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Benchmark International Awarded M&A Deal of The Year (100M - 250M)

At the 20th Annual M&A Advisor Awards, Benchmark International was awarded M&A Deal of the Year (100M-250M) for the acquisition of PBK Architects by DC Capital Partners.

As the 23rd largest US-based architecture firm, PBK, based in Houston, Texas, and its subsidiaries in California, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong, employ more than 500 architects, engineers, and related professionals.

In addition to its Top 25 status, in 2019, PBK was ranked as the “#1 Education Design Firm” by Engineering News-Record (“ENR”), widely regarded as the engineering and design industry’s premier publication. Specializing in K-12 projects and, in particular, large public high schools, PBK has long been the go-to firm for sustainable design and next-gen integrations in particular. The company also focuses on two related building types—higher education and sports facilities.

This transaction followed closely on the heels of 11 other deals that Benchmark International closed in the architecture, engineering & construction (AEC) space in the first half of 2020.

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Benchmark International Named Investment Banking Firm of The Year

At the 20th Annual M&A Advisor Awards—known as the Oscars of the M&A world— Benchmark International was awarded Investment Banking Firm of the Year. The awards are presented by The M&A Advisor, and the winners were announced at the Gala Ceremony live event held in New York City on November 17, 2021.

Benchmark International beat out the other nominees, which included Capstone Partners, Clearsight Advisors, DC Advisory, Drake Star Partners, Generational Group, Leonis Partners, and Raymond James.

These awards serve as the industry benchmark for dealmaking excellence, recognizing the leading M&A transactions, restructurings, deal financings, products/services, firms, and professionals.

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A Full or Partial Business Transition: Which is Right For You?

Every company has its own unique circumstances and needs. As a business owner, you can choose from a number of different ways to transition out of your company in a sale or before retirement. When succession planning, you should consider your goals for both the company and your life after the transition, such as financial requirements and how much you want to remain involved in the business. Adequate succession planning ahead of time can also help to create significant value for your company.

A transition of a business can be internal or external. Under an internal transition, the company is usually passed on to the next generation of family or a management team member. In an external transition, a strategic or financial buyer purchases the company, either completely or partially. There is also the option of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which falls somewhere in between an internal and external transition.

Full Business Transition
A complete transition occurs when 100% of company ownership is sold to an investor, such as a strategic buyer or private equity firm. Under a full sale, there is a complete change in ownership control, either as a stock deal or asset purchase. Complete transitions are most often asset purchases because it assuages certain liabilities from the buyer. The owner could be required to stay involved with the business through a transition period that can range from months to years, especially if they are a key part of management.

Business valuations in a full transition are based on competitive negotiations. In many sectors, a multiple of the company’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and factors such as size, profitability, industry, customer base, and location. In a complete sale, the seller is often given the majority of transaction proceeds upfront, with the rest paid later through an earn-out or seller note.

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U.S. Private Equity in Middle Market Continues at Record Levels

Middle-market private equity (PE) dealmaking in the United States didn’t lose its record momentum in the second quarter of 2021, some of which carried over into Q3, thanks to sustained economic recovery, ample debt, and plenty of available capital, according to data from Pitchbook. U.S. GDP grew at an annualized 6.5% in Q2 but slowed to 2% in Q3, mainly due to global supply chain issues. 

PE fundraising is also holding strong, with the 87 U.S. middle-market funds raised so far this year on course to set a new record. Additionally, the $68.4 billion in capital raised in 2021 is on track to be the second-highest annual total since 2010.

Most deal activities were put on hold for several months after March of 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but 2021 and early 2022 may be the right time to sell. The following factors are affecting the viewpoint of sellers of privately-owned companies: 

  • Some owners are now more heedful of another crisis and how it could affect their businesses. 
  • Many owners no longer wish to sustain efforts and risks that come with their businesses. 
  • Owners who worked remotely during the pandemic got accustomed to more flexible schedules and free time. 
  • Numerous owners nearing retirement are worried about the possibility of higher corporate, personal income, capital gains, and dividend taxes. 
  • Because wealth built up in private companies is not easily converted to cash, some owners have focused on the fact that after-tax proceeds from a sale will last for a long period of time.

So far this year, the largest share of PE deals has taken place in the lower to middle markets, with deals of less than $1 billion making up nearly 70% of all deals. 2021 remains on pace to easily surpass the prior annual record from 2019. At the end of the year, numbers are expected to be even more impressive as investors may hurry to close deals before the year comes to a close. 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

According to the Golub Middle Market Index, U.S. middle-market companies registered 21% revenue growth in the third quarter of this year. In addition, direct lending funds account for most middle-market LBO financing and reached record fundraising levels in the second quarter. 

Add-ons increased as a share of PE deals. Middle-market firms looked to add mid-sized aggregators and sought out M&A deals to expand platforms, diversify the value chain, and embrace ESG principles. 

There was also robust exit activity in the middle market, as valuations were desirable and investor confidence was high. So far this year, the market hosted an estimated 430 exits with a combined value of $87.3 billion. Soaring valuations mean that many GPs meet their investment goals earlier than expected, driving many to cash in on investments ahead of schedule. 

Smaller, strategic exits are dwindling in the hospitality and travel sectors for expected reasons after the pandemic impacts. Middle-market sponsors are holding onto investments in these pandemic-stricken sectors. In the second quarter of 2021, there were almost zero exits of hotels, in-person dining, travel providers, or other related companies. 

