficult.

If proper precautions are taken to understand and avoid these issues, overpayment or post-close surprises can be averted. Other benefits that come with proper preparation include improved sale and purchase agreements, smoother integration, and more efficient corporate governance. Enlisting experienced M&A advisors as early on in the process as possible can aid in significant mitigation of transactional risks.

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Please feel free to call us at Benchmark International to set up a conversation with one of our M&A specialists if you are thinking about selling a business. We look forward to discussing how we can help you with growth strategies, exit planning, or any type of transaction advice you may need.  

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Benchmark International Facilitated the Transaction of Four Colour Imports, LTD to Vivos Corp

Four Colour Imports, LTD (“Four Colour”) of Louisville, KY has been acquired by Vivos Corp of Manassas, VA.  Four Colour is a non-traditional printing and sales service provider specializing in book and catalog print. The company uses advanced technology to supply its clients with the highest quality pre-press, printing and book binding services.

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M&A In The Hotel, Lodging & Hospitality Industry

Hotel and hospitality brands have an insatiable appetite for rapid growth and there is an endless ongoing battle for global share. Because the industry is highly fragmented and brand driven (the top hotel brands only account for a third of rooms worldwide), mergers and acquisitions are always on the table as a key growth strategy. Since 1985, there have been more than 13,800 deals in the hotel and lodging industry, valued at $809 billion.

Studies have shown that, on average, lodging M&A is unique versus those in other industries because both the target and acquirer are better off following a merger.

Hotel M&A Value Drivers

There are several value drivers when it comes to hotel brand M&A.

  • Strategic value drivers include more customer offerings, the creation of new markets, and further reach into existing markets.
  • Operational value drivers include factors such as expanded loyalty programs, consolidated corporate teams, and improved technologies and reservation systems.
  • Additional key value drivers of a hotel brand include the integrity of its global trademark portfolio, and the value of both existing and potential management/franchise agreements and real estate portfolios.

 

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Clearing Hurdles in Hospitality M&A

It is not uncommon for various issues to arise during M&A transactions between hospitality companies. However, taking the proper steps can alleviate these concerns.

Clarify intellectual property.

Portfolio expansion through the acquisition of additional brands is a major reason for many M&A transactions within the hotel sector. In these cases, the target company's ownership of its intellectual property is very important to buyers, so it is just important to sellers. This is where third-party ownership claims can arise as an issue in a transaction. If a hotel brand shares valuable restaurants or other brands with a third party, and there is any chance that the third party could claim ownership of any interest in the brand, it can significantly devalue the brand and the target company. Ownership agreements must be adequately and clearly documented before entering into an M&A transaction. It is going to be crucial to the accurate valuation of the company.

Protect your data. 

Technology is integral to every step of the hotel booking process, which is why, as a seller, you can expect buyers in M&A transactions to heed the risks and liabilities surrounding the target company's data protection and cybersecurity practices, and its compliance with governmental regulations. There are web and mobile bookings, check-ins, complicated reservation systems, and even customer review websites to consider. Due diligence in regard to detailed data protection and cybersecurity at length is imperative. In order for a target company to maximize its value, management should thoroughly review its current compliance with existing regulations and take all precautions to ensure best practices are in place to minimize exposure to potential data breaches.

 

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Minimize withdrawal liability. 

Large hoteliers and hospitality companies typically have unionized employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that require contributions to one or more multi-employer plans. Withdrawal liability can occur when an employer has a significant reduction in union workforce, a complete union workforce reduction, or a withdrawal of all employees from a pension plan as a result ofthe event of a change in management or a sale of a hotel. Labor laws vary by country, but it should still be noted that there could be issues with determining whether the hotel owner or manager is the employer by legal definitions in that reason (for example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 [ERISA], in the United States). Multiemployer plans have the ability to disagree with who is considered the employer, and assess withdrawal liability on the party it determines is the employer. To mitigate the risk of withdrawal liability, all parties should consider who is the employer for labor law purposes, and who bears the liability under the management agreement.

