M & A

M&A experts worldwide are using an insurance policy known as a Representation and Warranty (R&W) to transfer risk from the parties in a transaction to an insurance company. R&W policies are designed to, “step in the shoes” of a seller to pay indemnification claims made by the buyer for inaccuracies of the representations and warranties outlined in the purchase/sale agreement. Due to the low cost of R&W insurance, sellers are driving the demand for these policies rather than accept large, lengthy escrow or withhold terms. Buyers are discovering how R&W insurance can enhance their bid without having to raise their offer.

For the seller:

  1. An R&W policy replaces the indemnification provision and reduces the escrow to 1% or less of the purchase amount.
  2. Enables early and final distribution of proceeds to investors.
  3. Locks in the return and provides a clean exit as contingent liabilities are covered.
  4. Expedites the sale by getting the Indemnification issue “off the table”.

For the buyer:

  1. Distinguishes bid in a competitive auction, without raising the offer price.
  2. Eases concerns about collecting on seller’s indemnification.
  3. Preserves relationship with seller. In the event the seller is remaining with the company, the buyer pursues the R&W insurer, and NOT the seller in the event of a breach.
  4. Expedites the sale by getting the Indemnification issue “off the table”.

Underwriting & Placement Process:

  1. Secure information for underwriters:
    • Acquisition agreement (draft version is acceptable)
    • Seller’s audited financials
    • Seller’s disclosure statements (if available)
    • Offering memo
  2. Within 3 to 5 business days, a no cost, no obligation, non-binding indication (NBI) is provided.
  3. Due diligence process is commenced with selected market – requires payment of non-refundable underwriting fee.
  4. Conference call is arranged between the underwriters and the applicant’s attorneys.
  5. Final terms are issued within 2 business days of the final conference call.

POLICY BASICS

Limit Capacity – Up to $100M on a single policy. Excess capacity up to an additional $400M available as needed.

Retentions – commonly 1% to 3% of the purchase price. Reduces over time

Premium – 3% to 4.5% of the limits purchased (including taxes and fees). Minimum premium is $300,000

Underwriting Fee – From $25,000 to $35,000 in addition to the premium. Covers the cost of Insurer’s attorney’s fees and due diligence costs to review and manuscript a policy. Non-refundable.

  • Seller’s policy – checks how seller developed R/W
  • Buyer’s policy – checks how buyer vetted the Seller’s R/W

Terms – designed to match the survival period. Post survival extensions available upon request.

NEWS

  • The First $1 Billion R&W Insurance Policy Issued – and What It Means for the Industry
    POSTED 9.10.19 M&A

    It’s a landmark moment in the world of M&A. Marsh JLT, the world’s largest insurance brokerage, has announced they successfully placed the first Transactional Liability policy at a $1 Billion Dollar Limit, the largest such policy ever written. As impressive as this may seem, it’s only a matter of time before a larger policy Limit is placed on an even bigger transaction. This is just one of the many data points outlined in the Marsh JLT 2019 M&A Trends report.

    The biggest takeaway is that if you have a billion-dollar deal – you need look no further than Marsh JLT. They have the resources and experience to handle these very opportunities. I’ve always believed the world needs the Mega Brokers like Marsh JLT because “someone” has to insure Disneyland! 

    This is just one indication of how the benefits of transactional insurance, especially R&W insurance, is being recognized by Buyers and Sellers and made an essential part of a growing number of transactions, even for transactions going as low as under $20M.

    According to Marsh JLT’s June 2019 Transactional Risk Insurance Report, which looked back at trends in this space in 2018, there are 25 firms offering this specialized type of insurance. That’s a sizeable increase from the handful offering this coverage just a few years ago.

    More policies are being written as well, with Marsh JLT alone experiencing a 40% increase in policy count, from 359 in 2017 to 504 in 2018. The median transaction value for those insured deals was $135M. The size of the average R&W policy placed is about 10% of the transaction value.

    Industry-wide, the number of M&A insurance policies rose for the fifth straight year, according to the Marsh JLT report, driven by strategic acquirers who are gaining confidence with this product. The number of R&W transactions conducted in this sector increased by 21% from 2017 to 2018. PE and other financial acquirers are already comfortable with this insurance, with PE being the majority users.

    Of the policies written, 99%, were Buy-Side R&W, leaving only 1% as Sell-Side R&W. Buy-Side policies continue to represent the vast majority because they provide broader protection (i.e. covering Seller fraud) and because they best facilitate a “clean exit” for Sellers, with no indemnity obligation and less, if any, money held in escrow.