Secondary buyouts are also following an upward trend. So far this year, SBOs account for nearly 62% of all middle-market exits. Buyout firms are taking advantage of limited partners’ healthy appetite for private market exposure as well as the record deal activity that enabled firms to fundraise at a very fast pace. While first-time funds and emerging managers put up positive numbers in 2021, some bigger LPs put less investment into large multi-strategy firms or shifted it to new products offered by those with whom they already had a relationship. 

Even amid all this positive activity, middle-market firms in the U.S. are still facing other challenges. While unemployment rates have improved from 2020, there is still a record number of unfilled jobs, causing major labor shortages in sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality. These circumstances are causing firms to focus more on deals that acquire key talent and automated technologies that help with employee management and retention. The sector of senior care has been hit particularly hard by labor shortages, which is likely to result in increased consolidation by home care platforms. Additionally, insurance brokerages, wealth management firms, and registered investment advisors (RIAs) all witnessed record M&A activity in the first half of this year. 

PE firms are also pursuing more intricate opportunities to expand lines of business, end-market exposures, and product value chains. Such game-changing add-on acquisitions can be especially effective for vertical software deals because complementary products can be woven into multi-capability platforms to create all-in-one solutions that are good for customer retention.

Deal activity is also being driven by environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) initiatives. ESG has moved into the forefront for businesses this year. Transactions in the renewables market represent middle-market opportunities to grow a platform into a sector leader because of the market’s highly fragmented nature. Firms in the middle market are also pursuing add-on acquisitions to better align their portfolio companies with sustainability initiatives, whether to meet changing consumer sentiment or lower capital costs by lowering carbon emissions.

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The Impact of U.S. Infrastructure Investment on M&A

The U.S. Senate recently passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, titled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), to improve the country’s roads, bridges, and utilities. The bill does face an uncertain future in the House of Representatives, where its support is more limited. Still, the Democratic Party could use the reconciliation process to get the bill passed into law. 

The bill includes:

  • $73 billion for electric grid and power infrastructure
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $65 billion for broadband investments
  • $55 billion for water systems and infrastructure
  • $50 billion for Western water storage 
  • $39 billion for public transit 
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $21 billion for environmental remediation projects 
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways
  • $15 billion for electric vehicles
  • $11 billion for road safety

So, what might this all mean for M&A? 

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The Latest Sales Trends Heading Into 2022

Every business owner should be keeping up with the top sales trends being used to boost companies’ bottom lines in today’s tech-driven economy. So what does the future hold? Use these sales trends insights to make sure you’re doing every last thing you can to take your business to the next level.

Social Selling
Over the last decade, selling has evolved immensely. More than 90% of consumers do online research before buying something these days. And that’s why social selling is becoming so integral to the sales process. Social media connects you with consumers already interested in what you do, so you already have the upper hand by simply having them as an audience. You are also able to build better relationships with them, which will translate to higher customer retention rates.

And don’t forget about the power of referrals. 70% of companies have reported that referrals convert faster than any other type of lead. If your consumers are happy with what you are doing, they will be more likely to recommend you to their friends and family—something that social media makes it easy to do in just a click or two.

Social selling also comes with a few other added benefits. It increases your brand visibility by actively engaging with people online, and it also keeps your brand top of mind. This means you get higher-quality leads. And with high-quality leads, you can expect to see higher sales numbers.

Value-Based Selling
Customers are savvier than ever. They can see through gimmicks. Simply shoving deals in their faces doesn’t work so well anymore, especially in the B2B sector. This is where value-based selling comes in.

Data shows that 87% of high-growth companies use the value-based approach, and with good reason. By focusing more effort on showing customers the direct benefits or personal value they can enjoy from using their products or services, you’re more likely to close more deals.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI adoption for sales teams is projected to be at 139% for the next three years. This is because business leaders are realizing how it can make a massive impact on sales numbers by helping with processes and tasks. Did you know that AI is capable of performing 40% of sales tasks?

AI can help you gather valuable data on customers that you can use to craft marketing strategies to increase your sales. It can also provide value by offering suggestions to customers based on their recent transactions. But that’s not all. AI can also predict trends in your sector to help you stay ahead of the game, boost productivity by automating menial tasks, identify leads with a higher chance of conversion, and improve customer satisfaction.


Ready to explore your exit and growth options?
Personalized Customer Experience
When you give your customers a more personalized experience, they are more likely to do business with you. Research shows that nearly half of all buyers will make an impulse purchase after getting a personalized shopping experience. Because most customers appreciate a level of personalization, they are willing to give you their personal information or create online profiles. And this is really half the battle when it comes to building a solid customer base. Additionally, when customers feel more engaged on your website or app, they are more likely to do business with you. As long as you can offer them convenience, speed, helpfulness, and friendly service, getting personal can take you a long way.

Outsource Sales
80% of logistics leaders have reported that the matter of outsourcing is no longer a yes or no question—it’s just a question of how much needs to be outsourced. The global outsourcing market is projected to grow to $82.2 billion by 2022.

By outsourcing, you will have a dedicated sales team that is laser-focused on identifying leads, reaches different segments through different platforms, and converts potential customers. Meanwhile, your company saves money and gets the sales expertise needed for the job while you focus more on your business. Outsourcing can also help small businesses with scalability issues. If your company experiences rapid growth, an outsourced sales team is ready to handle it.

Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM)
91% of companies in North America have a functional CRM solution integrated into their system. And guess what else? 65% of sales reps using mobile CRM have a higher chance of meeting their quotas. CRM makes it easy for reps to see all the data they need in a centralized system. Because it also stores customer data, CRM can suggest products depending on their past purchases. It can also improve your relationships with your customers by giving you a complete understanding of their needs and preferences.