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Working with an experienced M&A advisor is a game-changer in minimizing risk and closing a successful deal. We look forward to hearing from you about your interest in M&A as a seller of a company in any industry. Our global M&A experts are waiting for your call.

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Benchmark International Represented Provenance Consulting and Its Owners in the Sale of the Company’s Assets to Trinity Consultants

Benchmark International Represented Provenance Consulting and Its Owners in the Sale of the Company’s Assets to Trinity Consultants. Provenance Consulting is headquartered in Borger, Texas with an additional location in Houston, Texas.

Provenance Consulting utilizes innovation and technology to provide information management systems to track, monitor, verify, and sustain data that personnel use in the operation of oil, gas, chemical plants, and facilities. They specialize in process safety management, software implementation, and custom software development. They not only implement and maintain information systems and processes, but they also build the foundation of these systems to ensure the data utilized is accurate. We appreciate the value a sustainable system brings and ensure the maintainability of every system for
the long haul.

Founded in 1974, Trinity Consultants is an environmental consulting company that specializes in industrial air quality issues. With offices located nationwide, in China and in the Middle East, they help organizations comply with applicable environmental regulatory requirements and optimize environmental performance for long-term sustainability. Trinity provides value to its clients in the areas of regulatory and sustainability consulting, environmental modeling software products and services, EH&S staffing assistance, and EH&S data
management solutions.

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Benchmark International’s Managing Partner, Kendall Stafford commented, “Benchmark International ran a lengthy go-to-market process to ensure that we identified all potential acquirers for Provenance Consulting. The team at Provenance Consulting had their pick of options, including national and international acquirers. Ultimately, Provenance Consulting agreed that Trinity would be the best option for the company, its employees, and its customers. We wish both parties the best of luck with their future endeavors.”

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Benchmark International Successfully Facilitated the Transaction of Hair Are Us, LLC To a Private Investor

Benchmark International facilitated the transaction of Hair Are Us, LLC, a Los Angeles based hair extension brand. They ship worldwide and are well-known in the industry as one of the leading hair experts of human hair extension. They specialize in various extensions, including Indian Wavy, Brazilian Curly, and Kinky Straight.

In addition to a quality product and superior brand, the company has a strong social media following with over 347,000 followers on Instagram and over 5,500 followers on both Twitter and Facebook.

Hair Are Us is a Los Angeles limited liability company established in 2011 by Ashley Williams and Khat Abdur-Rabbani. They started as a mobile business but quickly found success and grew rapidly into an online store and three locations with a fully operating warehouse. Given this success, the company engaged Benchmark International’s help in finding a partner to help take the company to the next level. With the assistance of Benchmark International, Hair Are Us found the right collaborator and agreed to bring on an equity partner in August 2019.

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Transaction Director at Benchmark International, Luis Vinals commented, “We are excited to have facilitated the sale of Hair Are Us, LLC a company that designs and retails custom hair extensions and wigs through an online portal and storefront to a private investor. The company serves both individual clients and hair salons, has a national presence within the hair care industry, and serves a number of celebrities. Understanding the intangible assets of the business, such as its social media following of over 300,000 followers was a key aspect that our team heavily focused on. This is a testament to our team’s ability to adapt and apply new innovative skillsets to the successful sale of our clients’ businesses.”

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Benchmark International Has Successfully Facilitated The Transaction Between Counterpoint Trading And Shave And Gibson Packaging

Benchmark International is pleased to announce the transaction between Counterpoint Trading 439 (Pty) Ltd (Counterpoint) and Shave and Gibson Packaging (Pty) Ltd (S&G).

Counterpoint is a leading manufacturer of food paper packaging products and industrial wipes, founded 14 years ago in Hammarsdale, Kwa-Zulu Natal. The company leverages long-standing and vital relationships with several leading retailers, wholesalers, and distributors and boasts a strong reputation for quality products and reliable service.

