Valuing the Business: Some Difficult Issues

Business valuations are almost always difficult and often complex. A valuation is also frequently subject to the judgment of the person conducting it. In addition, the person conducting the valuation must assume that the information furnished to him or her is accurate.

Here are some issues that must be considered when arriving at a value for the business:

Product Diversity – Firms with just a single product or service are subject to a much greater risk than multiproduct firms.

Customer Concentration – Many small companies have just one or two major customers or clients; losing one would be a major issue.

Intangible Assets – Patents, trademarks and copyrights can be important assets, but are very difficult to value.

Critical Supply Sources – If a firm uses just a single supplier to obtain a low-cost competitive edge, that competitive edge is more subject to change; or if the supplier is in a foreign country, the supply is more at risk for delivery interruption.

ESOP Ownership – A company owned by employees, either completely or partially, requires a vote by the employees. This can restrict marketability and, therefore, the value.

Company/Industry Life Cycle – A retail/repair typewriter business is an obvious example, but many consumer product firms fall into this category.

Other issues that can impact the value of a company would include inventory that is dated or not saleable, reliance on short contracts, work-in-progress, and any third-party or franchise approvals necessary to sell the company.

© Copyright 2015 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.

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Three Basic Factors of Earnings

Two businesses for sale could report the same numeric value for “earnings” and yet be far from equal. Three factors of earnings are listed below that tell more about the earnings than just the number.

1. Quality of earnings
Quality of earnings measures whether the earnings are padded with a lot of “add backs” or one-time events, such as a sale of real estate, resulting in an earnings figure which does not accurately reflect the true earning power of the company’s operations. It is not unusual for companies to have “some” non-recurring expenses every year, whether for a new roof on the plant, a hefty lawsuit, a write-down of inventory, etc. Beware of the business appraiser that restructures the earnings without “any” allowances for extraordinary items.

2. Sustainability of earnings after the acquisition
The key question a buyer often considers is whether he or she is acquiring a company at the apex of its business cycle or if the earnings will continue to grow at the previous rate.

3. Verification of information
The concern for the buyer is whether the information is accurate, timely, and relatively unbiased. Has the company allowed for possible product returns or allowed for uncollectable receivables? Is the seller above-board, or are there skeletons in the closet?

Business Valuation: Do the Financials Tell the Whole Story?

Many experts say no! These experts believe that only half of the business valuation should be based on the financials (the number-crunching), with the other half of the business valuation based on non-financial information (the subjective factors).

What subjective factors are they referring to?  SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – the primary factors that make up the subjective, or non-financial, analysis. Below you will find a more detailed look at the areas that help us evaluate a company’s SWOT.

Industry Status – A company’s value increases when its associated industry is expanding, and its value decreases in any of the following situations:  its industry is constantly fighting technical obsolescence; its industry involves a commodity subject to ongoing price wars; its industry is severely impacted by foreign competition; or its industry is negatively impacted by governmental policies, controls, or pricing.

Geographic Location – A company is worth more if it is located in states or countries that have a favorable infrastructure, advantageous tax rates, or higher reimbursement rates.  A company with access to an ample educated and competitive work force will also enjoy increased value.

Management – A company with low turnover in management and a solid second-tier management team comprised of different age levels is also worth more.

Facilities – A company operating profitably at 70 percent capacity is worth more than a company currently near capacity. Equipment should be up to date and any leases – either equipment or real estate – renewable at reasonable rates.

Products or Services – A company is worth more if its products or services are proprietary, are diversified with some pricing power, and have, preferably, a recognizable brand name. In addition, new products or services should be introduced on a regular basis.

Customers – A company is worth more if there is not heavy customer concentration, but rather recurring revenue from long-time, loyal customers, as well as from new customers created through a regular and systematic sales process.

Competition – A company not contending head to head with powerful competitors such as Microsoft or Wal-Mart will rate a higher value.

Suppliers – Finally, a company is worth more if it is not dependent on single sourced key items or items available from only a limited number of suppliers.

 

Copyright 2012 Business Brokerage Press, Inc.