Omnichannel Sales
Selling today is all about unifying your sales channels and creating a single commerce experience. This gives customers the freedom to choose how they want to buy your product while expecting the same level of service no matter which they choose. 73% of shoppers look at different channels when searching for a product, such as websites, social media, and physical stores. By being visible across channels, your company has a better chance of being chosen by a customer. Omnichannel sales also make the buying experience more convenient. In fact, businesses using omnichannel sales retain 89% of their customers. Yet, 55% of companies do not have an omnichannel strategy in place. It’s simple. Get ahead of the competition by nailing down your omnichannel sales structure.

Target Millennials
Millennials live through technology. In the U.S. alone, 82.2 million Millennials use the Internet, spending about $600 billion every year. They are the most likely customer segment to try new technological features that you offer. And 68% of Millennials prefer a more integrated shopping experience. This is why having that omnichannel sales strategy is so important. Offer them a seamless shopping experience that focuses on technology.

Don’t Forget Generation Z
Generation Z now makes up 32% of the global population, and they have a collective $45 billion in spending power. They represent a huge chunk of the consumer population, and they are spending more and more. Gen Z-ers are digitally entrenched, with an affinity for content from sites like YouTube and Instagram. You should use these preferences to your advantage. And the best part of securing their brand loyalty is that they are poised to be customers for the coming decades because they have just recently come of age. That’s a massive sales opportunity you don’t want to overlook.

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The Myth Behind Multiples: How Buyers Really Value a Business

A topic common to the mergers and acquisitions market is the measure known as the business valuation multiple. This method determines a company’s value by its potential to earn in the future. It calculates a business’s highest value by assigning a multiplier figure to its current revenue. Multipliers differ based on the industry, economic climate, and other factors. There are a few ways in which multiples can be applied. Common multiple methods include:

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Don't Miss Benchmark International's Newest Volume of The Mark

Our Benchmark International team is proud to have released our latest exclusive publication of The Mark, Vol. XX.

This new version titled “RANKED #1,” features a slew of helpful information to enlighten you as a business owner, answer important questions you might have, and apprise you of the latest and greatest updates in M&A and the busy Benchmark world.

In this volume, some of the insightful topics you will find covered include:

  • The Current State of Commercial Real Estate
  • Can It Be “Too Early” to Put My Business on the Market?
  • Be Wary of EBITDAC
  • Why Lower Middle Market Companies are Attractive to Buyers
  • Should I Sell to an SBIC?
  • The Myth Behind Multiples
  • Understanding Financial Due Diligence to Prepare for a Successful Close
  • What is an Employee Ownership Trust?
  • The Critical Focus of Cybersecurity in M&A Deals

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

And there’s a reason the volume is titled, “RANKED #1.” It highlights our prestigious recognition by Pitchbook as 2020’s #1 Sell-Side Exclusive, Privately-Owned M&A Advisors in the world, as well as the remarkable award-winning accomplishments of our team leadership.

This is just some of the unique content you can enjoy in this new edition. You will also find reports updating you on Benchmark’s European expansion and new headquarters, our latest featured opportunities, and some of our completed transactions.

We hope you will find it helpful and continue coming back for more.

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High Net Worth Retirement Planning Tips

You’ve proven you are an expert at running a successful business, and you know how to make money. But are you an expert when it comes to retirement? There are certain financial factors that high-net-worth individuals should consider leading up to retirement.  

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What Is Decentralized Finance?

Decentralized finance, also known as DeFi, makes financial products available to anyone on a decentralized blockchain network. Through this relatively new software system, all parties can interact directly through applications, eliminating a need for middlemen such as banks or institutions to facilitate transactions. It also eliminates a need for proof of identification or age requirements that banks typically require. There is no need for anyone to know anyone else’s identity. Everything occurs over a public blockchain, using smart contracts, which are bits of code that execute specified actions once certain criteria have been met. It’s based on mutual trust and strict privacy.

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15 of The Most Luxurious Hotels in The World

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is settling into our rearview mirrors, so many of us have been itching to get out there to enjoy an indulgent vacation and a much-deserved change of scenery. So, here you will find a list of some of the most luxurious hotels in the world (in no particular order) to help you start planning your next beautiful adventure or a quiet escape from it all.

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Why Companies Need Mergers and Acquisitions

There are many reasons that mergers and acquisitions are critical tools for companies of all sizes, some of which may not even be fully realized by business owners. Ultimately, it’s all about achieving positive results for the business by making strategic moves that make sense, all depending upon what the fundamental goal (or goals) may be. For companies in the lower to middle market, M&A can be an extremely effective solution for a variety of purposes.

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Growing Business Trends For 2021-2022

Our world continues to change, and businesses must remain adaptive in order to keep pace with their competition and consumer demands. Thanks to new technologies, changing customer priorities, societal movements, and of course, repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners can expect certain industry shifts that began leading up to 2021 to continue into 2022.

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Why Leveraged Buyouts Are Making A Huge Comeback

The last time we saw leveraged buyouts (LBOs) occur with such frenzied speed and spending, it was during the years of 2006 and 2007, right before the financial crisis of 2008. As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, interest rates remain low, and many business owners forced into survival mode are seeking exit opportunities. Plus, private equity firms are more than ready to spend the record levels of cash on which they have been sitting for quite some time.