    This allows the Seller to have most of the sales price in hand when the deal closes so they can move on to new investments or distribute funds to shareholders and investors. That’s the reason why Sellers, in many cases, are more than happy to pay for this coverage.

    Looking at trends and what the future holds, it’s clear that the increase in usage of R&W is the direct result of three factors that aren’t changing anytime soon:

    • On-going price reductions from the growing number of insurers entering the M&A space. The favorable pricing environment is expected to continue into 2020. Deductibles for R&W policies are just 1% of enterprise value for most transactions. It’s just 0.75% for deals over $500M.
    • R&W insurance is increasingly being used on larger transactions as past experience has strengthened consumer confidence in the product.
    • More strategic buyers are using the product for both competitive reasons and as an accommodation to target companies. Again, both sides of the table are coming to recognize the value of this coverage.

    It’s also important to note that Underwriters have more experience than ever in writing R&W and other transactional risk policies. This allows this component, including due diligence, to become a seamless part of an M&A deal.

    All this is taking place with a very healthy M&A environment as the background. The Marsh report notes that global M&A activity jumped 11.5% from 2017 to 2018 to $3.5T, even as the total number of deals actually fell. That’s the fifth year in a row that deal values have topped $3T. PE firm buyout activity, meanwhile, was valued at $557B, which is the highest level in 10 years.

    Expect to see increased use of R&W and other transactional risk insurance in the rest of 2019 and beyond.

    The great news for specialty firms, such as Rubicon M&A, is that Marsh’s growth into the billion-dollar deal level opens a wider gap of underserved deals as there are far more sub-$135M deals out there with the exact same needs for protection and service. We’re thrilled to have Marsh JLT out there to serve the mega-deals. We’ll handle the rest!

    To discuss how Representations and Warranty insurance can impact your next M&A deal, contact me, Patrick Stroth, at pstroth@rubiconins.com or 415-806-2356.

  • The Key Differences in Mindset Between Buyers and Sellers in M&A
    POSTED 8.27.19 M&A

    Going into an M&A deal there is always a “courtship” period where the Buyer is wining and dining the target company. If things go well, this leads to a Letter of Intent, which essentially states that the Buyer wants to buy the company, and the Seller agrees.

    This is where things get more complicated. The courtship – and romance – is over.

    Considering that a typical M&A deal is about as hard to complete as a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s a miracle these deals ever go through. There are so many elements that could derail them at any stage until the purchase and sale agreement is signed and the closing takes place.

    So what happens?

    If you’re a target company, you need to be aware of the mindset the Buyer takes on when approaching a deal.

    It helps you manage expectations when you sit across the table. As the target, you must realize that as desirable as you may be, you might not have as much leverage after the Letter of Intent.

    The Buyer’s attitude is that if they’re paying full price, then the target company has to perform to expectations or better once they assume control, even if there are unknown factors that come into play through no fault of the Seller. The Buyer believes the shareholders of the target company should take on all risks of the unknown, despite the due diligence they have done.

    That’s why in these types of deals, a significant portion of the sales price (8% to 10%, generally) is held in escrow for a period of a year or more, with the Buyer basically free to take funds if there have been any breaches with the representations and warranties in the sales contract to pay for the financial losses. They can even clawback more money beyond that amount.

    Understandably, Sellers aren’t eager to take that risk… or take home significantly less funds at closing… money which owners and shareholders are eager to use to retire or invest in new projects.

    A Unique Insurance Product

    But, as we’ll see in a moment, there is a remedy that allows Sellers to protect themselves and not be required to leave any funds in escrow. In fact, they no longer have an indemnity obligation at all.

    On the other side, the Seller maintains they can only give assurances for issues they know about and outline in the representations and warranties in the contract. The target thinks the Buyer should take on all the risk after those issues are outlined.

    Clearly, the two sides are at odds. And this can make for difficult negotiations.

    But there is an insurance product that can make both sides happy, remove the need for money to be held back in escrow and fulfil any indemnity obligations in the event of a breach of the Seller reps. Deals as low as $15 million will be considered by insurance company Underwriters.

    Representations and Warranty insurance does this by transferring the indemnity obligation from the target to a third party – an insurance company.

    For example, say a chain of restaurants is purchased. But post-closing, the Buyer discovers that there are $1M of gift cards out there yet to be redeemed. Without R&W insurance, the Buyer would have to go after the Seller to cover their financial losses. But with this coverage, they simply file a claim with the insurer.

