When we talk about M&A, it’s tempting to focus on the deals involving PE and VC firms because this sector has had record activity in the last several years.
But let’s not forget another facet of M&A: corporate acquisition, by which a company buys another company or portion of that company (usually smaller than the Buyer) to expand their business. Technically, the Buyer has to purchase all or most of the shares of the target company.
The conditions are right for increased activity here:
Private equity gets all the attention… its share of M&A transactions is growing year after year. It’s “sexy.” But corporate acquisition still represents the majority of deals each year.
According to Pitchbook’s Annual M&A Report for 2018, here’s how many corporate acquisition deals there were in the U.S. and Europe for the last few years, along with the percentage of total deals they represented:
As you can see, Private Equity is closing in somewhat. But the corporate acquisition is holding strong.
We can see that corporate acquisition is a widespread practice. But why would a company decide to grow through acquisition rather than “organically?” It can be an ideal tool for growth. But it’s not taken lightly.
Corporations have whole departments dedicated to strategic acquisition strategy. There are several objectives but three main ones:
The idea is for the purchasing company to grow stronger, of course.
But the corporate acquisition isn’t without risks. That is why corporate acquirers should take a page from PE firms when it comes to protecting their deals with a specialized type of coverage: Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance. Savvy PE acquirers are increasingly using this type of coverage because deals today are so complex and fast-paced… and that means issues can be missed in the due diligence to the tune of millions, even billions, of dollars.
When this insurance is in place, if there is a breach of Seller Representations post-closing, a third-party, the insurer, pays the damages directly to the Buyer.
In addition, (R&W) insurance is low cost, makes for less contentious negotiations, and the Seller takes home more money at closing because less cash is held in escrow. And, unlike what you might have experienced with other types of insurance, R&W claims are paid in the vast majority of cases.
For more information on how R&W insurance can transform your next corporate acquisition, you can check out this special report that showcases all its benefits, the costs, and how to secure it.
This episode was originally published on May 23, 2018.
M&A activity has been heating up in the last few years… and 2019 is no exception. At the same time there has been a lot of movement in the healthcare sector, but due to its unique nature, special care has to be taken when dealing with acquisitions in this industry.
Patrick Krause, a director at investment bank MHT Partners focused on healthcare, has shepherded a lot of deals in this sector. He shares how he helps turn M&A transactions into win-win-win deals, where both Buyers and Sellers are happy – and patients benefit, too.
Tune in to find out…
Mentioned in This Episode: mhtpartners.com
Patrick Stroth: Hello there. I’m Patrick Stroth. Welcome to M&A Masters, where I speak with the top experts in mergers and acquisitions, and we’re all about one thing here, that’s a clean exit for owners and founders. This week, I’m joined by Patrick Krause. Patrick is a director of MHT Partners and also the co-head of their healthcare services. MHT Partners is an investment banking firm with offices in San Francisco, Dallas, and Boston. Patrick has advised on numerous transactions during his career, including sell-side and buy-side advisory work, as well as various strategic advisory assignments. Again, this is all exclusively within the healthcare sector. Patrick, welcome aboard today.
Patrick Krause: Well, thank you, Patrick. It’s a pleasure to sit down and chat with you a little bit here today. Hopefully, we can make it fun and informative for our listeners.
Patrick Stroth: I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Tell me now, how did you get started in investment banking in general, but then also specifically where you focused on one sector as an expertise, which is healthcare? Walk us through how you got there.
Patrick Krause: Happy to. So, I’ve spent the bulk of my career working at the confluence of healthcare, finance, and technology. Upon graduating from the University of Michigan, which seems like a million years ago, I came out to the Bay Area and really cut my teeth as a consultant working for Deloitte. I worked across a number of their different groups, but almost exclusively serving their large global healthcare clients, ranging from integrated models like Kaiser to large biotech companies like Gentech, Roche, and really everywhere in between on the healthcare value chain, hospitals, provider groups. It really gave me an opportunity to deepen my skillset there. The range of my assignments varied from technology implementations, to the development of financial controls, to audit work, so between the operational exposure and the ability to build a deep skillset, and then move to investment banking was a straight forward one.
I worked at a number of post-merger acquisition deals, diligence deals for private equity businesses, all related to healthcare, knew that I’d been bitten by the deal bug. At the time there was not an opportunity to do more transaction oriented work at Deloitte, so I went back to business school and got my MBA with the intent of getting more hands-on deal experience, either at a bank or as a corporate development officer at a business, and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do both. Prior to joining MHT Partners, I had a quick stop at Novartis’ Molecular Diagnostics Group doing some business development, corporate development work. Then, linked up with the founders of MHT Partners, as they were leaving their respective prior firms, to come onboard and help build-out our healthcare practice, which is what I do today. I lead our practice, and again, focus on serving founders, owners, entrepreneurs, private equity groups, as they seek to craft and execute healthcare strategies designed to maximize outcomes for the party.
Patrick Stroth: Well, I like how you went and characterized it, you got bit by the deal bug. I think that’s something that’s kind of common in this industry right now. As an investment banker, now your expertise is, not on the diagnostic side, but it’s helping owners and founders sell their businesses faster, and for a greater return, and making it overall smoother. Now, healthcare is very, very different from other sectors like tech or consumer products, okay? Both based on their ownership structure and then also operationally, there’s a lot less outsourcing that can be in done in healthcare. Why don’t you describe the differences between the healthcare sector versus pretty much any other sector out there?
Patrick Krause: Yeah. It’s certainly an interesting place to play as a banker. I think the realization that folks need to come to is, first and foremost it is, it’s a people driven business, whether they’re relying on providers to deliver great care or taking great care of your patients, it’s really driven by the interactions between different folks. Being able to speak the language of medicine and business helps bridge the gap. It helps to be more effective when you’re crafting the deal. Investing and healthcare is obviously a process which requires some thoughtfulness, just to ensure that you’re compliant with the rules and regulations that are in place in our country, generally speaking, with good reason. That is such that business concerns don’t necessarily drive medical decisions or outcomes.
We talked a little about this in prior conversations, to buy a healthcare company that actually is responsible for delivering care, a couple extra steps are involved. It’s not like, you know, a sales force going out and acquiring Realsoft, which just happened, or you negotiate a deal and you’re done, you can directly buy the company. Physicians and physician practices in this country are required to be owned by physicians, to be compliant with corporate practice of medicine. I’m not a lawyer, I’ll say that. I just play one on TV. A good transaction attorney can help you through all this, as well. But, in order for someone to directly invest in a private practice, there’s typically an interim step, whereby, we create a management service organization, or anther legal entity that that private equity group can invest in, that group does the administrative work and kind of back office work that physicians tend to loath, while the physician retains ownership of their business, and then signs an agreement to share revenue with the MSO, enabling the private equity group or other non-physician to invest in the brackets.
It’s a little more convoluted than a traditional sale. But, we found over the years, that it’s an effective way to get these deals done, appropriately align incentives, and really capitalize on the value proposition that we all believe in on these deals, which is, you free doctors up to focus on the delivery of high quality patient care, you hand-off some of the administrative tasks, and as you become a bigger organization, not only can you see more patients, make healthcare more accessible, hopefully, you make it more efficient and more cost effective for folks.