S&G, founded in 1981 by brothers-in-law Alan Gibson and Neville Shave, is recognized as one of South Africa’s largest privately-owned packaging and printing businesses, employing over in 500 staff. The business operates through its national infrastructure with its headquarters and manufacturing facilities strategically located in Mobeni, Durban. Further auxiliary sales and warehousing facilities are operated in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

 

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“We believe that Counterpoint will add significant value to S&G through the addition of further products which are required by our own customers. As people, we share similar values and corporate beliefs and we are confident that this partnership will be a major success in the years to come. Counterpoint will continue to manufacture their products from their existing factory and trade independently under their own name. We are confident that this will be a fruitful partnership, and we welcome Wim and Ruben and their team into the S&G Group of companies,” said Simon Downes, S&G Group Chairman.

On working with Benchmark International, Ruben Van Wambeke, shareholder and director of Counterpoint said “Having Benchmark International walking us step by step through this process was ultimately the key to success. Benchmarks’ ability to realign our perspective is what brought this JV to fruition.”

“The anti-plastic revolution has generated a rise in demand for environmentally friendly packaging alternatives. Strengthened by joining forces with S&G, the innovative paper packaging manufacturer, is well-positioned to capture this market. Having worked closely with the shareholders, we’re pleased with the incredibly strategic match and successful conclusion.” Says Benchmark International’s Transaction Associate Director, Raquel Naicker.

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Energized by what the deal portends for the South African M&A industry, Andre Bresler the Managing Director at Benchmark International, added Shave and Gibson’s motivation for this transaction to extend product lines and partner with strong entrepreneurs is a recurring theme emerging in our industry, we are delighted for both parties as the agreed synergies will enable Counterpoint to capitalize on the growth opportunities that motivated them to explore a transaction in the first place.

Benchmark International would like to thank all parties involved and wish them all the very best of luck for the future.

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10 Facebook Pages About M&A To Follow

Benchmark International

@BenchmarkCorporate

Benchmark International is a leading worldwide M&A advisory firm that specializes in the lower to middle markets. On the company's Facebook page, you will find regularly updated news and information regarding the organization and its involvement in the world, as well as relevant topics and insightful articles regarding different industries, topics in M&A, and additional useful information for entrepreneurs, business owners, business buyers, and anyone eager to learn more about M&A.

 

M&A Leadership Council

@MALeadershipcouncil

The M&A Leadership Council is a global alliance of companies and experts in everything related to mergers & acquisitions, including best practices, training and certification, resources, and information about M&A companies. Their Facebook page offers a nice compilation of content that is relevant to people working in M&A, as well as CEOs and business owners, and it keeps followers updated on interesting events.  

 

The Middle Market

@themiddlemarket

This M&A-focused page offers breaking news, in-depth commentary, and helpful analysis about deal making in the burgeoning middle market. It is frequently updated with information regarding current deals that are being made or have been made, and articles that focus on other happenings in certain industries, as well as M&A events.

 

Entrepreneur

@EntMagazine

This popular publication caters specifically to entrepreneurs and topics relevant to them, offering tips, tools, and insider news to help businesses grow. Here you will find occasional articles regarding M&A news and insights mixed in with a wealth of other quality information that is relevant to business leaders.

 

Institute for Mergers, Acquisitions & Alliances

@imaa.institute

IMAA is a global, non-profit M&A think tank and educational provider. They offer M&A trainings and workshops for executives worldwide, and offer the only globally oriented M&A Certificate Program. Their Facebook page is frequently updated with information and coverage regarding their events, as well as news and opinions on M&A from around the world.

 

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Harvard Business Review

@HBR

Founded in 1922, Harvard Business Review promotes smart management thinking for business professionals worldwide through reliable insights and best practices, with the ultimate goal of making leadership more effective. Their Facebook content spans a myriad of business-related topics and news, including happenings in the world of M&A.