    Another big bonus: with this coverage in place, a deal is EIGHT TIMES more likely to close. Because the indemnity obligation has been removed from the Seller’s shoulders, that’s one less thing to negotiate. The process becomes that much smoother.

    The Nuts and Bolts of R&W

    The vast majority of policies are “Buyer side,” where the Buyer is the Insured Party, although often the Seller is the one to pay for it, and happy to do so, considering all the benefits.

    Securing this coverage is easy, and its cost is low. To secure a policy takes a couple of weeks at most, as the Underwriters review the due diligence performed by the Buyer. The rate is 2%-3% of the Policy Limit, including Underwriting fees and taxes. The price of R&W insurance has dropped considerably in the last several years, while the number of insurers offering this coverage has increased.

    Timing is critical. If you want R&W insurance to cover your next M&A deal, there should be a provision made at the Letter of Intent stage. If it’s put in place at that time, it can always be removed.

    If you’re interested in making Representations and Warranty insurance part of your next deal, contact me, Patrick Stroth, at pstroth@rubiconins.com.

  • ERPs
    POSTED 7.30.19 M&A

    The Software You Need to Scale Up Your Business

    As a company is scaling up, especially a startup, it wants to stay nimble and always moving forward to maintain momentum. At the same time, the systems they used in their startup phase – like QuickBooks – just might not be robust enough to manage their new incarnation.

    There are too many financial reports, people, and processes to keep track of with simple accounting software or spreadsheets. Not evolving and finding an efficient way to keep track of it all, and meet the needs of your growing company, will cause growth to stall.

    There is an ideal solution to help you put the systems you need in place to properly scale up your business. It’s a comprehensive software solution that can boost productivity and efficiency while decreasing costs by integrating:

    • Accounting
    • Human resources
    • Sales
    • Operations
    • Service
    • Your CRM
    • And more…

    … in one system. It gives you a 360-degree view of your business, 24/7, from anywhere in the world.

    An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software solution can improve productivity, increase efficiencies, decrease costs, and streamline processes, and much, much more by automating front and back office processes like…

    • Financial management
    • Revenue management
    • Fixed assets
    • Order management
    • Billing
    • Inventory management
    • And more…

    What Makes an ERP So Powerful

    For any startup ready to take their business to the next level and grow, as well as make itself an attractive acquisition target, a solution like this is necessary.

    Cloud-based software NetSuite is the ERP system of choice. Forty thousand organizations across 160 countries use NetSuite to run their businesses. Seventy percent of all startups are transitioning from other legacy systems to NetSuite ERP.

    An ERP can be used by low level staff, as well as top managers, because the level of access can be customized to each user. NetSuite is ideal for companies scaling 1 to 10 to 100 people and expanding to multiple locations and is perfect for a workforce that is spread across multiple locations, has a large percentage of employees who work from home, or has a team that is regularly on the road or in the field, like salespeople.

    Because it’s cloud-based, it can be accessed by any computer around the world. And it also features an API that is easy to integrate with other systems.

    NetSuite features different “modules” that are added on to its core suite, including modules like financial management, payroll, order management, fixed assets, ecommerce, and more. It can be fully customized to meet a company’s needs.

    You can add or switch out modules as you need them – perfect for a rapidly growing business that needs to adapt quickly to the needs of the market.

    NetSuite grows as you grow, allowing you to add features and functionality as your business grows.

    All the Data You Need to Make Decisions in One Place

    This ERP gives real time visibility through dashboards and reporting throughout your organization. It’s a single platform that handles multiple services for your organization.

    Dashboards allow you to analyze and track system data on a variety of levels, including tracking KPIs like account balances and outstanding bills. But they can also organize deadlines, meetings, calls, and more.

    The order and billing management module integrates sales, finance, and fulfillment operations to be more efficient, improve quote accuracy, and reduce billing mistakes. It also automates your approval, invoicing, and payment management responsibilities.

    Fulfillment errors can be reduced with a module that centralizes customer, order, invoice, and shipping information, while integrating with shippers like UPS and FedEx.

    You can monitor your supply chain from end to end, procurement to payment. And it improves collaboration and communication between vendors and customers.

    But NetSuite doesn’t only tell what happened in the past or what’s currently happening in your business.

    Importantly, with NetSuite dashboards, you can conduct the financial planning that helps you achieve your company’s goals. You can conduct “what-if” financial modeling to help budgeting and forecasting, which allows you to plan your next move more effectively.

    The impact on your business is felt in several other ways.