Patrick Stroth: Yeah. That’s something that, you know, you can only outsource so much of the admin work and the file keeping, and so forth. It’s the actually delivery of care, it’s impossible to outsource, but as you get larger groups, if groups come together, and organizations get bigger, there’s a lot more sharing, and it improves, like you said, the accessibility. That’s a real key point that is a big differentiator. The other thing we could get into a little later on, that you mentioned, is the regulatory burden is unavoidable in this sector. Now, my experience in the healthcare sector in the last 20 years is largely on the insurance side, doing the directors and the officers, and the regulatory, and cyber coverage, things like that. When I first got into the sector, I thought of two things. There were doctors and there were hospitals. That’s what every person sees on the street and everything. I didn’t realize that there’s this entire universe of other businesses like the MSOs that are established just to support, and facilitate, and supply the delivery of care.
Now, when we’ve spoken before, you have a real neat, clean way of dissecting that huge diverse universe into really simple to understand, I would say, buckets, for lack of a better word. Tell me about these buckets. What’s the differentiation between each, and then how are they exposed or not exposed or what are their big concerns facing an M&A transaction?
Patrick Krause: Yeah. I don’t think there’s a lot of original thought in this. This is how we at MHT have elected to kind of segment the healthcare universe.
Patrick Stroth: Oh, no. You take credit for it. You made a very user friendly way. So, go ahead and take credit for it.
Patrick Krause: Well, we have a fairly broad mandate in terms of where we like to play. That translates into four industries, sub-vertical. I’ll start with the first. It’s really been the cornerstone of our healthcare practice, and that’s specialty physician groups, whether it’s hospital-based specialties like anesthesiology, radiology, cardiology, or it’s more consumer-facing medical fields like dermatology, ophthalmology, dental, and physical therapy. We’ve seen a lot of activity in the space. I’ve done a number of deals in this space.
Key challenges there are, obviously, making sure that all the partners incentives are appropriately aligned, risk and compliance is appropriately addressed, and then making sure that you’re delivering high quality care. At the end of the day, as a physician, you’re only product is a satisfied customer, meaning, is a well patient or is a better patient, and really having that high touch, and focusing on people is important, and that drives the culture and the business. Making sure you get a group of physicians aligned with the same mindset is a big part of the battle.
But, certainly, an important part of healthcare system in this country, it’s the folks that are on the battle lines every day, taking good care of people. Gosh, it’s been a pretty exciting place to be an investor the last five or six years. I cannot think of a more active period of investment in that space in a long time.
The second industry vertical that we spend a lot of time on is post-acute care. It’s kind of a catchall for us. But what that means is, the treatment of folks outside of a hospital or clinical setting. It could be home health, it could be hospice, it could be behavioral health.
Patrick Stroth: Physical therapy too?
Patrick Krause: That’s more reliant on providers.
Patrick Stroth: Okay.
Patrick Krause: We tend to keep that in the first group, but point well taken. I suppose it could be in that bucket, as well. But, the element here, the interesting thing for investors has been a lot of the dynamic that we see in our country. For better or worse, we are a graying nation. Folks are getting older. Folks are needing to consume more healthcare services. A hospital is not always the best setting for that. It’s not your home. It’s expensive. It could be a risk of infection, just by being around people that are sick. Taking care of people in their home is a compassionate, cost effective way to deliver care. We see that as a pretty exciting area of growth in the coming years. It’s not without its challenges, as well. Reimbursements have stabilized over the past several years. But, a business that has yet to find a model where you can scale over larger regions, just because it’s so focused on the provision of care by a local population and skilled nurses, or physicians assistants to take care of people.
As you’re thinking about how to allocate risk, whether on a deal or after a deal has been identified, and you’re thinking about how to translate that allocation of risk into your purchase agreement, you need to make sure you’ve got a good handle on providers, credentialing, their past record, make sure that incentives are appropriately aligned, so that those providers stick around. Turn can be kind of a scary component in this industry.
Again, it all comes down to taking good care of the patients. I think culture is an important thing to look at when you’re evaluating any opportunity to doing a deal in this space, as well, it’s a good thing to take a look at. And, throwing a bone to Patrick, it’s one where insurance is your friend, and you have to make sure you have the right product in place, and risk appropriately identified, allocated, mitigated.
Patrick Stroth: Gotcha.
Patrick Krause: Last big bucket for us is technology driven products and services. That could be true healthcare IT point solutions or products geared towards serving commercial payers like revenue cycle management, billing, coding, scribing, things like that. Or, you could have a different risk profile. It’s more product driven and technology driven, so you want to make sure that there’s no infringement of IP, there’s kind of a uniqueness or a dependability to that technology. And, you want to make sure that you’ve got an exciting, addressable market to go after.
Last bucket, a smaller one, but one that’s important to us, as well, is other healthcare services. You’re familiar working in that space too. That could be pharma services, like CROs. It could be the delivery of goods and products to a hospital or a clinic, it could be some of those products themselves. It’s another area that we like. Again, just different risk profile in that it is not driven by people or providers per se, but by products and services. There a more traditional business risk profile exists around customer concentration, products, cost of acquiring or creating products, cost of selling products, all those good things.
But, it’s a broad mandate for us. It’s a great big world out there from a healthcare perspective. It continues to be an exciting place to play from and M&A perspective, from a strategy perspective. Gosh, we have a ways to go, but if we can take some of the other business principles from other industries and apply them to healthcare, hopefully, we can get better outcomes, make it more affordable, more accessible for everybody.
Patrick Stroth: Well, I think great item that you pointed out there, that a lot of people overlook, it’s more of a millennium-type of term is called culture. And, particularly in a post-acute care, where we’ve got nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and everybody can recall those terrible news stories about elder abuse and everything, and these disconnections within the system that doesn’t bring the care that should have been brought, a lot of that is cultural, and it’s just having that culture of wanting to deliver the best care, the best services, and stand behind it. You see the physicians are pressing that because it’s literally their name on the door or their name on the practice. As you get to these other things, I can’t tell you how you can possibly understate the importance in culture with the post-acute care because that’s where you’ve got behavioral health, you’ve got a lot of these other things that are the softer-type, longer term issues that you’ve got to keep that great sense of excellence. That’s great that you pointed that out with these.
As you look, because you’re dealing with the founders and owners, many of them are physicians, some of them aren’t, they’re in the medical tech area, what’s the difference, where some founders, they succeed in getting what they want out of their deal? They get it set up, they get what they want, and then their peers will struggle. Maybe you can differentiate it between a physician owned practices or physician owned companies and non-physician owned companies, but where’s the drop-off, where some struggle and others seem to get right to go, right to where they need to be?
Patrick Krause: Well, being ready, it’s kind of the biggest thing that you can do to be success in a transaction. I mean that in multiple ways. One, obviously, it’s important to have your house in order, to make sure that you’ve got processes documented, that you’ve got your financials cleaned up and on an accrual basis, if possible. But, I also mean, you need to be ready emotionally. In some instances, seek control of a business that you’ve built for 30 years. Be able to bring on a partner that is going to have thoughts on how you run your business, and be ready to let go on something that you’ve spent a career building. Some folks are ready to do that, others are less so. But, being able to really understand why you want to do a transaction, why it’s the right time, and being able to let go, so to speak, can help a lot.
A good advisor will be able to talk you through that. At the risk of seeming shamelessly self-serving, it’s very important to pick the right advisors to guide you through this process, accounting, financial, deal related. They’ll be a sounding board. They can help depersonalize a lot of the issues that come up on a transaction. Just like a good lawyer would not choose to represent themselves in a deal, a good advisor can kind of take you out of some of the more contentious conversations.
