E&Y Study Shows Private Equity Backed Companies Crushing Public Markets

A new study released by Ernst & Young examined 539 Private Equity deals that exited from 2006 to 2012.  These are my key takeaways from the study:

  • PE backed firms crushed public companies and have done quite well in spite of the recession.  The PE exits from 2006 – 2012 outperformed investor returns on publicly held companies by a multiple of 5.4 over the same period.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, many of which were entered into prior to the recession, annual EBITDA growth averaged 11.8% compared to 5.5% in public markets.
  • Organic revenue growth is increasingly the primary driver of growth in EBITDA.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, organic revenue growth (as opposed to EBITDA growth through acquisition or cost-cutting) accounted for 45% of the growth in EBITDA versus 39% in the pre-recession years of 2006-2007.  In 2010-2012 alone, organic revenue growth accounted for over 50% of the growth in EBITDA.
  • Multiples, which were depressed during the recession, have rebounded.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, EBITDA growth accounted for 70% of the PE returns with the other 30% being from increasing multiples.
  • Holding periods are up.  For PE exits in 2012, the average holding period was 5.1 years, up from 3.4 years in 2006.

Here is the link to the full study: EY PE Study 2006 to 2012

The National Center for the Middle Market’s 2013 Q2 Middle Market Indicator

d6arbkvd9cf095iaaq9o_biggerDespite sluggish M&A activity, the National Center for the Middle Market’s 2013 Q2 Middle Market Indicator report shows solid growth with optimism and hiring on the upswing.  For the full report, click the link below:

2q_13_mmi

Preventing Payment Fraud

fraud-alertMost middle market businesses have either been or will be the target of attempted payment fraud.  The good news is when you are following best practices to prevent payment fraud, it is fairly easy to detect and prevent the attempted fraud from being successful.  Best practices include the following:

1) Implement Positive Pay:  This is an early warning fraud detection system that helps you prevent fraud before it occurs.  It involves sending your bank an electronic file of payments made as you make them, which they can cross reference as checks are cashed.  The service is inexpensive and can be provided by your bank or your ERP system provider.

2) Daily bank reconciliations:  Some people think daily bank rec’s are overkill, but the truth is they prevent fraud, give you a clearer picture of your short term cash flow and they often actually save time.  Minor discrepancies can be difficult to identify when you are working with a whole week or month of data.   Reconciling daily makes it a simple task that can be easily performed by lower level accountants.

3) Use fewer paper checks and keep your check stock secured:  Most of the attempted payment fraud is the result of fraudsters getting their hands on your paper checks and either duplicating them or  using the information to make unauthorized ACH debits.  Converting regular payees to electronic ACH payments reduces the risk of fraud.

Following these 3 simple practices will greatly reduce the risk of fraud and give you some additional peace of mind.

The cost of not borrowing…

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Unused Line Fees or Commitment Fees

Everyone understands loans have an interest rate applied to the balance or the amount borrowed.  Not everyone understands business lines of credit generally come with ‘Commitment Fees’ or ‘Unused Line Fees’ applied on the amount of the line of credit not borrowed.  It is generally a relatively low rate compared to the interest rate, and it is basically the fee the bank charges to have the amount of the line of credit available for you to borrow if and when you need it, even though you are not currently using it.  Middle market CFO’s should understand the following 3 points:

(1) They may be negotiable.

(2) When comparing 2 or more loan offers, include the unused line fees in the analysis.  The difference may be substantial enough to tip the scales to one loan versus another.  If so, remember point #1.

(3) When determining the amount of the line of credit, include the unused line fees in the analysis.  While it may be best to have more credit available than you think you will need, understand the cost and factor it into your decision.

Although the reason the banks charge unused line fees is understandable and the cost is relatively small (especially compared to the amount of interest you might be paying on the portion of a term loan you don’t need), unused line fees are often a source of annoyance to many business owners and CFO’s who simply can not get used to the idea of paying the bank a fee on money they are not borrowing.  What types of fees and business expenses are the most annoying to you?

Business lending: Are you hot or not?

San Francisco Business Times (click here to see full article) reports that “business lending these days is a clear case of the haves vs. the have-nots. The former group has to fight off bankers eager to lend. The latter, which include many small businesses, can’t get a nibble.”

 

The Ins and Outs of Financial Covenants

Loans generally come with covenants that serve as protections for the lender to ensure that the borrower meets certain levels of financial strength and performance.  There are a variety of ratios or calculations that can be used, but in general they are all designed to predict your ability to repay your loan. The most common types are asset-to-liability ratios such as the current ratio, or income-to-financing costs such as the Fixed Charge Coverage Ratio.  The types of ratios used are pretty standard, but the minimum or maximum restrictions vary and may be open to negotiation.

They are generally reported quarterly to the bank. For internal purposes, they should be reported more frequently and should be forecasted at least two quarters in advance. This will allow time to arrange alternatives in the event that your forecast falls out of compliance with the covenant restrictions.

Covenants are generally designed to change over the life of the loan, and can be adjusted later as well if your situation changes. The loan documents generally contain language that specifically spells out events of default as well as how each covenant is to be calculated. Take the time to study the language so you completely understand it.

In summary:

  • Be aware of the covenants before closing the loan.  That’s the best time to negotiate as much flexibility as possible for your company.
  • Create an easy to use template to calculate the covenants and report them to the bank as required.  Be aware the covenants change over the life of the loan, so build those dates and changes into the template.
  • Build covenant calculations into your financial forecasts.  Predict and internally report covenant compliance at least two quarters in advance.  Graphics and conditional formatting help to highlight potential non-compliance issues.
  • If your business is going through significant changes that may affect your ability to stay in compliance with covenants, consider going back to the bank to attempt to have them adjusted.
  • Understand the events of default, including any events that can occur even if you are in compliance with the covenants, and have a plan in place to deal with it long before you need it.

Those are the ins and outs of financial covenants.  If I left anything out, please add your comments below.