Interview – The Exit Plan Show

Posted on December 11, 2015

Technology is rapidly transforming numerous industries previously considered impervious to change.  Earlier this year I shared my thoughts with Financier Worldwide and with Axial as to how these trends are going to affect the middle market M&A industry in which we operate.

As further proof that change is coming, I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by a new Internet based “television” network focused solely on how business owners can successfully exit their firms.  The Exit Plan Show interviews professional advisors to private business owners, including estate planners, valuation experts, tax advisors, etc. in addition to M&A advisors and investment bankers, and broadcasts these interviews in a weekly online “show”.  My interview can be found by clicking on the photo below:

 

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Categories: Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market

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Taking the Pulse of Middle Market Investment Banking

Posted on December 3, 2015

Gabe Galvez is the Founder and CEO of CAPTARGET, an innovative service provider to middle market investment banks, M&A intermediaries and private equity firms. CAPTARGET is in daily contact with a large number of M&A industry participants and has created a comprehensive directory of M&A Intermediary firms, giving Mr. Galvez unique insight into the Middle Market Investment Banking and Transactional Intermediaries Industry.

In a far reaching interview Galvez shared with us his views on the current state of the industry as well as future trends.  Among the most interesting takeaways:

  • Five or six years ago the average middle market boutique M&A firm had five dealmakers
  • Today that number is a bit over two
  • In the same period the number of intermediary firms has grown from 3000 to about 4600
  • Of these more than half have not closed a deal in the past twelve months.

Gabe paints a picture of an industry ripe for radical change starting with a sharp contraction in the number of competing firms over the next several years back down to about 3000, leading to larger firm sizes and higher close rates.  He also draws a roadmap for what he sees as the successful M&A intermediary firm of the future.

While I would readily agree that the middle market intermediary business is far more competitive than when I entered it thirty years ago, there is more to the story.  Since the Great Recession, numerous parties, including real estate brokers, small business brokers, lawyers, accountants and consultants of all stripes have hung their shingles, claiming expertise in middle market M&A.  Websites are inexpensive and FINRA and the SEC have recently walked back regulatory requirements requiring securities registration for middle market intermediaries.  However, in our experience it takes far more than a flashy website to qualify a professional to represent business owners … read the rest

Categories: Gabe Galvez, Interviewees, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market

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Are You Looking to Exit? The M&A Market is Ready for You.

Posted on June 16, 2015

Matt Porzio, Vice President of Strategy & Product Marketing for Intralinks has a unique perspective on the M&A market. Intralinks maintains the leading due diligence secure data room service in the world and, as such, has a window on a high percentage of global M&A activity as deals are being made.  Additionally, Intralinks offers a global deal networking service, DealNexus, through which thousands of buyers are provided a window on available offerings, particularly in the middle market. Using this unique position Intralinks publishes quarterly its Deal Flow Predictor gauging future M&A announcements based on the trends its sees in the usage volume of its services.  Matt’s observations on the current M&A market are presented below.

The M&A market for 2015 is looking bright – kicking off with a stellar start. According to Thomson Reuters, Q1 2015 saw over $854 billion in activity – the strongest quarter since 2007. Mid-market (deal valuation up to $500 million) deal volume was at $188.4 billion, with a year over year increase of 6.2 percent. From all indications, M&A will continue to be a leading growth strategy for companies, with rich exit multiples.

Multiple deal drivers are contributing to this rich environment, including activist pressure on strategics to tighten up balance sheets/refocus on core business lines.  Distressed sectors such as oil & gas are bringing a sizeable number of mid-cap deals to market, and the strongest volume of Q1 cross border activity since 2007. Financial sponsors, with plenty of dry powder, are also out to market in full force. According to Thomson Reuters, Q1 saw $171.3 billion in sponsor-backed deals – again the highest volume since 2007.

With financial sponsors coming in with plenty of dry power, deal-makers entering this space must have deep pockets and creative earn-out mechanisms in place in order stay competitive in any M&A situation. … read the rest

Categories: Business Acquisition, Business Sale, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market, Private Equity, Valuation

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INTERVIEW WITH AXIAL CEO PETER LEHRMAN

Posted on November 10, 2014

We recently interviewed Peter Lehrman, CEO of Axial, one of the most energetic and innovative companies providing advanced technology solutions to M&A and corporate finance professionals operating in the middle market. Speaking from the “Roosevelt Room” in Axial’s headquarters in the Flatiron District, Peter covers a good deal of ground and I highly recommend you listen.

We began with a discussion of the current M&A market and Peter shared with us some highlights of Axial’s recent Concord event in New York: a packed crowd listened to various Axial members and panelist experts on the middle market, but for some of them the main event took place outside the lecture hall.

Highlighting this heightened market activity, Peter shared some of Axial’s internal data showing a rapid rise in new deal submissions. In September over 1000 new deals were submitted to the Axial site, compared with a recent average of 750 submissions a month.  Just-released data shows that October submissions grew again to more than 1200.  No word yet on whether this will bridge the imbalance between buyers and sellers.