    Employees can be more productive because you can reduce spreadsheet-based processes by up to 70%. With NetSuite, you’ll have one backoffice system that handles financials, fulfillment, inventory, and sales. Using real-time dashboards, scorecards, and KPIs you can constantly and accurately monitor the daily cash balance.

    You also enjoy reduced IT costs; it’s estimated that companies can save up to 93% in IT costs because they don’t have to maintain, integrate, and upgrade different applications that NetSuite does in one place.

    Next Steps

    If you’re ready to move out of the startup phase, it’s clear you need an ERP to help manage your business. But it’s not a matter of a simple download.

    In order to truly optimize this powerful tool, it’s best to engage an Authorized NetSuite Provider (ANSP) who can walk you through the process from concept to integration (including training) to ongoing servicing.

    An ANSP will ensure that companies realize their full “NetSuite potential.” Particularly, for companies that currently use NetSuite, engagement with an ANSP can be of tremendous value.

    Looking for an ANSP? Drop me an e-mail at pstroth@rubiconins.com, and I’ll send you the contact details for the leading ANSP in Silicon Valley.

  • Sub-$20 Million Dollar Deals Can Now Be Covered By R&W Insurance
    POSTED 7.16.19 Insurance, M&A

    As more players in the world of M&A come to realize its tremendous value, there have been several big changes in the use of Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance to protect Buyers and Sellers post-transaction. (Any financial loss resulting from a breach of the Seller’s representations in the purchase-sale agreement are paid by the insurer because they take on the indemnity obligation from the Seller.)

    I’ve mentioned previously that the number of insurance companies offering this specialized type of coverage is more than 20 today, compared to just four in 2014.

    There are also more policies being written than ever before. A part of that is the fact that just a few years ago insurers only felt comfortable insuring deals of $100M or more, and then only with audited financials.

    Now, they are offering coverage for deals under $20M… in fact, they’ll now go as low as $15M… without requiring a strict financial audit during the due diligence process.

    The reason? The R&W market has matured, so to speak. Insurance companies are more comfortable with it as they’ve had successful experiences with larger deals. Underwriters are familiar with the product and the claims process. (Only about 20% of deals result in claims.)

    Now, insurers are looking to increase their bandwidth and increase the number of clients they cover. And that means they have to look at smaller clients.

    The risks are smaller and can’t be mitigated as much as with larger clients. But by bringing down the rates enough, they can cover the small deals. And because the amounts involved are so low, there isn’t much financial risk.

    Still, sub-$20M deals are different in a few key ways:

    • Fewer insurance companies are willing to cover the small deals.
    • There are few Brokers who truly understand R&W insurance and have the right experience.
    • Of the Brokers who do understand it, there is an even shallower pool of those who are willing – or able – to do work on smaller deals. (Many Brokers prefer the larger risks – and the higher commissions – that come with the big transactions.)
    • Brokers working these small deals need to know which insurance companies will take on these deals and the Underwriters with the right experience on these policies.
    • In smaller deals, you have less experienced parties on the buy side and sell side. For most, it’ll be the first time they’ve encountered R&W insurance, and the Buyer is not inclined to learn about it, so it’s critical that an experienced broker is engaged to guide the parties through the process.
    • The Seller really drives demand on this product, often not being willing to move forward on a deal without it. And for good reason, as they can’t afford to have millions of dollars of exposure out there. They’re not serial entrepreneurs who can survive that loss. They’re ready to collect more cash at closing so they can pay out investors and move on with their lives.
    • Despite the smaller deal size, pricing is still in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, including all fees, premium, and taxes, which is similar to what policyholders pay for much larger deals. Insurers aren’t willing to take any less to make it worth their while.
    • Buyers must do third-party due diligence on the acquisition target’s tax situation, IP, financials, operations, HR, and more as those are the biggest exposures out there.

    There are many more M&A deals on the smaller side that don’t get the press of the big-name transactions. And I think the use of R&W insurance to cover transactions at any level can only go up as it becomes more well-known, especially among PE firms and VC funds.

    I’m an optimist by nature. But if there is a slowdown in the economy, you will see a lot of owners and founders running to the door to close out business – that’ll cause a spike in sub-$100M transactions.

    And in order to capitalize on their return and secure more cash at closing in uncertain economic times, they’ll want an R&W policy covering the deal.

    If you’re involved in an M&A deal under $20M and are interested in the protection that comes with Representations and Warranty insurance, I’d invite you call me, Patrick Stroth, at 415-806-2356 or send an email to pstroth@rubiconins.com. I’m experienced in deals of all sizes and I have the contacts at the insurers to secure the coverage you need.

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