Revisiting the Topic of “Is 2011 the year of M&A, IPO or the return of Private Equity ?”

February 28, 2011

In 2010, I kept getting asked about this – it seemed to be the topic de jeur in many of the meetings I was in during H1 of 2010.

Check here for a link to the 2010 blog entry I wrote.

As I said last year, everybody has their reasons why they might favour one dominant approach (M&A versus IPO versus PE Funds) over the others, and ultimately that’s what it tends to be … people pushing their own wheelbarrow on the coat-tails of one of these types of trends.

Irrespective of which one ultimately dominates during 2011, there are some things we can definitely observe and therefore make some educated guesses about:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions will continue to be very busy during 2011, continuing what happened in 2010 with industry consolidations and tactical acquisitions.
  • The number of attempted IPO’s in 2010 was only a small % of the successful ones. In 2011 this % will be much higher, and also be based on a much higher number of attempts.
  • Private Equity got a bit of a run-on during 2010, but is still being brought unstuck by having to hold onto the trading operations for much longer than they used to.

Now, whilst those observations are very much SFW, there are some specifics to consider.

M&A.

  • M&A activity will actually be stronger again in 2011 than in 2010, last year it was about businesses leveraging their balance sheets again. In 2011 it is all about growth by acquisition.
  • Businesses were being picked up at 3 x EBIT early in 2010 it got better through the year – but didn’t get to the 6 x EBIT I thought it would. However, roll-ups have intrinsically greater value than a tactical acquisition and this is being borne out by some of the multiples being achieved.
  • At the larger end of town hiring of staff has become very tight, in the SME space it isn’t as tight but this is because they’re being less picky. As always, acquisition is an easier way to get the right people (then you just have to find a way to keep them !!).

IPO’s.

  • Public interest/appetite in solid businesses looking to list has continued to increase, and will do so throughout 2011.
  • Trading conditions are still very fragile in some sectors, so whilst IPO’s are a viable option again, there is definitely enough downside risk to require caution.
  • There are some heavy duty businesses looking to list, an example is the iSelect business in Australia which I gather is looking to IPO and list towards the end of 2011.

PE Funds.

  • The Facewash/Strip/Sell strategies are still not viable because of the EBIT multiples available.
  • PE Funds have had to hold and run businesses for the last 2-3 years, previously they’d have been out in 12 mths.
  • The PE Funds have now got a totally different skillset/timeframe/approach courtesy of the GFC.
  • Providing that trading conditions improve there will be a number of PE Funds looking to offload businesses during 2011, as they seek to reset their investment strategies for the growth times ahead.

Given all of the above, it will be a very active and interesting year for Corporate Advisory firms (like ours) and for those businesses out there that have a good story to tell.

Feel free to contact me if you want to explore this topic in greater detail.


3 Things Working Against You When Selling a Business

April 29, 2010

Google recently acquired Aardvark, a social media company that lets users tap into the knowledge and experience of their extended network of contacts to get quick answers to specific questions.

Let’s say you’re from Melbourne, but in Sydney on business, and get a dose of back spasms. You can post a question to Aardvark that will ask your friends and friends of friends for a recommendation on a good chiropractor in Sydney.

Google paid US$50M for Aardvark.

Aardvark is a good case study on building a company to be sold. They didn’t try to compete with Facebook for all forms of social media.

Instead, Aardvark specialised in getting obscure questions answered by trusted contacts.

Google is in a Coke vs. Pepsi- battle with Facebook for dominance of the social media category, so it made sense to look at Aardvark as an acquisition.

Could Google have built the same technology? Absolutely !!.

Could Google have acquired Aardvark for less money and time than it would have taken Google to build it from the ground up? Yes again.

Aardvark therefore gets acquired.

We all know that becoming the world’s best at something can help you win business; becoming famous for one thing can also help you sell your company.

Strategic buyers are looking to pick up something new they don’t have and couldn’t easily create on their own. Before doing a lot of due diligence, strategic buyers ask 3 basic questions:

  • How much would it cost us to build from scratch?
  • How long would it take?
  • How much could we buy that company for?