Patrick Stroth: I don’t want to interrupt you too much there, but I do want to really highlight this because I think it’s a real big point, of having somebody as a third party, intermediary there that can be diplomatic, can listen to the various players, and give honest feedback without being emotionally tied or defensive with the other sides, I think that’s a great role that experts like you play in this. This is a very emotional time, you may have different objectives on the seller’s side, and being able to negotiate within that selling team before going off to the buyer, I think is critical with what you do.
Patrick Krause: I couldn’t agree more. Just depersonalizing it, and knowing that somebody there’s to be your arms and legs will make all the difference in a transaction. There’s no secret to it. It’s hard work. Maybe that is the secret. It’s just like anything else, stay organized, be fair in your puts and your takes, and you’ll get through it. A lot of folks, it ends up being a great experience. It’s a chance for folks to realize some liquidity. It’s a chance for folks to effect a generational shift in their business, such that it survives beyond the first generation of the founders, or to find a partner to help grow and achieve the growth that you see for the business.
Patrick Stroth: I think another real big benefit of having someone like you involved is, for a lot of these, especially physicians, but a lot of these owner and founders, with some exceptions, this is their one deal. This is their one time. You’ve been involved in hundreds of these deals. I think, not only have you seen these processes work, you know who the real good buyers are, as opposed to the other buyers that may not have the best intentions in the world, and may make a perspective seller spin their wheels only to grind them down, where you’ve got others that they may not offer the best price outright, but they’re going to be a lot easier to deal with, and you know their buying habits.
Patrick Krause: That’s right. You make a great point there, Patrick. A good advisor, particularly one that focused on an industry, will have been down the road a few times with a few of the buyers that you’d be reaching out to in that process, give you insights into how to negotiate, what’s important to them. That in turn allows you to position a seller’s business to get the most of what’s important to you, the seller. A good banker or advisor will be able to help you do just that.
Another key consideration is whether you want to sell all of it, all your business, so to speak, or if you want to find a partner and continue to work with them to grow it. That can certainly influence your buyer choice, as well, whether you sell out entirely or you identify a partner to move forward with, can give you unique opportunities, different in several regards. But, I think the key point is a process, well-designed, will create options for you, such that you can evaluate buyers, you can match price points to roles going forward, such that you can get most of what you want. It might not be everything, but if you have a couple options to pick from, you can usually get what’s more important to you.
Patrick Stroth: Is there a particular size practice or metric for people that are listening that want to get ahold of you? What size practice or maybe value is an area that you fall in with your clients?
Patrick Krause: That’s a good question. I think there’s a degree or flexibility on our end in terms of the mandates that we take on, but I think if you were looking at averages for MHT Partners as a firm, we typically represent companies with around five million dollars in EBT, earnings before income, tax, and depreciation. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t work with bigger companies or smaller companies, just on average that’s where we tend to shake out. That’s more of a function of the lifecycle that the companies that we represent are in, right? They tend to be a little bit older and more established. The owners might be looking for an exit or a liquidity event and it just happens to be where they are. But, no hard and fast rules. The only real criteria for us is to work with great companies, niche market leaders in their states, and usually uniquely differentiated from their peers.
Patrick Stroth: The best way then for listeners then to decide whether MHT would be a fit for them is, they need to reach out to you directly. How can our listeners find you?
Patrick Krause: They can certainly find us on the internet, mhtpartners.com. You could always reach out to me directly. I’d welcome the conversation. You can call me in the office, that’s 415-446-9511 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to be helpful however I can be.
Patrick Stroth: Well, fantastic. Well, this is diverse, very technical, very specific type of area to get into. I’m sure a lot of people listening are going to have further questions for you. And so, I encourage everybody to reach out the Patrick. He’s going to be absolutely responsive and maybe there’s a fit, maybe not, but the thing is having a conversation with these experts, really enhances your chance of having a clean exit. I want to thank Patrick for helping us and sharing his knowledge with a very, very highly regulated technical industry that is enormous. We wish you all the best of luck, Patrick. Thanks again for joining us.
Patrick Krause: My pleasure.
In recent years, the number of companies with “institutional backing,” i.e. they are assets of Private Equity or Venture Capital firms, has grown dramatically. And that means that the number of companies backed PE and VC firms that are being acquired is increasing, too.
In fact, according to Pitchbook’s 2018 Annual M&A Report, there were a record number of those types of acquisitions in 2017 and the trend continued in 2018 with another record at 20%.
The simple fact that there are more of these types of companies, means more will be acquired.
But also consider that the target companies are more sophisticated than a typical founder-owned firm, making them more attractive to Buyers, who would rather deal with professional investors. This, of course, means savvy, experienced parties on either side of the table, leading to, as the Pitchbook report put it: “…increased price discipline, possibly leading to more aggressive price negotiation from Sellers and fewer cheap deals.”
But because these types of companies are enjoying increased valuation, Sellers are more likely to sell companies in their portfolio. Over half of PE-backed exits in 2018 involved sales to other PE firms, which is called a secondary buyout.
Of course, this means that the share of founder-owned businesses being acquired is shrinking. And although the percentage of publicly traded companies being acquired was actually increasing until 2018, this amount is expected to drop steadily as the number of publicly traded companies overall continues to decrease and economic uncertainty makes Buyers hesitant to make these sorts of deals.
But why are the numbers of PE and VC backed companies growing? In the case of VC especially, that funding source has become very popular among startups that are ready to scale up to either go public or be acquired (which is usually what happens).
Expect to see the acquisition of companies with institutional backing to continue in 2019. We’ll see if we have another record year.
One thing both Buyers and Sellers should consider in these types of deals where portfolio companies are changing hands is Representations and Warranty insurance.
With this coverage, if there is a breach of the Seller’s Representations, the insurer pays the financial damages suffered by the Buyer as a result of the breach.
In today’s complex deals, R&W insurance is a must in my mind for any M&A transaction. But it’s especially necessary when portfolio companies are being acquired. With a full portfolio, the Seller won’t know each individual business well… and might not recognize potential issues.
There’s been one case I’ve been keeping an eye on that’s a perfect illustration of this.
Back in 2013, Citadel Plastics Holdings, a portfolio company of PE firm, HGGC (formerly known as Huntsman Gay Capital Partners), acquired Lucent Polymers. Then in 2015, A Schulman Inc. bought Citadel. But the next year, A Schulman discovered that Lucent had falsified test results to show its products were Underwriters Laboratory certified. Next step, a lawsuit seeking $272 million in damages from Citadel Plastics that has yet to be resolved.
In this case, the PE firm didn’t know what its portfolio company was up to and paid the price. But, if there had been R&W coverage in place, there would be no legal issues because the insurance company would have paid the damages.
As a PE or VC firm looking at acquisitions in 2019, it’s clear that R&W insurance is the protection you need, especially when acquiring portfolio companies.
I’m happy to chat with you about what’s covered, the price, and the process for securing a policy – which is much cheaper and easier than you might think.
You can call me at 415-806-2356 or send an email to email@example.com, and we can set up a time to chat.
We’re living in a Golden Age of Mergers and Acquisitions. The numbers are in and… there were $2.2 trillion in M&A transactions in 2018 in the United States alone, compared to just over $2 trillion in 2017. That marks the fourth year where the level has breached $2 trillion.