 

Morningstar, Inc. 

@MorningstarInc

With a mission to power investor success, Morningstar is a top provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It provides data and research insights on a range of investment offerings, including managed investment products, publicly listed companies, private capital markets, and real-time global market data, and their Facebook page reflects these related topics.

 

Investopedia

@Investopedia

For 20 years, Investopedia has provided educational information on complex financial concepts, investing, and money management. While not exclusive to M&A, on their Facebook page you will find a variety of topics covered that are relevant to businesses of all types, stocks and the economy, including articles that delve into mergers, acquisitions, trends, and historical transactions.

 

CNBC International

@cnbcinternational

The self-proclaimed "home of all things money" network is a leading business and financial news organization that reports stories from around the world. Here you can access real-time market coverage and news related to careers, entrepreneurship, leadership, personal finance, and mergers and acquisitions.

 

Seeking Alpha

@Seekingalpha

Seeking Alpha is a substantial worldwide investing online community, and their Facebook page is a great extension of their online presence. The platform connects millions of investors and money managers every day regarding news and investment ideas. They handpick articles and podcasts from the world's top market blogs, money managers, financial experts, and investment newsletters, publishing approximately 250 articles daily. 

 

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Contact one of our analysts if you are ready to start a conversation about M&A for your business.

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What Does Benchmark International Tell Clients in Terms of Timing Expectations?

Our seller clients know that we see quite a few offers come through every week, month, and year and they expect us to provide our input on the timeframes that are “market.” As this is a buyer-seller neutral point and a strong set of mutual expectations is productive to achieving a closing, we want to give you an idea as to what is happening on our side of the table.

Nobody is getting deals closed in less than 90 days.

Even well-funded, experienced buyers seem to require 90 to 120 days get from letter of intent (LOI) execution to close in the middle and lower-middle markets. 

A request for more than 120 days is exorbitant.

A third of a year is a long time to be off the market for an owner who is committed to selling their business.When the time comes, there may well be good reason to extend exclusivity but we know that our clients more often than not regret any grant of 120 days or thereabouts. We can work with them to set up specific grounds for extending exclusivity beyond 90 days where a situation warrants it, but blanket grants of 120 days, or even 90 days with a 30-day automatic extension, are something we highly discourage our clients from accepting.

Diligence should start quickly.

We encourage acquirers to use the offer letter to inform the seller about diligence timings, especially when the initial diligence list will be sent and, if possible, when the initial diligence visit will start. All too often, we see LOIs signed followed by a long pause in activity and that drastically alters our clients’ attitudes toward the buyer and the offer. We encourage or clients to have this expectation set at the time of signing and expect that there will not be a pause but rather an aggressive start, even if that start only covers a portion of the scope of the overall diligence effort. When this happens, we see diligence lists arriving within a week of signing and the first onsite (or the next face-to-face meeting) within three weeks of signing.  

 

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First drafts do not wait until the diligence is complete.

We understand that acquirers may not want to incur the cost of engaging counsel based solely on the information in the Confidential Information Memorandum and a meeting or two. But we also understand that waiting two months to engage counsel and get first drafts out does not lead to a high close rate. We all know that drafts can be sent “pending finalization of due diligence.” Our successful deal closings have the first drafts coming out within a month of LOI signing. Our clients know that if they have not seen a draft by then, the deal is not likely to close.  

The seller can really mess up the timeline.

Failure to provide prompt and complete responses to diligence requests, abnormal reservation of disclosure of “sensitive” issues until later in the process, going on vacation, or simply the lack of organized files are all things we have discussed with our clients prior to going to market (and again when the LOIs start to arrive). They know that they can be the problem when it comes to timing. 

But if the seller does not mess up the timing…

Our clients know that time kills all deals. And they know that if they have been prompt and thorough, and the LOI signing date is approaching triple-digit days in the rearview mirror, things are not going well. Our statistics show that few deals die in the first 100 days after signing and few deals close more than 100 days after signing. This is something we share with our clients—both to set their expectations and to motivate them to be prompt and complete. 