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How Your Company Can Benefit From Cross-border M&A

Growing a company once it has reached a certain plateau of success can be challenging. Mergers and acquisitions are a powerful tool for boosting the growth of an existing company—especially cross-border M&A. As a business owner, you should consider the different ways your company can benefit from an international deal.

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Can It Be Too Early To Put My Business On The Market?

Timing the sale of a company can certainly be a tricky decision. You don’t want to sell too soon, and you don’t want to sell too late either. In both scenarios, you risk leaving money on the table if the timing isn’t right. So what is a business owner to do?

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Why 2021 Is A Seller’s Market

A Seller’s Market Versus a Buyer’s Market

In a seller's M&A market, excess demand for assets that are in limited supply gives sellers more power when it comes to pricing. Such demand can be generated and galvanized by circumstances that include a strong economy, lower interest rates, high cash balances, and solid earnings. Other factors that can instill confidence in buyers—leading to more bidders willing to pay a higher purchase price—include strong brand equity, significant market share, innovative technology, and streamlined distributions that are difficult to emulate or recreate from scratch.

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Selling Your Company? Beware Of Strangers Bearing Gifts

If you are considering selling your company, you should be aware of a certain menace that could have you in its crosshairs. There are direct buyers out there who intentionally prey on business owners, attempting to acquire a company by blindsiding its owner with big promises and, more importantly, taking advantage of their lack of guidance from a seasoned M&A professional. These buyers purposely look to avoid competition for a company because competition drives valuations higher, and they want to make an acquisition on the cheap—in addition to other shady maneuvers.

Bait & Switch
Some buyers will attempt to pull “bait & switch” tactics. To initially intrigue a seller, the buyer will present a high dollar amount. As they conduct due diligence and get the target more and more committed to the deal, they begin chipping away at the value until they reach a price and terms that are far more favorable for the buyer. This is typically an exhausting process for the seller and can lead to plenty of regret. If the deal falls apart, the seller may be reluctant to restart the process with another buyer, thinking the process will just be the same. In reality, it could have been completely different for the seller if they had a reputable M&A specialist on their side from the beginning.

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Benchmark International Named International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory Of The Year

In the GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) 2021 GLOBAL AWARDS, Benchmark International has been named the International Mid-Market Corporate Finance Advisory of The Year.

The ACQ is a leading corporate news publication serving the sector since 2003, with a global audience of more than 261,000 subscribers. The GAMECHANGERS (ACQ5) GLOBAL AWARDS celebrate achievement, innovation and brilliance, recognizing the most outstanding organizations and professionals in the world. 

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The Importance Of Being “Sale Ready”

As a business owner, maybe you haven’t given much thought to selling your company. Or maybe you’ve bounced the idea around but not too seriously. It’s pretty common for business owners to think, “I have years before I plan on selling my business. Why would I worry about that now?” Well, here’s the thing. Life is unpredictable. Just look at how prepared the world was for the COVID-19 pandemic. We think it’s safe to say that no business owner was prepared for that.

But being prepared for the unexpected isn’t the only reason that it is important to have your business in “sale ready” shape at all times, even if you’re not ready to sell. If the company is not in ready condition, it could cost you financially. And it goes beyond that. Always operating your company as if you are ready to sell accomplishes several very beneficial objectives. It ensures that you are operating at peak performance with a focus on profitability at all times, and it helps you avoid being too late to the game to make the necessary changes to be ready to sell. A person’s priorities in life can change quickly or even gradually over a span of years, and you might not have the time to correct any issues that would impact the valuation of your company and, ultimately, its sale price. It’s important to remember that properly preparing a company to go to market can take years. When push comes to shove, if you end up in a situation where you need to sell, not being ready can be a costly mistake.   

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Understanding Working Capital

Working capital, also referred to as net working capital, is the measure of a company's liquidity, operational efficiency, and short-term financial status. It is the difference between a business’s current assets, its inventory of materials and goods, and its existing liabilities. Net operating working capital is the difference between current assets and non-interest-bearing current liabilities. Typically, they are both calculated similarly, by deducting current liabilities from the current assets. So, essentially, if a business’s current assets total $500,000 and its current liabilities are $100,000, then its working capital is $400,000. But there are a few variations on the calculation formula based on what a financial analyst wants to include or exclude:

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Can I Put My Business On The Market Even Though I'm Not Actively Looking To Sell?

Maybe you’re not sure if you are ready to sell your business, but you’re curious about what you could learn if you put it on the market. You can always put your company on the market at any time, but you should understand the right way to do it, and everything that you need to consider.

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Accelerating SaaS Growth With A Strategic Partner

Strategic partnerships can be game-changers for SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. Sales revenue is clearly of vital importance, but it takes more than just those numbers to make things happen on a larger scale. Relationships are the bedrock of business. If you are looking to drive growth, a strategic partnership can be a very powerful tool to help your company increase its audience, build upon the brand, and tap into new markets. All of this, in turn, can prop up your sales team and boost your overall growth.

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How To Announce An Acquisition

When a company is sold, it can have major effects on employees, customers, clients, and suppliers. Uncertainty stokes fear in most people, as they wonder about their security and their futures. Even top management can feel as though they failed at their jobs when the company is being bought out. For these reasons, it is important that the messaging and transition planning is handled very carefully and thoughtfully leading up to an acquisition—especially considering that the majority of acquisitions fall through. Announcing the news too early can cause widespread unrest over a deal that never happens

Communication is everything in this situation, but it needs to be planned. Before announcing a single word about the sale of the company, you should have a solid plan in place. A consistent message is critical and the distribution of the information should be carefully coordinated both internally and externally to avoid misinformation and confusion. Your plan should clearly outline intentions, steps, timelines and how the process will affect all parties. Predetermine what will be conveyed by whom and when. Figure out how to address questions that you are unable to answer and consider all potential scenarios for all parties involved. And always remember how critical confidentiality is during this time. You do not want details leaking to the press before you are ready to go public.  