Some other signs of this very healthy M&A environment:
Although there was a slight dip in 2018 in the number of deals done (11,208 compared to 12,647 in 2017), I expect this trend of increasing M&A activity to continue. Here’s why:
The consensus is that going forward in 2019 and beyond, we’re going to see more deals, and bigger deals. This is despite ongoing global economic uncertainty, rising interest rates, anti-trust issues, the impact of tariffs, capital market volatility, and some concern that the economic conditions that have driven the rising trend could turn.
A recent survey of 1,000 PE firms and M&A corporate executives conducted by Deloitte bears this out.
The main reason for this rising trend: the PE firms at the forefront have larger funds, and they’re not sitting on that money. They’re leading the charge. In fact, in that Deloitte survey, an impressive 94% of PE executives at funds over $5 billion expect more deals in 2019.
This is confirmed when you look at what’s happened over the last few years. According to PitchBook’s annual report, PE firms accounted for 34.2% of M&A deals in 2018; that share of the market has risen steadily since it was at 25.4% in 2015.
(Not to be discounted as an element of this trend, is the growing corporate M&A strategy of acquiring companies to expand their customer base and/or diversify their offerings. Corporations also have more cash on hand due to the recent tax reform. They view M&A as the best way to grow.)
Another trend we’ve seen, especially among savvy PE firms, is the increasing use of Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance to cover deals.
According to a study from Harvard Law School, the number of R&W policies written has grown from a few hundred just five years ago to more than 1,500 in 2017. Their report also notes that more than 20 insurance companies are now writing these policies.
Essentially, this specialized coverage puts the risk of breach of Representations in the hands of a third party: the insurer. That gives peace of mind to both Buyer and Seller and speeds up negotiations because a main sticking point, indemnity, is off the table.
The Seller gets more cash at closing because less money is held in escrow (and won’t be at risk if there is a breach). The Buyer won’t have to pursue the Seller in case of a breach; the insurance company will pay claims promptly. And with 19.4% of deals subject to a claim in 2018, at least at insurer AIG, it’s clear why this protection is important.
With the complexity of today’s deals, it’s easy to miss something in the due diligence process, and R&W insurance insulates you from that risk. And, it’s much more affordable than you might think.
If you’re part of this rising trend in M&A activity, you should consider making R&W insurance part of your next deal.
I’d be happy to discuss with you what these policies cover, how you apply, and the estimated cost. I can easily put together a quote with just a few pieces of information from you.
I can be reached at 415-806-2356 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Domestically, the trend for M&A is robust, with nowhere to go but up in the next year in terms of the number and size of deals. There were $2.2 trillion in M&A transactions in 2018, with six deals above $50 billion. That’s the fourth year in a row above $2 trillion. Median deal sizes are also going up, doubling in the last four years to hit $60 million in 2018.
It’s a rosy picture on the domestic front.
But when it comes to cross-border deals, in which a foreign company acquires a U.S. company, we have a seen a slowdown.
According to a recent report from PitchBook, cross-border activity decreased in 2018, hitting the lowest level in four years, continuing a trend that started in 2017. There were only 2,192 cross-border transactions worth $655.6 billion in 2018, compared to 2,983 in 2015.
There are a few factors at play here:
It’s important to note that European companies conduct the majority of M&A deals with U.S. companies. Mexico is also a major player, and continues to be, despite recent tension.
But China is the one to watch as until recently it was rapidly gaining ground, growing from just 1% of U.S. cross-border deals in 2010 to a high of 9.4% in 2016. But there is a slowdown there too, with only 5.6% of deals coming from China in 2018, no doubt the result of recent tariff disputes.
Let’s look closely at China.
Chinese companies are especially interested in anything related to technology: telecoms, aerospace, etc. And they had money to drive prices up to the point that domestic Buyers couldn’t keep up. That was the main factor in the meteoric rise up until 2016.
But now, they’re facing regulatory roadblocks, on top of trade tensions and tariff issues.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is the agency tasked with examining cross-border deals closely to ensure the transaction does not threaten national security and is in the best interest of the country.
I was actually involved in a deal where CFIUS got involved – luckily it was much smoother. Startup car rental company Silvercar, a U.S. company, was being bought by Audi through its U.S. subsidiary. But because Audi itself is a German company, CFIUS had to approve the deal.
Taken more seriously are instances where a U.S. tech company designs and manufactures communications equipment for the U.S. military. Being acquired by a Chinese company, which would then have access to classified data, would be a no-go, according to CFIUS.
If this seems familiar, you might have seen Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which makes smartphones and other devices, in the news recently. The U.S. has accused the company of espionage and being a threat to the country’s national security because of its alleged business deals in Iran that violated sanctions against that country. This culminated in the arrest of the CEO in Canada back in December, with anticipated extradition to the U.S.
The company and the Chinese government contend they are being unfairly targeted and have filed suit in the U.S. Whatever the case may be, or how this plays out, it’s clear this tension isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Concerns over Chinese purchases of U.S. companies isn’t limited to technology or aerospace. Technology is getting embedded into traditional industries such as transportation, industrial, manufacturing and agriculture, so involvement by CFIUS will only increase.
Whatever the causes of the general slowdown in cross-border deals (exacerbated by the U.S. government shutdown, during which there were no CFIUS reviews done), I believe that this could mean opportunity.
When deep-pocketed foreign companies are taken out of the equation, at least to some extent, that puts U.S. Buyers in a better position to land deals at better prices. I expect to see a continued growth in domestic M&A activity in the coming year.
For more analysis on why domestic M&A will continue its upward trend, be sure to download my free report: The 13 Factors Contributing to the M&A Boom
What did due diligence in M&A deals look like before virtual data rooms? Teams of lawyers and other experts combing through paper files stacked floor to ceiling in a conference room.
With the virtual data room, explains Darryl Grant of Toppan Merrill, those days are long gone.
Today, sharing a company’s financials, contracts, and other pertinent information with potential buyers is a simple matter of uploading some documents and sending an email.
We talk about how this speeds up the process and ensures transactions move more quickly through the marketplace, as well as…
Mentioned in This Episode: www.toppanmerrill.com
Patrick Stroth: Hello, there. I’m Patrick Stroth. Welcome to M&A Masters, where I speak with the leading experts in mergers and acquisitions, and we’re all about one thing here. That’s a clean exit for owners, founders, and their investors. Today I’m joined by Darryl Grant, Senior Vice President of the newly minted Toppan Merrill. Toppan Merrill provides innovative SaaS solutions that deliver high fidelity SEC regulatory filings, XBRL solutions, and virtual data room due diligence services.
Darryl co-leads Toppan Merrill’s Bay Area capital markets team working directly with C suite execs, law firms, corporate finance, and legal departments to manage IPOs, mergers, spinoffs, along with all routine SEC filing requirements. Today, we’re focusing on Toppan Merrill’s virtual data room, or as the millennials like to say, VDR services, along with due diligence services for mergers and acquisitions. Darryl, welcome to the podcast and thanks for joining me today.
Darryl Grant: Thank you for having me.
Patrick Stroth: To give our audience a little bit of a context about you before we get into all things Toppan Merrill, tell me what led you to this point in your career.
Darryl Grant: A long journey, but we’ll try to keep it as brief as possible. I started out my career in New York City in the late ’90s back in 1999 just before the 2000 stock market bubble crash and etc. I always wanted to be in the capital markets. My college career and finance training gave me the aspiration of being an investment banker, but I ended up deciding to become a financial printer.
