Mezzanine Financing for Smart Guys

Posted on August 5, 2013

No Dummies here — our clients and friends tend to be very bright people.  Because they also tend to be very busy, we thought it might be helpful to use our most recent closing to provide a brief primer about middle market mezzanine financing.

You can click on the tombstone image to the left to get the full details of the $5 million mezzanine debt placement we arranged for our fast growing, innovative client, Paramount Merchant Funding LLC.

Mezzanine debt is a key component of leveraged private equity financial structures, but it also serves an important role for companies operating in the middle market.  As companies grow rapidly, their capital needs frequently outstrip the capital available to them.

Typically new enterprises are funded with the founders’ personal capital and loans supported by their personal assets or credit.  Often they reach out to friends and family to provide additional support. Additional working capital may be provided by a factor or an asset based lender; however, if growth is rapid, the business will eventually outstrip the limits of these resources and the founder’s personal financial resources will not  support continued growth.

For a step-by-step video how-to guide for obtaining mezzanine financing, click on the image below and view the tutorial.

To download the associated PowerPoint Slides click here.

In the past the needed capital was frequently provided by banks which relied upon the borrower’s character in addition to the liquidateable value of its assets. That is a thing of the past. Today, banks without clear collateral  support to back their loans will soon invite the ire of regulators. With this regulatory threat hovering over them, most bankers have effectively abandoned the small business community in its time of need.

This has created a financing gap increasingly filled by mezzanine lenders. These firms are often structured … read the rest

The JOBS Act and the Future of Commercial Banking

Posted on June 12, 2012

America needs jobs!   That’s a point where there is universal agreement among the political parties.  So much so that Congress overwhelmingly passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act; 390 to 23 in the House and 73 to 26 in the Senate.  My suspicion is the most of those voting for the Act had little idea of how far-reaching the effects of the JOBS Act might be.

The JOBS Act may represent the most radical change in how securities can be privately sold and business capital can be raised from private investors since the securities laws were passed in the 1930s.  Under the JOBS Act most of the restrictions with regard to solicitation that have impeded the growth of a vibrant private placement capital market among accredited investors (i.e. those with liquid net worth over $1 million or incomes over $200,000) have now been removed.

The devil is always in the details and SEC regulations promulgated under the Act could potentially curtail some of its impact.  As written, the JOBS Act has the potential to democratize the financing of business growth in a very dramatic and potentially unintended manner.  By removing many, if not most, of the restrictions on accredited investors seeking to invest in small companies, the JOBS Act provides a basis for many innovative new vehicles for small business financing to blossom.

While most of the commentary around the JOBS Act focuses on funding of startups, the real financing need is to support the expansion of the rapidly growing mid-sized companies that, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, provide the engine for new jobs in America.  These companies typically have progressed past the startup stage.  They may have 20-50 employees and several million dollars of revenue, with the potential to grow to hundreds if not thousands of employees as … read the rest

January Video Newsletter

Posted on January 26, 2012

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Will Business Owners Hit the Bid in 2012?

Posted on January 24, 2012

Over the years one of the best indicators of M&A activity has been what I call the Free Lunch Index. I live in Memphis, normally not a hotbed of middle market M&A activity.  That’s why my practice is national in scope.  When banks or private equity groups do come to town looking for deals, I often get a call for lunch, breakfast or coffee.

Since the crash in 2008 it’s been fairly lonely out here and I pretty much buy my own lunches. Starting this month, however, I’ve seen a marked pickup in calls and lunch invitations.  The word appears to be out among both the private equity groups and the financial institutions that now is the time to get back into the market and they’re actually spending money to look for deals.

Our experience at Focus indicates that business sale interest has increased strongly since yearend. Apparently we are not alone.  Cyprium Partners, a leading mezzanine financing specialist, recently completed a survey of 175 investment-banking firms throughout the U. S.  Among their findings, 44% of respondents reported more assignments signed or in the market than at a comparable time in 2010.  56% reported that new business pitches were up and less than 10% of the firms reported lower activity.  Bottom line the M&A business is improving and that’s consistent with our belief that the overall economy will surprise to the upside.

It’s no secret that the U. S. private equity industry has been in a depression over the past three years.