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Gamestop, Robinhood, And Drama On Wall Street

The free online trading app known as Robinhood has proclaimed to be “on a mission to democratize finance for all.” It was intended to open up the Wall Street stock market to the average American for investment “on their own terms,” with more easily digestible financial information readily available to novice investors. The app was designed to “let the people trade” and make the financial system more accessible for everyone, until things took quite a turn, all due to a fledgling brick and mortar video game retailer known as GameStop.

The amateur traders using Robinhood became pitted against the hedge fund honchos when they started buying up options and shares of GameStop (GME), enlarging those bets and also making large trades of other stocks, such as AMC Entertainment, Tootsie Roll, and BlackBerry.

How It All Happened

Professional hedge fund investors had been short selling shares of GameStop, essentially borrowing shares of stock to sell, and then buying them back later so they can return them. This lets them profit if the stock price drops (betting that the company will fail). If the stock does not continue to fall, investors are forced to cover their position or buy more stock to minimize their losses.

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2021 Is Here. Why You Should Sell Now

As a business owner considering the sale of your company, you may be asking yourself, “When is the right time to sell?” The answer is simple. The time is now.

The global recovery is underway, and 2021 has given us several reasons to be highly optimistic, and these reasons are why you should take action.

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Why Choose An M&A Firm Over An Industry Expert?

Many business owners believe that enlisting an expert in their industry is the right way to go when selling their companies. But if you want to rake in the most value for your business, there’s a better way.

There is no question that mergers and acquisitions are complicated and subject to constantly changing market conditions and industry trends. An industry expert might know plenty about a particular industry, but they are not experts on selling and buying businesses. A mergers and acquisitions firm is.

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M&A As A Strategic Opportunity For Business Owners

It is not uncommon for a company acquisition to be viewed as a simple transaction that means transferring the business from one owner to another. But rather than just allowing the business to simply carry on as is under new leadership, a merger or acquisition should be viewed as a solid strategy to boost the company’s overall health, productivity, and bottom line. While M&A transactions can serve as great solutions for exit strategies, they can be so much more than that. M&A should be regarded as a powerful tactical opportunity.

Often times, M&A deals are considered to be a way to get out and cash out with instant gratification. But what else might be possible when a deal is carefully crafted to deliver sustainable returns and support a powerful legacy for the business in the long-term? M&A done right can translate into great success for a company and, ultimately, its leadership.

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2020 M&A In The Global Sports World

In early 2020, there was plenty of optimism for investment opportunities and growth in the sports sector prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has since caused disruption in nearly every sector around the world. Financial uncertainty has been a large factor in addition to issues surrounding player contracts and broadcasting rights. Mergers and acquisitions activity in the global sports world has experienced a downward trend but there is hope on the horizon.

Italian Football

Amidst COVID-19 delays, Italian football (calico) has had its share of off-the-field matters this year. In August, the Italian club A.S. Roma announced the completion of a takeover by Texas-based Friedkin Group: an 86.6% stake in for €591 million, a large decrease from the previously agreed upon figure of €750 million prior to the pandemic. This lower price demonstrates how lost matches, sponsorship, and broadcasting income all impact the valuation of sports clubs. In light of these decreasing valuations, PE firms could be motivated to seek out bargain M&A and financing opportunities.

Italy’s Serie A has also embraced private investment. In September, its 20 clubs agreed to create its own media company financed partially by PE funds in order to better organize the sale and promotion of the league's TV rights. The move is designed to improve governance and increase revenue, especially abroad.

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Grow Your Business Through A Strategic Alliance Or Strategic Partnership

Mergers and acquisitions are proven highly effective strategies for business owners that want to create growth, diversify, save a struggling business, or craft an exit strategy for their retirement. But maybe you are seeking a less-permanent measure to boost your bottom line. By forming a strategic alliance or a strategic partnership with another business, you can create significant growth and cost savings for both companies. 

Strategic Alliances
Your business can gain a series of advantages through a legal strategic alliance agreement. An alliance can improve operations, pool resources, share core competencies, change the competitive landscape, create economies of scale, and offer a lower cost way to enter new sectors. There are three main types of strategic alliances:
  • Joint Venture: When two or more parent companies form an entity together with a business objective, sharing in the risks and returns, and retaining their individual legal statuses. It can be an equal joint venture, in which both parent companies own an equal portion of the entity, or it can be a majority-owned venture, in which one partner owns a larger percentage of the company. A joint venture can help to save money, combine expertise, or enter new markets. It is not a partnership, consortium, or merger. 
  • Equity Alliance: When one company purchases a specific percentage of equity in another company. 
  • Non-Equity Alliance: When two companies enter into a contractual relationship, which allocates resources, capabilities, assets, or other means to one another.
 
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M&A Outlook Under Biden Election Win

Now that Biden was named the President-elect, what does this mean for mergers and acquisitions under a Biden administration? The good news is that mergers and acquisitions activity is expected to increase regardless of the election results. Many experts predict that M&A activity will return to pre-pandemic levels in the next year, and that the market will be favorable for the next few years.