If you offer a broad set of products/services that a potential buyer also offers some/all of, that potential buyer will argue that it would be easier to just build what you’ve created and drop its price below yours or hire a couple of salespeople to go after your customers.

However, if you offer something truly special that is difficult to replicate, the acquirer will want to buy your business instead of wasting the time and money to build it from the ground up.

Becoming a specialist in one thing will not only help you in your marketing; it will also help you get acquired for a premium when you’re ready to exit.

To find out more about where you currently stand as a business you can check out the “Sellability Index Quiz” by going to http://builttosell.com/siq.php and answering the 10 questions to get a view on where your business is at.

Either way, if you’re thinking of selling, you should contact me to help you understand your options (plus I may even know who your “buyer” will be, based on my current clients).


Is this your business – if it is, come talk to me !!

March 21, 2010

Courtesy of a client who is busy snapping up good businesses all around the globe, I’m looking for businesses that meet this broad profile and are willing to be acquired.

  1. Enterprise Value of between $5M to $30M.
  2. Must have solid Balance Sheet, and P&L, with strong financials for the last 3 FY’s.
  3. Retiring Vendor, or vendor facing Succession Planning issues, but willing to stay with business for 1 to 2 years.
  4. Prepared to sign up to partial deferral of Acquisition amount (but $$’s guaranteed, even if revenue downturn).
  5. MUST have a strong management team, and they must be prepared to stay.
  6. Management Team willing to do a “partial MBO” (eg: provide 5% of acquisition funds for 10% equity stake).
  7. Enterprise Value based on between 3 to 3.5 times EBIT.
  8. Business MUST have substantial Nett Asset Backing (20% to 30%) – can be Property, Plant, Receivables ..etc.
  9. Sectors include …. Light Industrial, Commercial, Construction, Services for Allied Industries to Oil/Mining/Gas.

Come and talk to me if you think this is you and your business.


Is 2010 the year of the M&A, the IPO or the return of Private Equity ?

March 21, 2010

I keep getting asked about this – it seems to be the topic de jeur in many of the meetings I find myself in these days.

Of course everybody has their reasons why they might favour one dominant player (M&A versus IPO versus PE Funds) over the others, and ultimately that’s what it tends to be … people pushing their own wheelbarrow on the coat-tails of one of these types of trends.

Irrespective of which one ultimately dominates during 2010, there are some things we can definitely observe and therefore make some educated guesses about:

  • Mergers & Acquisitions will be very busy during 2010, continuing on the 2009 trend.
  • The number of IPO’s in 2010 will be at least double that of 2009 and half that of 2007.
  • Private Equity is one the way back, after some very difficult tradings conditions courtesy of the GFC.

Now, whilst those observations are very much SFW, there are some specifics to consider.

M&A.

  • M&A activity will actually be stronger in 2010 than 2009, as businesses start leveraging balance sheets again.
  • Businesses can be picked up at 3 x EBIT still right now, but it will be 6 x EBIT by the end of 2010.
  • Hiring of staff is already starting to tighten, so acquisition is actually an easier way to get the right people.

IPO’s.

  • Public interest/appetite in solid businesses looking to list has jumped markedly through Q4-2009 and Q1-2010.
  • IPO’s have realistically become a viable option again, starting in February of 2010.
  • There are some heavy duty businesses looking to list, an example is the Ed Hardy business in Australia.

PE Funds.

  • The Facewash/Strip/Sell strategies are still not viable because of the EBIT multiples available.
  • PE Funds have had to hold and run businesses for the last 2-3 years, previously they’d have been out in 12 mths.
  • The PE Funds have now got a totally different skillset/timeframe/approach courtesy of the GFC.

Given all of the above, it will be a very active and interesting year for Corporate Advisory firms (like ours) and for those businesses out there that have a good story to tell.

Feel free to contact me if you want to explore this topic in greater detail.