Source: Pitchbook

Private equity deal flow showed great promise this time last year, but fell precipitously by the end of 2011.  Interestingly, according to Capital IQ, global aggregate annual deal flow in terms of number of transactions has been far more stable while dollar values have fluctuated widely.

Year                          # of  … read the rest

Preparing for an Asset-Based Financing

Posted on November 20, 2011

Many businesses have recently faced a new reality when they are abandoned by their traditional commercial banks and are forced to search for non-traditional sources of capital. Commercial banks have tightened their credit standards dramatically over the last several years or have abandoned commercial lending entirely. For many middle market distributors, manufacturers and service firms, asset-based lending (“ABL”) may be the best alternative.   Such firms typically have plentiful working capital assets that have historically not been leveraged to their full potential.

The basic concepts of an asset based financing are simple.  Rather than rely on balance sheet ratios or the earning power of the business, the lender can advance funding based upon the expected net liquidation value of the available collateral, typically inventory and receivables.  In theory asset based lenders (sometimes call “hard money lenders”)  can provide funding to even the most troubled borrowers.  In fact debtor in possessions (“DIP”) loans in Chapter XI bankruptcy have been a stock in trade for a number of such lenders.

The reality of ABL financing turns out to be more complex.  Most ABLs do care about the financial condition of their borrowers and will expect to see historical cash flow performance that supports loan payment plus a comfortable cushion. The resulting financial package will often include a variety of constraints, many of which the borrower may not be aware of until the closing table:

  • Restrictions on advances, dividends, and other related party transactions
  • Restrictions on capital expenditures and leases
  • Strictly constructed personal guarantees (including spousal)
  • Tight financial covenants
  • Requirements to maintain excess liquidity or deposits
  • Reserves for technical collateral protection issues (landlord payments, payroll taxes, lender-perceived weaknesses in working capital collateral, etc.)
  • Prohibitions on disposition of assets
  • Prohibitions from entering alternative financial arrangements and acquisitions
  • Surrender of cash management to the lender

Planning for the Transaction

It … read the rest

Gear Up for the Refinancing Wall

Posted on November 14, 2011

Remember the fall of 2009? We had just survived the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the stock market was enjoying the early stages of a very powerful bear market rally. We could all breathe a great sigh of relief. Of course a few party poopers were still around to remind us in articles like this one published by the Wharton School that a mountain of debt built up during the bubble years of 2006 and 2007 would need to be refinanced by the middle of the next decade. This debt, measured in the trillions of dollars, encompassed both commercial loans–many generated to support highly leveraged buyout financings–and commercial real estate funding.
Chart: Distribution of leverage loan maturities, 2010-2018
Source: Ancala.com

No need to worry, 2012 was a long way in the future. Well that future is now and Wall Street is again teetering on the brink of panic. Many firms that survived the crash have seen their profits–if not their revenues–return to past highs. Large profitable corporations have successfully refinanced much of their debt with very low cost long term bonds. For much of 2010 and the first half of 2011, strong high yield and leveraged loan markets enabled even middle market firms to stabilize their debt with relatively low cost funding as well. So the question is, “Have we dodged the bullet?”

Unfortunately, two recent reports answer the question with a resounding NO. The Financial Times, in an article entitled “Door Slams Shut for Corporate Have-Nots,” describes a two tier world in which a few very strong companies like Apple Inc. have taken advantage of the recovery to build up tremendous hordes of cash. On the other hand, weaker firms remain overleveraged and at extreme risk in the event of another financial crisis or a material rise in interest rates.

To accentuate the depth of … read the rest

George Shea – Private Equity Provides IT Growth Capital

Posted on February 4, 2011

In the linked interview below George Shea, Partner and Information Technology Team Leader at Focus LLC, provides an update on the strong market in information technology deals.  George shares a growing willingness in the Private Equity industry for firms to go beyond their traditional buyout structures to fund recaps that take out earlier stage investors and provide growth equity for their portfolio companies.  This can be a superior option to strategic sales for management teams that want to keep control of their operations.  Additionally George has found an increased willingness among the PE community to consider minority growth equity transactions and other innovative financing options for rapidly growing firms.