Taxes
President Biden’s proposed tax plan raises the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, which would likely make M&A deals more expensive. Biden has also voiced support for an increase in capital gains taxes, which could impact M&A activity. The proposed plan would tax long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6% on income over $1 million, and eliminates step-up in basis for capital gains taxation. Sellers may be anxious to complete deals prior to 2021 to dodge higher taxes and potentially lower valuations, and to avoid having increased capital gains taxes cut into profits from a deal.

The Biden plan also restores the top individual federal income tax rate from 37% to the pre-Trump rate of 39.6%. It also promotes tax provisions to penalize the exporting of jobs overseas and to incentivize investments in new infrastructure and green energy, transportation and manufacturing, and establishes a minimum tax on corporations with book profits of $100 million or more, structured as a 15% alternative minimum tax, to prevent them from paying no taxes. The plan also offers tax credits to small businesses for adopting workplace retirement savings plans and creates a Manufacturing Communities Tax Credit to reduce the tax liability of businesses that face workforce layoffs or a major government institution closure.

It is important to note that getting tax code changes enacted into law requires congressional leadership and the White House to work together to reach consensus. This can be challenging, and can also take a considerable amount of time, meaning that there may not be immediate tax implications for M&A. But you still may not want to wait until 2021 to sell your company. Here’s why.  

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How To Successfully Maintain A Strategic Partnership

Strategic partnerships or alliances can be very effective business tools and are important to the health and growth of a company. They can enhance capabilities, and open up shared access to new markets, channels, intellectual property and lowered risk. But they can also be complex. Once you form this type of partnership, it takes some effort to maintain it and ensure that it is a win-win for both parties involved. By taking the right steps and having a clear vision for your long-term strategic partnership, you can help it create value, thrive, and boost your business. 

Narrow Your Focus

There are many businesses that you could form a partnership with, but you have to narrow it down to what makes the most sense. What partners serve similar customer bases that make sense? For example, if you have a landscaping business, consider partnering with a nursery or a landscaping supply company. You’ll be serving the same buyer and can pass on referrals while streamlining the process and relationship for the customer.

See Both Sides

A strategic partnership, like any relationship, needs to work for both sides in order for it to flourish and yield mutual benefits. When you’re pitching the alliance to a potential partner, consider the benefits for them and present them clearly.

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Enhancing Company Value By Enhancing Culture

Culture Affects the Bottom Line

When a company demonstrates that it’s thriving with happy and motivated talent, it is more likely to garner a higher business valuation when going to market for a merger or acquisition.

There is a proven link between culture, employees, productivity, and profit. Research shows that:

  • Businesses with satisfied employeeshave been noted to outperform competitors by 20 percent.
  • Happiness leads to a 12 percent boost in productivity and companies with strong cultures see a 43 percent increasein revenue growth.
  • When employees are engaged, absenteeism falls 41 percent, productivity rises by 17 percent, and turnover is cut by 24 percent.
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The Value Of Professional Exit Planning

Exit planning is how business owners prepare to depart from their private company and maximize its value through a merger or acquisition to increase shareholder value or transition the company to serve other objectives. It basically arranges for you to leave your company on your own terms. Unfortunately, many business owners do not recognize the value in professional exit planning because they do not see their company from the perspective of a potential buyer, resulting in significant loss of value when exiting the business.

A solid exit plan clearly defines the business owner’s objectives, and lays out a comprehensive strategy that accounts for all personal, business, financial, legal, and taxation aspects of reaching those objectives, including leadership succession and the future of the business. These objectives include the maximization of value, mitigation of risk, conducting an expedient transaction, and finding the right investor to take over the business in its best interests. The strategy may also cover worst-case scenarios, such as illness or death of the business owner. Quality exit planning usually should take place around 10 years prior to transitioning the business, to allow for value strategies to flourish.

Why It’s So Important

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Key Steps For Expanding Your Business Into New Markets

As globalization becomes more common in our world, many businesses are choosing to take advantage of the growth opportunities that lie in expanding into new markets. But expansion can be a significant undertaking for small and middle-market businesses, with many moving parts. As a business owner, you need to fully assess and understand the risks and rewards that expansion can present for your company. The following steps outline areas on which you should focus, and which elements of your business you should have ready in order for an effective expansion into new markets.

Impact Assessment

Before expanding your company into new markets, you must have a comprehensive understanding of what the overall impact on your business will be. Conduct market segmentation and product gap analyses to assess whether your product or service will sell in the target market and do a SWOT analysis to see how it stacks up against local competitors. You need to know if there is a need for your company and if anyone will buy what you are selling. You will also need to consider how large the market is and how long it may take to reach your target sales numbers.

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Life Sciences And Biotech M&A During Covid-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent demand for testing, treatments and a vaccine from life sciences and biotech companies. It has also changed the deal-making landscape in this sector. Advances in genetic sequencing have led to the development of new immunotherapies and approaches to medicine that has lowered risk and boosted M&A value and volume.

Over the past five years, biotechnology M&A activity has generated hundreds of completed deals and hundreds of billions of dollars in aggregate value. Leveraged buyouts accounted for one fifth of all acquisitions completed in three of the past four years. The compound annual growth rate of the biotech market is 7.4 percent, on pace to reach $727.1 billion by 2025. There are currently upward of 100 experimental COVID-19 treatments and vaccines in development, including 11 being studied in clinical trials.

The life sciences sector is the key to a solution for COVID-19, from testing improvements to vaccine candidates. In April, Moderna Therapeutics was given $500 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to accelerate development of its mRNA vaccine. Over the past ten years, public and private sector researchers across biotech have collaborated to greatly reduce the lag time between genetic sequencing of a virus and running human trials. With academia partnering with governments to speed up development, it is expected to be positive for the long-term strength of the sector.