My first IPO was Intercontinental Exchange, who later went on to acquire the New York Stock Exchange. Once I did that first IPO, it led me to want to do more in the space and have an opportunity to do some of the most largest mergers in stock market history, including the market sharing cloud merger, the Pfizer YF merger, and most notably, the JP Morgan Chase Bank One merger. I came to climb the ladder, working for customer service, and to various management roles, including leading our XBRL efforts for a company called Bowen in New York City.
Then, five years ago, I moved here to Silicon Valley and I took a role as an internal global account manager working with capital markets accounts for companies that were going through a scale of acquisitions, spinoff, etc. Then I landed here in Merrill about two and a half years ago as senior VP, formerly managing director, and I got a taste of what it meant to really support companies because in this role I’m responsible for connecting our clients with solutions that fit their most prominent needs. And because we talk about M&A space, the Merrill virtual data room has been a market leading product for the last 15 years. It’s just been sensational to support companies going through an M&A do due diligence with their technology.
Patrick Stroth: It’s interesting you mention that you’d been working with financial printers and then moved over into this other space. Even though we’ve gone from a very paper-intensive to a “paperless” world, it’s amazing how much there’s a need for the printers and the record keepers, record makers, in the support services, isn’t it?
Darryl Grant: It really is. The world of virtual data rooms really kicked off back around the time that Enron was going through their challenges, and it was a lot of due diligence that was required, as you would think, with a transaction that size. Even in that time, the virtual data room didn’t exist. People still flew into large conference rooms reviewing banker boxes full of documents with someone guarding the door to make sure that no lawyer, investor, banker, etc., were to leave with any of those very sensitive documents.
You can imagine what that looked like over the course of the weeks, these papers getting wrangled and also searching for specific information within these large conference rooms, sometimes banker boxes to the ceiling full of documents. But Enron tapped Merrill and drew other companies, and we put together what was then one of the first virtual data rooms in the market. Fast forward to today, everything’s done digital. All of these transactions are moving quickly through the marketplace as a result of stakeholders having instant accessibility and also tracking mechanisms in place to a proprietary virtual data room like Merrill’s.
Patrick Stroth: Wow. So you could say that, while Enron may have spawned a lot of negative things, specifically I’m thinking about Sarbanes-Oxley and the big regulatory environment that followed right after, one of the good things was that technological emergence of an electronic room to replace the banker’s box. So that’s a nice byproduct from Enron.
Darryl Grant: Absolutely.
Patrick Stroth: I think that’s a great story to bring forward. I’m going to totally steal that from you. For our listeners of the podcast, at least they’ll know where I came up with that idea. What types of deals or industries are best suited for using a data room? We understand that the data room is there and it’s replacing those warehouses in law firms or whatever with the big box of information. But are there particular deals, types, sizes, or industries that are better suited, or is this one size fits all?
Darryl Grant: It’s one size fits all. The beauty of our technology is that it can fit mergers such as a LinkedIn Microsoft, which is a massive acquisition between two companies and merger. We were fortunate enough to have our technology be a part of that process. But it could scale down to a $10 million acquisition, or it can be a sell-side event. It can be if you’re a life science company, in licensing, out licensing of your drug products. It can be used for FDA approvals as a portal in that space. It’s really more if it’s in multiple communication pools. Sideline topic, it can be used for fundraising if you are going through an equity event where you’re raising capital for venture firms or others.
Any matter of due diligence where you are thinking about sharing sensitive documents that you want no one else in the world to see outside of your firewall, virtual data rooms are the perfect lock box to invite parties in and give you full visibility as to what those parties are looking at and how long they’re looking at specific pages, which gives insightful intelligence around the interest of those investing parties now allowing you as the seller of your assets to have full transparency into what people are doing, and that’ll give you some foresight into what questions they may ask you, which now facilitates the deal. So we’ve seen deal traction actually accelerate through our virtual data room technology.
Patrick Stroth: I can imagine, yeah. I would almost describe as, while it is a data room, I would almost re-characterize it as a data vault because of the security and stuff. I want to skip a little bit ahead on some of my notes with this. Our listeners can’t see what a data room is. I mean, conceptually, you get an idea that this is an electronic version of having all of your records in one spot, maybe like a Dropbox but a very secure one.
But for our listeners who can’t really see what a data room looks like, why don’t you describe just how the process works from opening an account, how documents are put in there, how security is done, how access is granted? Because I know there are different levels of security where you can have certain general files accessible to multiple parties and then keep everything else confidential, and then open up permissions and tracking who looks at. Walk me through that, as a prospective customer, how you would onboard somebody and what would it look like.
Darryl Grant: The onboarding process … Thank you, Patrick … is very straightforward in the spirit of today’s business applications, or email. Let’s say you’re the user. The first thing you would get is a link from our team, inviting you into your virtual data room after it’s been set up. You open up that link and it would immediately take you to your log-in page. From that log-in page, you would create your username and password, log in, you’ll have your Terms and Conditions that will be already pre-populated, you accept those terms and conditions.
It’s usually you can set it up as a user, as an administrator, you can set it up as a one-time click or you can make parties agree to this due diligence disclosure every time you log in. But once you’re in the room, you’re essentially looking at the entire landscape of what you would need. So left, there’s a file folder structure already laid out which tells you what the hierarchy of your respective index is for your virtual data room, and that’s something that can be set up by our team, set up by the individual user. You would simply just right click and it’s updating information through your keyboard.
Once you’re in that room, if you, say, had 5,000 to 10,000 or 20,000 pages of documents that are on your desktop or in your internal hard drive set up in a folder, you can simply drag and drop that entire folder as it stands with all of the internal folders, hierarchy, indices, labeled, and all the documents included would move right into that virtual data room as they were on your desktop, which is easy to set up.
Then, once set up, you add users. Those users are then … You can grant those users access on multiple levels. You could say, if you print or download, or even more exciting in today’s world is you can have administrative rights to revoke access from folks. With those options, you say, “Okay, these guys are just being introduced to our data room. We don’t want them to see too much. You have view only access.” Now, the deal starts to heat up and you say, “Okay, you can have view, print, and download access.” And now the deal’s really taking root and you’re excited and traction is there and you say, “Okay, I want that download access but I still would like control,” you can set your permissions to the extent that when that party downloads that document you still have control over that document remotely.
So if the deal dies, if things pivot, you can revoke access without having access to their computer. You can do it all through a desktop through our virtual data room. It is the most secure platform on the market. It has all of the certifications, including ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type 2, GDPR, and extensively there’s penetration tests done on our platform on a monthly basis to ensure that we have the highest security in the marketplace. That’s generally how it would feel as a user and some of the security components that ensure that all system documentation is kept safe.
Patrick Stroth: I can imagine just the usages come up. Can you give me a feel for the growth of usage with virtual data rooms from your experience?
Darryl Grant: Exponentially, everyone who is entering into a sell-side or a buy-side event generally would have a banker that they have advocating, help them facilitate the transaction. The banker, nine out of ten times, well, ten out of ten times these days, will say, “Hey, you need to get an enterprise-grade data room,” which would be us or one of our peers, ours being the leading product in the market today.
Now, there’s obviously other different technologies that are out there that … Well, actually, ironically, they in some ways found our niche when you talk about the consumer versions of the box, Dropbox just by name. I have nothing against those firms, but the file sharing environments really started, as I mentioned earlier, dating back to those earlier days around Enron. At Merrill, we never took it down a consumer route but for an M&A transaction that data room is now being used, our technology or our peers, for nearly 100% of the transactions out there in the marketplace, especially if it’s of the magnitude of the LinkedIn Microsoft or NetSuite Oracle, just a few that we’ve done.