Questions should be responded to within three business days.

We instruct our clients that deals require momentum to close. Precisely when they are most exhausted by the process is when they must reply in an even more expedient manner. Being realistic, we feel that the seller owes the buyer responses to every question within three business days, even if the response is, “We are working on it. It’s been a bit difficult to get our hands on that data.” Similarly, we believe the acquirer should respond to the seller’s questions, and send their follow up questions, within three business days. Allowing sellers to feel that anything that has not yielded a follow up within those three days has a “soft close” around it and goes an immeasurable distance in keeping sellers motivated, focused, and responsive.  

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Global Printing Industry Outlook

The global print market is shrinking in volume but growing in value. Output measured in billions of A4 prints was 49,973 back in 2014 but is forecast to decline very slightly to 49,654 by 2024. In value terms, print output is expected to grow from a total of $767.4 billion in 2014 to $862.7 billion in 2024 – a CAGR of 1.18%.

The role and dynamics of the print industry are changing, with the main factor being the impact of the internet and mobile connectivity on the way both businesses and individuals communicate and access information. This affects every segment of the traditional printing business, changing expectations of what is acceptable to speed, relevance, and degree of interactivity of data, irrespective of the medium used.

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A Trip Back in Time: M&A 20 Years Ago

The year was 1999. The world was transforming thanks to new technologies, and society was bracing for what Y2K and the millennium bug might bring. The popularity of the Internet was skyrocketing, and home computers were becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Napster, Blackberry, Tivo, and Bluetooth were introduced. The "Melissa" E-mail Virus infected millions of computers and caused more than $80 million in damage globally. The Euro currency was established in 11 countries. The cost of a gallon of gas was $1.22. Bill Gates became the wealthiest man on earth, and Jeff Bezos was named Time Person of the Year. But what about the world of mergers and acquisitions twenty years ago?

1999 M&A in Review

The year 1999 was known as the year of the hostile deal. Strategic refocusing of companies was at an all-time high. Companies were motivated to act quickly to fend off larger rivals. The philosophy was that the bigger a company became, the more dominant it would be in the market.

  • Total worldwide mergers and acquisitions grew from $286.9 billion in 1991 to $3.2 trillion in 1999, with a total of 24,436 transactions that year.
  • Also in 1999, worldwide hostile deals reached more than $473 billion in dollar volume representing more than 14% of all announced worldwide deal value.
  • There were 9,192 M&A transactions valued at $1.4 trillion in the U.S alone, including 15 hostile deals valued at $112.7 billion.
  • Deals valued at over a billion dollars increased from 13 in 1991 to 194 in 1999.
  • There were 47 transactions valued at more than $10 billion worldwide in 1999.

 

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Making M&A History

Several of the biggest M&A deals in history took place in the years 1999 and 2000.

  • Vodafone AirTouch of Britain negotiated the hostile $183 billion merger of Mannesmann of Germany. This all-stock transaction set a record for a corporate takeover.
  • Also in 1999, Exxon and Mobil merged to become an energy industry superpower.
  • In January of 2000, America Online's announced the $165 billion purchase of Time Warner.
  • The same year, Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert for $90 million, creating the second-largest drug company in the world.

These four deals are among the world's largest mergers of all time. 

Tech & Communications Revolution

The years of the mid to late 1990s were an economic game-changer. The tech and communications revolution certainly had a major impact on M&A activity. It stimulated the globalization of markets by improving cross-border communications and transactions, and it enhanced capabilities in modeling cash flows and structuring transaction scenarios. It also resulted in a boom in new business launches and the reimagining of established businesses.