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Guide To A Healthy & Wealthy Retirement

You have worked so hard to build your business and when retirement is finally on the horizon, it is a very exciting time. But it can also come with many questions. These tips will help you navigate the ins and outs of retirement so that you can live your best life.

Keep Making Plans

Just because you are approaching retirement, it doesn’t mean you are retiring from life. Keep planning for your future. Consider five-year plans and goals. Think about taking college classes or acquiring new skills you have always dreamed about. Getting another degree, learning something like playing an instrument, or learning a new language can be great ways to keep your juices flowing and open up new opportunities in life.

Explore the Best Places to Retire

The world is brimming with amazing places to consider for your retirement years. Maybe you are perfectly content staying where you are. But have you even thought about the possibilities? Check out our article about some of the greatest places to retire…and be inspired.  

Have a Solid Financial Plan

This includes investment options, taxes, and more. There are many ways to invest, such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds, real estate, dividends, CDs, annuities, and exchange-traded funds. Additionally, having an exit plan can ensure that your future is protected. Prior to exiting your company, mergers and acquisitions strategies can help you grow your business and maximize its value for a sale, laying the groundwork for worry-free retirement wealth. Experienced M&A advisors can help you make the most of this. You will also need to consider how much you will need to pay in taxes after you retire. This is something you will definitely want to get right. Some estimates suggest that for each 1% error in effective tax rate, you face an 8% error in your final savings balance.

Stay Structured

Maintaining a routine can be a major game changer for keeping your sanity in retirement. You no longer need to go to the office. So what do you do? It is easy to find yourself meandering and not knowing what to do with yourself. That’s why it’s important that you stay busy and have some sort of structure to your everyday life now that you are no longer on the clock. Engaging in activities such as volunteering, gardening, and exercising can keep you healthy, happy and regimented.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Maintain a Youthful Perspective

They say age is just a number. And there are actually studies that support how mental attitude can improve overall health and even reverse the effects of aging. Thinking young can actually help keep you feeling and functioning as young. It helps to stay inquisitive, continue to develop and improve yourself and expand your horizons. Falling into a rut after retiring can be detrimental to your state of mind and your physical health. It can also be very helpful to maintain social relationship with younger people to keep up with changing perspectives, get inspired, and hear about more than gripes regarding the aches, pains, and medications associated with aging.

Map Out Your Legacy

In addition to the impact you will be leaving on the world through your professional endeavors, you will want to make plans for your estate to determine what you wish to leave for your heirs. This is when a financial planner can be of great help. You will need to think about estate taxes, appropriate inheritances, and the roles of your family if they will be taking over your business.  

Consider Catch-Up Contributions

You already know that there is a limit to how much you can save in your IRAs or 401(k)s. But did you know that once you reach the age of 50 in the U.S., the IRS allows you to make additional catch up contributions that are beyond annual contribution limits? It’s a way to make it easier for savers over the age of 50 to boost their retirement savings.

Understand How to Protect Yourself from Fraud

Fraudsters are known to target people over the age of 60, especially in today’s digital society. Stay educated on what scammers are up to and know how to discern between what may be real and what may be fake regarding emails, texts, phone calls, and the physical mail. A good rule of thumb is to remember that if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Also, unsolicited offers can be common traps. Other things you can do include not answering robocalls, not clicking on pop-up ads or email attachments, being skeptical of free offers, and not paying up front for promises.     

Think Long Term

Today’s life expectancy rates are much higher than they used to be just decades ago. You should plan your retirement with a long future ahead. This is not only good for your mental wellbeing, but also important for your financial future. Consider that your savings will need to last longer. Your healthcare costs may be higher. Search for retirement calculators online to help you get a better picture of what your needs will be. 

Get a Dog

The many benefits of having a dog to health and wellness are well documented. Dog owners have been proven to enjoy lower blood pressure and stress factors, and need fewer doctor visits than those without pets. Having a dog can also help to keep you active and engaged with other people. Plus, all that unconditional love releases beneficial hormonal chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin that are proven to fight depression and make you feel good. 

Ready to Retire?

Contact our M&A experts at Benchmark International to start the conversation about selling your company, planning your exit strategy, and getting on the road to a prosperous retirement.

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Middle Market M&A Valuation Gaps And Expectations

Many factors can impact middle-market M&A deal making, but one of the most significant issues that can affect closing is a valuation gap between the seller and buyer. This tends to be more common during a seller’s market because business owners with successful companies are inclined to wait for the best offer, versus a buyer’s market that occurs when there are fewer buyers, which motivates sellers to jump at an offer. Unrealistic expectations about valuation multiples often stem from the comparison of a mega deal to a middle market deal—a situation under which the same multiples are typically not going to apply.

There is also often a disparity between what a seller needs to maintain their retirement lifestyle and what value can be extracted at the time of the sale. There may be differences between a buyer’s offer, what they pay, and what the seller ultimately receives, as taxes are always a factor in a transaction. Additionally, the timing of the deal and the perception of risk regarding future growth and earnings flow for the business can play a major role in the size of the valuation gap. Selling a business is a highly complex process and it comes with great emotional implications for a seller. Emotional ties coupled with overt optimism can easily cloud one’s vision when it comes to the actual value. As a business owner, you put in a great deal of work starting your company and building it into what it is today. In contrast, selling that business is completely unchartered territory for most owners. When you are looking to sell, you need to be realistic regarding the company’s current value and its growth rate, and what the buyer will be getting out of their investment. Buyers are not going to recognize the hard work you put into starting the business in the same light that you do. All that work you did in the beginning is not on their radar—they are going to be focused on their returns.    