Patrick Stroth: Yeah, it’s become virtually ubiquitous. It’s a check the boxes. This is one of your must-haves you have to have. Otherwise, you run the risk of, if you want to put your company off for sale, you’re going to have prospective buyers and they’re going to need information and you can’t field all those requests and then respond real-time for them. It’s better if it’s off at a secure location. You’ve got somebody else monitoring it. So it’s just a logical first step. How would you say that Toppan Merrill’s different from other virtual data rooms?
Darryl Grant: One clear differentiator that jumps off the page is the speed of our technology. It’s the result of a significant investment, a re-architecture which has taken about four years to come to market and has been in market for over a year now, that is 5X faster than our room and we’ve done speed tests on other platform of our peers and we’re close to 5X faster than any of those others. So speed is one of the key factors.
Another key factor is security. It is the most secure platform in the market as far as we can tell based on our penetration testing and also our certifications. I think the third and the biggest component, which our customers tend to lean on more than they plan to before they open up that room, is our service. Our 24/7 service operations are there to support our clients.
It’s not a paid service, so they can call and use these services as much as they need. And what does service mean? If you need to have documentation uploaded, our team can do that for you. If you need to add users, our team can do that for you. If you want to delete users, our team can do that for you. If you want to prepare an index for a specific transaction because we’ve seen thousands and thousands of these transactions we know what these indices look like and your index for what documents you should be including in your due diligence.
A lot of times we put things in front of clients and they’ll say, “Wow, I forgot to include X, Y, and Z. Thank you.” Our team can do that. And furthermore, we offer a consultation to say what the timing typically would look like in terms of setting up your room, executing your room, inviting users, and etc., and also the reporting systems which is like no other. We have dashboards that will show you down to the page level how users are behaving and interacting with your sensitive documentation.
That visibility is leading the market in very impactful ways, and our customers have intelligence to the extent that today’s being Wednesday. If you have a call scheduled on a Friday, you can go into this data room on Thursday night and see exactly what investors are looking at so when that call happens on Friday, you’re way ahead of every question that they’re asking because you can see where they’re spending their time, and that’s been very valuable.
Patrick Stroth: I can imagine that. I mean, if you’re looking at a potential M&A transaction with a competitor, let’s say, and you can see how much time is the competitor looking at your schedules and looking at your financials as opposed to looking at your client list. You can get some insights there, I think, is helpful. That, I think, also you just dovetailed into it on your due diligence services. Because you’ve seen thousands and thousands, literally, of these transactions, you know what information is critical and what information’s nice to have but it’s not as essential.
That also helps with the sophistication and how serious you are as a player in M&As. If you’re prepared, you’ll have all the documents lined up, and I think it’s helpful having used a sounding board to say, “Hey, we just checked the list of all the stuff. Why isn’t this here?” It may be material, may not. But that’s nice having that extra set of eyes looking over your materials as you get ready to essentially stage your house for sale.
Darryl Grant: Absolutely.
Patrick Stroth: Well, you kind of referenced into this because you have seen literally thousands of M&A deals, probably more in the last couple years than you have previously. Can you give us any insight on any trends you’re seeing in tech, investors in M&A in general? What have you seen in terms of either deal flow, deal size, just snapshot of a trend that would be helpful for the audience just to be aware of this, as somebody who’s seen thousands of these deals?
Darryl Grant: Yeah, I think what is really compelling is, use an example, what happened with Adaptive Insights recently. They were three days away from ringing the bell in New York and they were acquired by Workday. So what we’re seeing is that once companies disclose their financials, etc., through an S-1 filing with the SEC and that public filing, then buyers tend to line up and the opportunities for a sell-side event tend to increase, especially in the life science space. But when you talk about tech companies, that is, I think, becoming more and more prominent.
But furthermore, we talk about M&A transactions and trends, they’re … I think this is tried and true that most companies will exit via sell-side compared to those who will exit via IPO. I think those trend lines are still strong and we don’t see much of a divergence from historical traction in that regard. I think something that’d be interesting for the audience to know in terms of in the day, is that the devaluations we see are equally staggering as you would anticipate with comparing them to prior rounds and equity raises. We’re starting to see a lot of companies really maximizing their value in an M&A environment as opposed to, say, an IPO.
Patrick Stroth: I mean, last year, 2018, how many IPOs were there, like 30? As opposed to maybe …
Darryl Grant: I think if we look at the global stats, it’s somewhere north of 270. I think locally in the Bay Area it was just north of 30. Last year was a strong year for IPOs, and I think 2019 has the legs to replicate a lot of what happened last year and potentially break some of those records, even with the government shutdown because we’re still very early in the year. But overall, you’ll see a lot more sell-side M&A events than you will these larger-
Patrick Stroth: Oh, I think, yeah. I forget which organization it was, Middle Markets Magazine or whatever. One of those sources quoted that it was about roughly between 1,000 and 1,200 middle market M&A transactions happening per quarter, steadily for the last couple of years. So there are exponentially more M&A transactions than there are IPOs, and that’s a great insight that once you get out there with your S-1 filing, you pretty much hard and fast set a rate, and if somebody can go north of that, that’s a great buying opportunity out there.
Darryl Grant: Absolutely. And then furthermore, we look at companies that are going through these sell-side events. It’s competitive. Your strategic partner or buyer is looking at multiple companies within your space and they’re intelligent about the space that they’ve already been shopping for a while, which typically most companies are, and their analysts are sharp. So you do want to gain an edge. However that you can gain that edge is smaller than they seem, it can move the needle. And if you’re showing up to a buyer with an unsophisticated data room that’s generally used for consumer usage, it does give you a disadvantage. So using the enterprise-grade data room, not because it’s a product of ours. It’s not why we recommend it. I truly recommend it because I know for certain that it does facilitate a better deal outcome for anyone selling their company.
Patrick Stroth: I don’t think there’s any better reason in M&A when you have a service out there to consider as the judge of whether or not the service is accurate is, does it make consummating a deal and successfully closing easier or harder? And if it’s the former, you go with it. If it’s the latter, you stay away. It’s just that simple.
Darryl Grant: Absolutely, and buyers are smart. They do due diligence all the time. So when they receive a link from, say, a Toppan Merrill data room or they see our data site one, “Okay, this company is on it. They’re sharp. What we’re potentially going to buy has been securely managed, so I feel good about this transaction already.” Versus the three other links that they may get that may not be enterprise-grade data rooms. Your company may not be on par in terms of value, but yours certainly gets a better look and a more sophisticated look when you use enterprise-grade data rooms. My mother used to always say, “Don’t be penny rich and dollar poor,” so it’s worth a spend.
Patrick Stroth: That’s absolutely correct. Another quick thing on the trends. Give me a balance between financial buyers and strategic buyers like corp dev or whatever. Are you seeing changes in the amount? Who needs who in terms of the number of transactions, corp or private equity or financial buyers?
Darryl Grant: I think the splits are … I wait for the numbers to flesh out. I think they’re pretty much on par with what we’ve seen in the past. The CDC space has grown exponentially. I think every large multinational or large corporate firm issuer has a venture arm and they look at strategic ways to grow because organic growth is somewhat easier that way sometimes instead of doing all of the development yourself. I think that those trend lines will continue to grow, and we’ve seen them grow over the last couple of years. But private equity’s still very much involved in the space. They are experts in some areas in terms of maximizing value and turning companies around, so I think we’ll continue to see that.
