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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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

Doug Rodgers – CEO of Focus LLC

Posted on March 21, 2011

Doug Rodgers, CEO of Focus LLC publishes an annual update on the M&A market.  You can download this year’s version here.  We’ve interviewed Doug to get his views on the current M&A market.

The most interesting take-away from the study is that, while M&A activity in larger companies collapsed during the financial crisis, sales of $50 million and under revenue companies declined far less in comparison.

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(click on image to enlarge)

There was, however, a severe decline in EBITDA multiples for under $50 million companies (shown in blue) from 8x to 6x from 2008 to 2009.  This drop was fully recovered in 2010, though we are still well below the all-time peak of 9x in 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

(click on image to enlarge)

From our perspective, this indicates that business owners tend to react more to their personal situations and opportunities, rather than carefully planning their business exits.  This can have profound implications to sellers in a market where the variance in sales multiples was fifty percent from the low in 2009 to the high in 2005: sale in a strong market can result in much more satisfactory results for the seller.

To download the report click here.

To hear the full interview click on Doug’s picture below.

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Proposed Changes to Estate and Gift Tax – A Wakup Call for Business Owners

Posted on July 29, 2009

Congress and the President appear dead set on creating lasting damage to independent business through ill conceived tax policies. The latest reports show that Congress is planning to solve our health care crisis at the expense of the “rich” with family incomes over $350,000 by imposing a new surtax of as much as 8-9% in addition to other tax increases already in the Obama budget. According to a 2007 Treasury study reported by the Wall St. Journal, fifty percent (50%) of the incomes affected by the new taxes will be generated by the sole proprietorships and Sub-S corporations which are responsible for creating 70+% of the new jobs in the United States.

If anything like the proposed new taxes comes to pass, it may be time for business owners to shift some wealth back to their tax planners and to dust off C-Corporations and tax shelters as areas of strong interest. When considering their options, business owners should take into account the negative (double taxation) impact of tying up their wealth in taxable C-Corps. In our M&A practice, we find that structuring private businesses as C corporations is one of the major impediments to successful exit transactions. Planned increases in the capital gains taxes are certain to make things even worse. For many business owners the best answer may well be to sell now before these overreaching tax law changes make it infinitely harder to realize fair value from their many years of hard work.

Less well publicized are various tax proposals aimed at “reforming” the estate tax laws. In addition to the planned return of the wealth transfer tax following the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the administration has several surprises in store which could have a major detrimental impact on the ability of business owners to pass ownership … read the rest

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