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Valuation gaps also result when private equity firms and strategic buyers compete for quality investments and relatively inexpensive financing is available. This can be both good and bad for middle-market business owners. Significant buyer interest creates considerable competition for quality deals, which is great. But at the same time, if the market is hot and demand is high, unrealistic valuation expectations and skewed perspectives can result in a valuation gap.

This is why a thorough evaluation of a business is so crucial to the M&A process. A good M&A advisor will take meticulous steps to best determine an accurate current business enterprise value, while also managing the seller’s expectations of a valuation range before going to market. So, if you are a business owner, and you plan to approach buyers without professional M&A representation, you need to understand company valuation gaps, your intrinsic risks as a seller, and how to bridge these gaps. This can require a great deal of education on your part and can be very time consuming. Or you can simply enlist professional M&A advisory expertise and have the peace of mind that the fate or your business is in the best possible hands. The best advisors will work diligently on your behalf to help you attain your goals for your business and your financial future. It requires a team with proven experience, resources, and best practices to successfully navigate the many legal, accounting, due diligence, and marketing considerations involved in arriving at an accurate and realistic company valuation and getting a quality deal done.

Engage Our Expertise

Our top-notch M&A analysts at Benchmark International can help you with your company, from creating growth strategies to selling it for maximum value. Set up a time to talk with us and we can determine what solutions are best for you and your business.

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2020 Apparel, Beauty & Home Furnishings Sector Update

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about disruptions for businesses operating in the fashion, beauty and home furnishing sectors. This is because of complicated global supply chains and reliance on discretionary spending by consumers amid record unemployment levels. Keeping these types of businesses adaptive is crucial to their recovery and long-term success.

Supply Chain Disruption

“Nearshoring” is a term that describes the relocation of the production of goods so that they are moved geographically closer to consumer-dense regions such as the U.S. and Europe. This has been an attractive option for fashion and home furnishings companies, yet the cost of displacing established supply chains and vendor relationships have prevented them from making the move. But the landscape could be changing due to COVID-19, geopolitical turmoil, and antiquated supply chain practices.

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2020 Business And Professional Services Sector Update

Business and professional services (BPS) firms are facing increased uncertainty amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. This climate is resulting in less investment and more reliance on revolving credit to maintain access to cash for operating expenses, and keeping priorities on payroll and workforce decisions. Companies with strong liquidity will shift to growth strategies and digital transformation. Also, with a greater need for mobility in a more remote-working world, there is a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, especially for government contractors and law firms.

Government Contracting: A Hot Market for Acquisitions

Government contracting is a significant moneymaker, especially in the United States. These firms rely on the needs of the government and the availability of financial resources for public investments. Government spending is often used to stimulate the economy during a slump. Through the first two quarters of 2020, government spending held steady, with health spending peaking along with the COVID-19 response, with billions going to national interest agencies and programs related to the pandemic.

The middle market in government contracting is comprised of several small, technically specialized service providers that offer high growth opportunities for larger companies that are seeking more capabilities and specific contract access. The pandemic slowed deal flow in the first half of 2020, but deals still happened with transactions expected to continue in the second half of the year. Private equity firms are seeking stable streams of cash flow and government contractors are relatively insulated from recession, making them a solid target for strategic investment and bolt-on acquisitions. M&A activity in the government contracting space is forecast to continue into 2021 as the sector (with the exception of aerospace) has been less impacted by the coronavirus and there is a need for more consolidation in the market.

 

Ready to explore your exit and growth options?

 

Cybersecurity is paramount for government contractors for obvious national security reasons. In July of 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense issued the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) to build upon cybersecurity best practices from established industry standards with the goal of reducing cyber-risk among its contractors. Other departments of the government will likely do the same, prompting contractors to prepare for it in advance.

The big commercial tech companies typically draw the top tech and cybersecurity talent, making it challenging for government and its contractors to attract talent and offer competitive salaries. During times of increased unemployment due to a pandemic, many skilled workers are seeking out less risky positions. Government contractors should jump on this opportunity to attract young, tech savvy talent.

Law Firms: Challenges and Opportunities

Due to the pandemic, law firms have had to deal with furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts and reducing expenses while finding new ways to boost revenues while working remotely. Liquidity equals agility in uncertain times, so firms should seek to expand their credit lines while making the most of government assistance options.

Human capital remains the single biggest asset for law firms. Working remotely has brought about new challenges for attorneys and staff as they juggle the demands of working, parenting and caregiving. Investing in programs, technology, and other ways to support staff is more important than ever. Amid cutbacks and a lack of contact with colleagues, talent needs to know they are still valued and connected to the firm’s success. Firms also need to take this time to assess what lessons have been learned from remote working regarding obstacles, delays and infrastructure needs and how they can address needs, especially in regard to digital support.

Security and privacy are major issues for law firms operating remotely as they need their files and records to be accessible from outside the office. A digital security strategy is key even once the pandemic has passed, as no one knows for sure what the new normal will look like. Once security is implemented and established, focus can shift to maintaining client relationships and creating revenue growth into the future. Investment in mentoring programs and empowerment of staff can help grow the business and identify new opportunities to support the firm once the pandemic is over and the economy is ready to bounce back.

Contact Us

If you are thinking about a merger or acquisition for your business, please reach out to our M&A dream team at Benchmark International to discuss how we can help you accomplish great things.

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