Sometimes it happens strategically, like Cavium recently was acquired and part of that acquisition was intentional by both parties because the private equity firm has some specialties that help them accelerate what they were planning to do with their products. I think we’ll continue to see CDCs and strategics be more engaged and involved in their buying habits, and they’re getting in a lot earlier. They’re very much engaged into Series A, Series B, Series C companies to build a rapport and relationship with founders, and they’ll be a part of introductory and support them prior to a and acquisition, whereas private equity tends to participate a little bit later sometimes. But strategically, I think over time we’ll continue to see more and more corporations buying other companies and leading that trend.
Patrick Stroth: All of that is good for us in the M&A business, so appreciate all that and some great insights here today from Darryl Grant. Darryl, how can our audience reach you to go get a demo of Toppan Merrill’s data room or the other services they have, just to kick the tires and see how it could work for them? How can they get ahold of you?
Darryl Grant: Absolutely. If you’re looking to get in touch with me, you can reach me on email at Darryl, D-A-R-R-Y-L, Grant, G-R-A-N-T, @toppanmerrill.com, T-O-P-P-A-N, M-E-R-R-I-L-L, .com. If that’s too much, just reach me on my mobile directly at 917-847-4111. I’m a native New Yorker and I can’t let my New York phone number go, so I’ve been in the Bay Area for five years. Your best bet on reaching me is there.
Patrick Stroth: Excellent. Darryl, thank you again, and we’ll be talking to you for other insights on Toppan Merrill. Have a good afternoon, Darryl.
Darryl Grant: Thank you so much.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on oil and gas markets, you know there was a significant drop in oil prices in 2014, starting in June of that year. No news there. From a 3 ½ year average of $110 per barrel, prices fell steadily, hitting a low of $29 in 2016.
This had wide-ranging repercussions, of course. But let’s focus here on how investors reacted.
For starters, Master Limited Partnerships, which had been a favored investment for more than two decades and had benefited from the Shale Revolution, were hit hard, with many going bankrupt or facing restructuring.
The fall of MLPs set the stage for opportunity. And, from 2014 onward, Private Equity filled in the gaps and has made increasing investments in this sector as the downturn continued.
What happened to MLPs, which were the structure historically used by “midstream” companies that transport and store oil and gas? Even as oil prices rise, they haven’t regained their popularity.
The most recent tax reform bill reduced some of the tax advantages they had over corporations, for one. Then rising interest rates made other investments more attractive.
Fast forward to present day and MLP’s loss is PE’s gain as the price of oil increases. Since the bust, PE firms have been investing in smaller acquisitions through portfolio companies and snapping up acreage at discounts during the oil bust. And now they’re getting ready to cash in.
There are some obstacles in the form of a slow-down in M&A in the energy sector in the last year or so.
But, inevitably, these conditions are changing. The energy market, especially oil and gas, are irrepressibly cyclical in nature. So, while M&A activity has been slow recently, there are numerous signs of an increase in the coming year:
Look for Private Equity to lead the charge in M&A in the energy space for two reasons.
1. All the dry powder. Investors don’t want to sit on the money; they want to invest and make it work for them.
2. The availability of companies for sale at bargain prices due to the downturn.
While opportunities abound, the scale of capital required compels players to use caution.
Here’s what you need before engaging in any Mergers and Acquisitions in the energy industry:
You need the right advisors. You must have an investment banker with experience in energy and an M&A lawyer experienced in doing your type of deal. Don’t be scared of high fees from these experts – it’s worth it because they know the network and the relatively small energy M&A community.
It’s unlike other industries in that, because of the hundreds of millions used in capital projects, one little “mistake” could cost millions. The energy industry has its own language and legal/regulatory requirements. It’s complicated. Savvy Buyers seek expert help when conducting due diligence on potential acquisitions and during the transaction.
But it doesn’t hurt to have some extra protection for peace of mind.
This is why Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance is essential to cover deals in this industry and is increasingly used.
An R&W policy removes the risk from the transaction from either Buyer or Seller and shifts it to a third party – the insurance company, who pays out if there are any breaches post-closing.
When Private Equity is on the sell side, they want a clean exit and the ability to distribute the proceeds to their investors quickly. R&W coverage accomplishes that by ensuring less money is held in escrow. And M&A is a great way to reduce risk and get a clean exit with no worry about clawback. Not to mention, it makes for much smoother, less contentious negotiations.
My recent podcast interview with Jimmy Vallee, partner in the M&A and Energy practices at the Houston office of law firm Paul Hastings, was invaluable in gauging where the energy sector is today and where it’s going – and why.
You can get more details here: http://www.paulhastings.com/home.
There’s been a lot of talk lately that M&A activity will trend downward in the coming year because of…
These factors do have an impact on the economy, but I think the impact on M&A specifically has been vastly overstated. It’s not hard to see why, when you consider those issues popped up in the last 60 days of 2018. It was overwhelming bad news in a short timeframe. It made people nervous.
But, when you look at current real market factors, the same ones that made 2018 a banner year for M&A, you’ll see that the same conditions are projected for 2019.
In the first nine months of 2018 alone, there were $1.3 trillion worth of deals for American companies. If you look at the worldwide figure – it’s $3.3 trillion.
This is the most in the four decades that records of M&A transactions have been kept.
There may not be a mad frenzy of buyers, because they have so many options for acquisitions. But especially for transactions in the $50 million to $300 million range, it’s going to be a good year.
Corporate America and private equity firms have plenty of cash on hand, popularly known as dry powder, and they’re spending it to increase their market share, obtain valuable intellectual property, and more. As of June 2018, there was more than $1.8 trillion in capital waiting in the wings, which is a record.
Investors are also driving this trend, as when they give money to a PE firm, they expect them to buy something. Investing in other companies is a more efficient – and profitable – use of the money than sitting on it. That’s the attitude. And with so many attractive acquisition targets (see #4 and #5 on this list), who can blame them.
It’s true that interest rates have gone up. The Fed raised its benchmark rate to 2.5% in December 2018 and has announced plans to go to 3% in 2019. This is up from a low of 0.25% in 2008, at the kickoff of the Great Recession. It’s gradually gone up since then, starting with a hike to 0.5% in December 2015.
But, when you look to the past, you’ll see that current interest rates are actually quite low in comparison. In 2007, the rate hovered around 5%. It was at nearly 10% in 1989. And in the late 1970s, early 1980s, rates were all over place, ranging from 8% to over 20%.
Today’s interest rates are tame by comparison.
The M&A market has been very seller-friendly based on macro issues, including the use of auctions rather than negotiated sales and an increase in private buyers. But this year things are going to even out, and may even tip to a more buyer-friendly market.
It’s all that dry powder. Buyers have all this cash and are getting more favorable valuations for target companies. Something that was valued at five times earnings is, in this climate, valued at four times earnings.
Another factor here is that Boomer business owners are ready to retire and looking for an exit. They’re ready to sell now. And Buyers know it.
More than ever, companies today are being created and carefully built for acquisition, not an IPO. I’m not talking about the headline-garnering acquisitions like Disney buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion back in 2012.
The real heroes are those companies that get sold in the $50 million range. These deals just don’t get the press, even though they’re often very beneficial to investors and Sellers.
Imagine two scenarios. In the first, you’re an investor in Uber, which is planning to go public later this year. Consider your return on investment with a small piece of the Uber pie and compare it to having a 40% stake in a small tech firm that gets bought for $50 million.