1999 was the height of the Information Age, and the dot-com tech bubble was fatter than ever. Markets were booming. Dot-com startups were going public. Online shopping was becoming an actual thing. People were quitting their jobs to engage in full-time day trading and personal investing. We saw the rising popularity of online companies such as eBay, Amazon, Yahoo!, AOL, Match.com, and WebMD.

Of course, the bubble burst, leading to the early 2000s recession. Many online companies went under, and other major corporations lost a large portion of their market cap. Pets.com lost a whopping $1.75 trillion in value only nine months after its IPO.

Unfortunately, the dot-com crash also led to the telecoms market crash of 2001. Telecom providers over-invested in their networks, and mobile phone companies overspent on 3G licenses. The high levels of infrastructure investments were out of proportion to cash flow, and increased competition led many telecoms providers to slash prices for services, especially in the European market. Within one year, 100,000 jobs were lost in telecoms support and development across Europe.

Now vs. Then

The recession in the early 2000s cooled M&A activity for obvious reasons. The good news is that 2019 has actually been the most dynamic year for M&A activity since the year 2000, driven by a surge in North American deals. CEO confidence is on the rise, and investors are showing a willingness to take risks.

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5 Things Sellers Wish They Had Known Before Selling Their Business

You’ve decided to sell your business. Congratulations! Whether you are retiring, looking to embark on a new business adventure, or wanting to hand off the reins and take a different role in the company, the process of selling a business can be a trying one without the correct preparation and support. Fortunately for you, you can learn from other entrepreneurs who have been in your shoes and have shared the five things that they wish they had known before selling their business.

1) Neglecting to perform pre-transaction wealth planning can result in you potentially leaving a lot of money on the table. Before you sell, consider your family members’ wishes and concerns. Communicating with family members before the sale can help ensure smooth sailing through the deal negotiations. Effective tax-planning to support family members’ needs, philanthropic plans, or creating family trusts can help increase the value gained from the transaction.

2) Don’t underestimate the importance of a good cultural fit with a buyer. While the price is always at the forefront of a sellers’ mind, cultural fit can mistakenly be pushed to the back burner. One of the many things that you have worked hard to create in your business is the employee culture. Most likely, you want to see the close-knit “family” that you have built continue when you are no longer working there. Benchmark International understands that and will help you find that partner. We remain committed along with you to your goal of finding a buyer who will carry on your legacy.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

3) Skimping on your marketing materials does not pay off in the long run. With confidentiality being of the utmost importance, how can you engage buyers without them knowing who you are? Preparing a high-quality, 1-2 page teaser that provides an anonymous profile of your business is the tool used to locate a buyer confidentially. This is followed by the Information Memorandum, with an NDA that is put in place for your protection. Benchmark International will prepare these high-quality documents and put your mind at ease.

4) Sellers wish they had known how detail-oriented the process would be, how many documents would be needed, and how labor-intensive each phase would be. One of the most crucial pieces of advice that the majority of sellers wish they had known is that you need to have a team. Sellers need to continue running their business as they were before, or operations can really start to slow. The last thing you want is for the value of your company to take a nosedive because you are investing all of your time into a transaction. With the team at Benchmark International as your partner dedicated to the M&A process, you will be free to continue to focus on the growth and operations of your business. We will handle the details for you.

5) Finding a like-minded partner can give a seller a false sense of security that the transition from two companies to one will be easy. You need a trusted advisor that will help you navigate the complexities of integration, giving you insight on some of the other intangibles that need to be negotiated. Those intangibles include the details of your role after the sale, employment contracts, earnouts, etc. With Benchmark International’s vast knowledge and experience in M&A deals, we know what is usual and customary to request throughout the negotiation process and will bring more value to your transaction.

Congratulations again, this is an exciting time for you! With the right partner, it can be a smooth and profitable process as well. Benchmark International has a team of specialists that arrange these types of deals every day. We can answer your questions and help you determine what is best for you, your business, and your exit plan. A simple phone call or email to us can start the process today and move you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

 

Author
Amy Alonso 
Associate
Benchmark International

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

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