Axial recently completed an $11 million capital round with Comcast Ventures. Peter envisions this capital helping Axial become the go-to meeting place for all participants in middle market M&A.  Their target community includes private and public companies as well as the professionals who advise them with regard to strategic relationships and transactions.

Although Peter was reluctant to share too much about his new product pipeline, he did share Axial’s vision for the role of technology in our industry.  He firmly rejected the idea that robots and intelligent systems will replace smart and creative deal professionals in the M&A industry.  Instead, he believes new systems and apps will make M&A professionals more effective by eliminating many of the more burdensome administrative tasks we now endure. My

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How Will the Market Drop Affect Middle-Market M&A?

Posted on October 16, 2014

We’ve previously reported that 2014 has witnessed a strong market with record valuations for many middle-market merger and acquisition transactions. This market strength has coincided with a powerful boom in public equity valuations as the S&P tripled from its 2009 lows. As the public equity market takes a breather, it’s time to consider the possible impact of a more significant equity market correction on middle-market M&A.

First, let’s take a look at the reality of the current situation – we are not in bear market territory for the overall market. That requires a 20% decline in value for the major Averages and as of this writing (October 14, 2014) we have only seen a drop of approximately 6%-7% in the broad market indices (S&P and Dow). For some specific sectors, however, this situation is not so sanguine. The energy sector, as measured by the XLE Energy Sector SPDR is now down more than 20%, offsetting gains in other sectors from the reduction in energy prices.

We certainly don’t have a crystal ball: while there is plenty of reason to believe that the current sell-off will continue for a while, we can make a good case that the market will move to new highs following the current sell-off. This has happened before; following the collapse of the Russian Ruble in 1998 and amid fears that one of the leading hedge funds of the era, Long Term Capital Management, would fail, the S&P suffered a precipitous 20+% drop from about 1200 to 950 in the summer of 1998.  Yet the market quickly recovered and over the following 19 months the S&P climbed approximately 60% to an all-time high of 1500 in March of 2000.  A similar trajectory today would show the S&P at 2500 and the Dow at 22,000 by the spring of 2016.

With that … read the rest

Categories: Business Acquisition, Business Sale, Economics, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market

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Will a Robot Close Your Next Deal?

Posted on September 23, 2014

In the next ten years, technology will transform virtually every industry in the world.  There will be big winners and big losers. In order to stay competitive, middle market business owners must preempt these changes to their competitive positions and sustainability with smart timely action.  Just look at the newspaper publishing industry to see how dramatic the impact can be.

Is the middle market M&A industry exempt from the winds of change?  My partners would answer that this is a people business: nothing happens until someone makes a sale.  That’s clearly right.  Bringing the sale of entrepreneurial business to a successful close involves far more than numbers; human emotions often overrule financial logic.  An understanding of psychology is as essential to the success of an intermediary as auctioneering and financial analysis.

The role of the deal professional will not disappear.  Nevertheless, the way he or she applies professional skills to reach the ultimate goal of the transaction will be dramatically shaped by the technological revolution now underway in our industry.  The successful investment banking firm of the next decade should have access to resources unimaginable to today’s practitioners.  In addition to great people skills and financial knowledge, investment bankers will need to be adept at using numerous advanced technologies that will eliminate a great deal of drudgery and  that will also accelerate the speed of transaction processes.  In that hypercharged environment, the race may well go to the swiftest practitioners with access to the best of data and toolsets.

When I started my investment banking firm in 1985, the most advanced technology was my Compaq luggable (38 pound) computer and a magical program that enabled me to produce both written documents and spreadsheets from a single device.  Over time we added desktop computers, a Microsoft network and access to quarterly CD-ROMs with data about … read the rest

Categories: Adley Bowden, Banking, Financial Services, Investment Banking, M&A, Mergers and Acquisitions, Middle Market, Private Equity, SaaS, Uncategorized

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Knowing When to Fold ‘Em

Posted on August 26, 2014

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’
When the dealin’s done

If you’re a Baby Boomer, you remember well hearing Kenny Rogers’ iconic hit, The Gambler.  If you’re like me, you’ve often wondered how Kenny’s advice might be applied to important business and investment decisions.  If you’re a business owner who has survived our generation’s version of the Great Depression, you need good counsel more than ever.

Perhaps you’re feeling pretty good about your prospects – business is improving and profits are as high as you’ve ever enjoyed.  Is now the time to go all in? Or is it time to cash your chips and leave the table for new faces?  The story below presents a dilemma faced by many business owners.  Names, industry identifiers and other client specific facts have been changed to protect confidentiality, but the dilemma described below is all too real and immediate for many business owners.