To see a the interview, click on the picture or link below:

http://proclaim.netbriefings.com/flv/focusbankers/ko168/focusbankeko168100468/

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Interview with Peter Lehrman – CEO of AxialMarket

Posted on February 4, 2011

When I first started in the M&A business there were a few hundred private equity firms in the U. S. and virtually none overseas.  Getting to know them was relatively easy.  Today there are literally thousands of PE firms in the U. S., hundreds, if not thousands  in Europe, and a rapidly growing complement of Asian and middle eastern PE firms focused on the emerging market countries. Picking the perfect candidate to acquire or invest in any particular lower middle market company has become an overwhelming challenge for intermediaries focused on a good ‘ole boy Rolodex approach to the M&A business.

AxialMarket (www.axialmarket.com) was created to fill that gap.  Axial provides an online marketplace populated by more than 1500 intermediary firms and thousands of PE firms, strategic buyers, family offices, venture capitalists and other qualified private market participants who use Axial’s controlled, trusted marketplace to confidentially source and manage a pipeline of transaction opportunities across the private markets.  Pre-qualified intermediaries have the opportunity to post blind listings of companies for sale or needing financing or recapitalization.  On the buyside PE firms as well as strategic buyers pay monthly subscription fees to have access to thousands of qualified listings.  Axial uses its sophisticated SaaS database to pre-select those buyside firms most likely to be interested in a particular deal.  These firms are then presented to the intermediary for consideration and only approved buyers are permitted to see the deal summaries.  The bottom line is that deals are getting down; more than three thousand business sales, including companies with revenues from $1 million to $400 million have been completed utilizing Axial listings since its inception.

Today we are pleased to have with us Peter Lehrman, the driving force behind AxialMarket.  Highlights of Peter’s interview (4 1/2 minutes) as well as the full interview (about 30 … read the rest

Welcome to Capital Matters

Posted on January 2, 2011

Even the most casual observer of the current economic scene, knows that that there is something different about the way capital is being allocated in the American economy today.  Billie Holiday had it right in her classic, God Bless the Child, written in 1939 at the end of the Great Depression and updated for the Baby Boomer generation in 1968 with the great Blood Sweat and Tears version.

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news

Yes, the strong gets more
While the weak ones fade
Empty pockets don’t ever make the grade
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own.
.

A 2010 update could be speaking about the major multi-national corporations and big banks, which surely have their own and then some.  On the other hand “Main Street” private companies are more likely to relate to verse two, singing the blues refrain that “empty pockets don’t ever make the grade”.  Yet the data is irrefutable: jobs in America are created by small, growing firms, not by the corporate giants.  When the recovery comes, and it always does, where will the money come from to fund the growth of the companies that we’re counting to create the jobs?

To answer that question the Tough Times blog has moved to Capital Matters.  Here we will focus on the critical financial issues that face Main Street American business in this new decade as economic conditions slowly begin to improve: Where will the money come from to support renewed growth?  We will cover topics of current interest to business owners and their advisers with a focus on economics and finance as they impact private and entrepreneurial firms.  We will also dive deep to provide practical insight … read the rest

We’re Seven Months into the Great Mess. What’s Going to Happen Next?

Posted on April 14, 2009

Seven months ago (Monday September 15, 2008) we learned of the failure of Lehman Brothers and soon thereafter the sale of Merrill Lynch and the bailout of AIG.  These events were the culmination of a series of market shocks that had started with the demise of the sub-prime loan market, had accelerated with the collapse of the leveraged loan market starting in August 2007 and had included the takeover of Bear Stearns in March 2008.  But September 15, 2008 is the current era’s equivalent of 1929’s Black Monday.

Since September we have witnessed dramatic governmental actions designed to prevent the current crisis from descending into a downward spiral reminiscent of the 1930s.  For the moment, the stock market seems to be giving these actions (as well as our charismatic new President) a vote of confidence.  We’re also hearing from some of our clients that their operations improved in March and that they are more optimistic about their businesses looking toward the summer.  Another “green shoot” is the middle market M&A market, where I spend much of my time.  The M&A market has definitely improved since the first of the year and indications are that it will remain reasonably strong for a while, at least for profitable companies in favored industries such as government contracting, IT services and health care.

So what is the economic scorecard to date and what can we expect to see going forward?

1)    The World economy is in the midst of the first major global recession of the postwar era.  Global trade has been collapsed for many of the major exporters, particularly China, Japan and Germany.

china-exports1

While there have been some recent hints that the rate of decline is slowing (the second derivative of negative growth) or even bouncing a little, world trade is still an area of significant concern.  … read the rest

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