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Business valuations in a recession

It is no secret that the number of corporate deals completing in 2009 is significantly less than previous years. There are many reasons for this (too many to list in this blog) – one important factor is the perception of vendors on the valuation attributable to their company. 

If an entrepreneur has spent 20 years creating a profitable business, it is natural that he or she will wait for the right time to sell. It instinctively feels like the wrong time to sell - valuations across all asset classes are low in comparison to those seen in recent years (though the markets are showing a small recovery as I write, they are still substantially lower than 2007 levels). The sale of shares in private companies are also generating lower valuations – though not as low as many people expect.

Valuations are always subjective and each valuer will probably treat the impact of the recession differently. From my perspective, the additional considerations for a valuation include:

  • earnings valuations – in my experience multiples have reduced by 1-2, and earnings forecasts must be revised to reflect the maintainable profits in the medium term (on average this will be a lower figure than would have been projected in previous years). Please note that three recently completed deals have seen multiples in the 4-5 range (pre-tax).
  • net asset valuations – an adjustment should be made to reflect diminishing stock values, and the valuation and recoverability of trade debtors should be considered in detail. Freehold values may have reduced since surveys undertaken even three months ago.
  • discounted cashflow – earnings levels should be considered in light of the economic down turn. For the discount factor – the cost of capital must reflect the long term outlook, assuming that today’s low interest rates will continue could create substantial overvaluations.

There are some genuine recession proof sectors – but even in these areas, valuations should be reviewed, as the reduced availability of finance can place additional risk on a business.



Date: 14th May, 2009
Author: Julian Dobbin


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