Our friend Frank Mayfield (not his real name) recently approached us with a dilemma.  Frank founded Limbtronics, a medical device manufacturer, thirty years ago to provide leading orthopedic doctors with specialized tools for performing innovative surgeries on damaged joints and ligaments.  Over time, he expanded into manufacturing surgical implants for complete joint replacements.  The business has been good to Frank and in 2013 Limbtronics had a record year with revenue of $28 million and pretax profits of more than $5 million.

Over the past fifteen years, Frank has seen several of his competitors acquired by global orthopedic giants such as Medtronic, Stryker, Smith and Nephew, and others.  He’s been approached a number of times, but never felt the time was … read the rest

Is This The Summer of 2007?

Posted on August 13, 2014

(Originally Published on Axial Forum)

The summer of 2007 was a great moment.  We were enjoying one of the strongest booms in both the debt and equity markets that any of us had experienced in our lifetimes.  Just the sort of markets we’ve been enjoying for the past year or so.  The leveraged lending markets have fully recovered from their low point following the market crash of 2008 and 2009 and volume reached a new high in 2013.  While market activity declined slightly in the first half of 2014 from the prior year, current activity levels remain very high.

The question of the day:  Are we, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, destined to endlessly repeat this cycle with limited ability to prevent a repeat of the disaster that befell us in 2008-2009.

We’ve just interviewed one of the world’s leading authorities on the private debt markets to help us better understand the current state of the debt markets and what this portends for the level of deal activity going forward.  Randy Schwimmer was a pioneer in developing middle market loan syndication markets in the 1980s, leading the effort for what is now J.P. Morgan and later BNP Paribas.  With a small group of partners he formed Churchill Financial in 2007.  They were successful in raising a $1.2 billion loan fund before the financial crash closed the markets and were left with more than $500 million of dry powder after the crash.  Leveraging this success, they were acquired by Carlyle in 2011 where they began building that firm’s private debt business.

Randy has now left Carlyle to restart his weekly publication covering the private debt markets, which is now called The Lead Left.  This has been a must read for years for anyone who wants to understand this arcane and somewhat opaque, … read the rest

A Whiff of Inflation – M&A Valuations Lead the Way

Posted on July 17, 2014

(Originally Published on Axial Forum)

Since the 1970s, many of us have feared the threat of inflation looming just around the corner. Within the past year, economists and central bankers have led us to believe the inflation dragon has been permanently relegated to a dark hole, never to rain fire on the kingdom of men. We’re told that deflation is the real threat and that governments can continually run large deficits without reawakening the dragon. Recently, reality has intervened, however, to remind us that economists and central bankers aren’t infallible. U. S. Core CPI and global consumer prices have taken a sharp turn upward.

While this rate of price increase will have profound implications for business owners if it continues, that’s a story for another day.

Our story here affects these entrepreneurs more directly. Inflation comes as no surprise to those of us in the M&A business. We have watched for some time as the M&A market reheated and deal valuations reached levels not seen since 2007 – the peak of the financial bubble. We now have strong confirmation that this trend is not reserved solely for the megadeals on CNBC.

 

For larger deals that confirmation comes from Pitchbook which reported last week that, for the first half of 2014, average deal valuations reached an all time high of 11.5 times EBITDA.

 

 Median EBITDA Multiples for Buyouts (H1 2014)
For smaller buyouts, the story is the same. Andy Greenberg, CEO of GF DATA®, is in a unique position to understand middle market M&A pricing trends. His company maintains a very comprehensive database of actual transaction values in the sub $250 million marketplace. In our recent interview, Andy shared his perspective confirming our belief that lower middle market M&A purchase multiples have reached historically high levels over the past 12 to 18
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2013 Deal Valuations Reach All Time Highs; What’s in Store for 2014?

Posted on February 3, 2014

  Last March we predicted that middle market business sale values in 2013 could reach all-time high levels. Recent data from Pitchbook confirms that was in fact the case.

Source: Pitchbook

Not only were prices in relation to earnings before interest and taxes (EBITDA) at an all-time high, leverage used in the transactions reached record levels as well. To some extent this reflects a skewing toward larger transactions, but unquestionably we are now back to levels not seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. History tells us that such heady price levels will not last forever.

So what is in store for 2014? Does weakness in global stock markets mean that the game is over? Or can we look forward to a sustained period of high valuations? Is the past is to be our guide, the current favorable trends in the M&A market have some time to run. We previously indicated that we felt market strength could run through 2014. Recently we have received confirmation of that through a uniquely qualified source.

IntraLinks is the global leader in virtual data rooms with a 30% worldwide market share. For the uninitiated a virtual data room is an online space in which due diligence documents can be securely placed during an M&A process to facilitate due diligence and other deal related activities. As a result IntraLinks has a unique perspective on the merger and acquisition marketplace. They see deals that are moving toward closing as much as six months before any public announcement of the transaction is made. IntraLinks has aggregated this proprietary business intelligence to read the rest

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