In one recent case, a tech company was sold for $80 million. Husband and wife owned it 100%. They would have never gone IPO. But, by building a solid company, they were able to be acquired for a tidy sum. And with the proceeds, they were able to give $1 million to each of their 15 employees.
In the current market, more companies are simply well managed and well run, with professional and effective leadership. Management is given the resources it needs to be successful. And good ideas are supported.
The days of the Dotcom era where companies were slapped together, investor money was thrown around freely, and “management” was a dirty word are long gone.
This means there are plenty of solid companies with good financials and management teams out there, ripe for acquisition. And often management stays on in the transition.
All these factors provide a rich environment for M&A that is strong and sustainable. And there are more that I believe are contributing to an ongoing M&A boom.
To get the full list, just get this free download:
This episode was originally published on October 3, 2018.
Many technology companies are sitting on an untapped resource that could add 5%, 10%, 20%, or more to their company’s value, says Dr. Elvir Causevic, managing director of Houlihan Lokey’s Tech and IP advisory department.
Problem is that if you wait until you have an M&A deal… all that value is lost to you – it automatically goes to the buyer.
Elvir and his colleagues have been innovating a new way to make sure companies, especially those in Silicon Valley, avoid that fate. And we go through that process, step-by-step. It’s actually pretty straightforward once you know the trick.
There is an insurance product that almost every business in the healthcare sector and even individual providers needs, especially those that bill patients and payors (like insurance companies or the government through Medicare).
It’s just as important as malpractice insurance. And, if you’re ever thinking about selling your dental practice, doctor’s office, or other medical business, it’s critical you get this coverage right away.
It’s called Healthcare Regulatory and Billing Liability insurance.
Even if a company in healthcare isn’t directly billing patients, they could still be at risk. Anybody providing resources to care for patients should be covered, and it’s not just those who provide care for patients directly.
This episode was originally published on August 29, 2018.
In an era when few companies go IPO and there are even fewer unicorns, M&A is more popular than ever, says Mihir Jobalia, a veteran of KPMG’s Silicon Valley operation.
In fact, among VC-backed companies in the last 10 to 15 years, he estimates that more than 90% exit through M&A. And business in the last few years has been especially good.
We dive deep into what makes the current environment so appealing to M&A, who the big players are, and best practices for companies hoping to exit with this strategy.
You’ve seen the commercials on TV.
You visit a website and easily apply for insurance for your home or car, getting quotes from multiple companies at the same time. Some types of health insurance even work like this.
The advantage of these online marketplaces is you don’t have to go through the time-consuming process of calling or visiting an agent to get your policy… who might even try to upsell you on other services. It can be a real chore.
I have no problem with this so-called “insurtech” when it’s used to secure these relatively simple types of “consumer” insurance faster and easier.
When it comes to any sort of insurance product with the least bit of complexity, however, insurtech should be just a first step to give you a ballpark idea of what’s out there.
And, you need an expert helping you in person when you go beyond this Step 1 to ensure you get the coverage you need.
Take the popular online legal services website, LegalZoom. They make it super easy to set up articles of incorporation. But if you’re a startup looking to attract serious investors, doing so would lose you all credibility. And you couldn’t be certain your business was structured correctly.
With insurance, you could potentially go “DIY” and try to do your own research to figure out which option is best for you as far as type of policy and level of coverage. But if something goes wrong down the line and you discover a certain risk isn’t covered, it’s all on you.
You could sue the insurance company but… good luck there.
You need an expert who does this for a living and knows specialized types of insurance like Representations and Warranty (R&W), which covers M&A transactions, as well as Directors and Officers liability insurance, Cyber Security insurance, and more, inside and out.
If you deal with a broker, you not only have an expert to answer questions. The broker is also accountable. By law, they have a fiduciary responsibility to look after your best interests. If they make a mistake, you have someone to go after.
These brokers may not be available 24/7 like an online marketplace, but they have the specific information you need and the answers to your complicated questions, backed up by years of experience dealing with these issues every day. That peace of mind is priceless when so much money is on the line.
And, speaking of money, the difference in what you’ll pay in fees for an online marketplace versus an in-person broker is not as much as you might think. A bargain compared to the millions of dollars that change hands in a typical M&A deal.
When you use a broker, you get responsiveness and expert-level input to make sure you get the right policy.
Let’s use an example from the auto insurance world.
On-line auto policies provide Liability and coverage for physical damage to the car (Comprehensive/Collision coverage), which most buyers understand. To keep costs down, buyers only select the coverages they think they need at the lowest Limit possible to comply with the law.
The danger, is these “optional” coverages purchased at levels solely dictated by price, can leave drivers seriously unprotected.
In the case of Uninsured motorists – a driver will be left paying his medical bills and those of his passengers if his car is struck by someone with little or no insurance (think drunk driver).
Worse is when young adults (the “m-word”) living in their parents’ home purchase a tiny amount of insurance thinking they have no net worth at risk. They later find a court will likely allow attorneys to pursue their parents’ home for compensation because of their residence – so the house is “fair game”.
This is no problem when there is a savvy broker involved. They’ll ask the questions necessary to understand what’s at stake and they can provide complete explanations of coverage, so buyers can make an informed decision.
When it comes to complex insurance like Directors and Officers liability and R&W, only where the needs are very simple can I say that insurtech is the way to secure a policy.
The vast majority of situations and transactions are much too complex. In the case of R&W insurance, this coverage is intimately intertwined with an M&A deal and is a major component of the negotiations. Underwriters need quite a bit of information before they’re confident in writing your policy. That’s not something you can handle online.
In these cases, you need someone on your team who can put together a “patchwork” of different coverages and policies so there are no gaps… and no overlapping that causes you to pay too much.
The layman can’t read through the policies to figure that out on their own. This complexity is why brokers are licensed and regulated.
If you’re looking at securing a specialized type of insurance like Representations and Warranty, Directors and Officers liability, or Cyber Security, bypass the online portals and talk with an expert.
I’m happy to jump on the phone or answer your questions by email. You can reach me at (650) 931-2321 or email@example.com.
A phishing attack on UnityPoint Health, a hospital and clinic system in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa in March 2018 resulted in 1.4 million patient records being compromised.
In April 2018, hackers were offering up 5 million credit and debit cards online to the highest bidder, stolen from luxury department stores Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Where is Silicon Valley headed in 2019… and beyond?
As with any forecast, you first have to look to the past and the present day to get a sense of what trends will continue, and what surprises we might find in the future.
I recently sat down with Bob Karr, founder and CEO of business-focused social network, Link SV, to get his thoughts on what he sees as the most important trends that will impact the Valley.
They run the gamut, from staffing to mergers and acquisitions.
If you run a startup, work in tech, or invest, this is a must read to get an idea of fundamental shifts that are changing the way you do business.
As Bob notes, some people these days are building companies to pass down to their kids; the classic family business. Others are trying to create major companies that they hope will grow big enough to go public…a unicorn like Uber, in other words.
Silicon Valley is obviously on the forefront of technology. What’s not as clear is how to keep track of trends, new companies, key players, and all the rest, especially since it’s always changing.
That’s why Bob Karr created LinkSV, a Valley-centric, comprehensive, and constantly updated social network. We talk about how to get the most out of LinkSV, whether you’re a service provider, startup looking for an angel, an investor looking for an acquisition, and beyond.
When it comes to M&A transactions, the relatively low cost of Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance makes it a no-brainer for those Buyers and Sellers who want a smoother deal process, more money at closing for the Seller, and a third-party (the insurer) ready to pay out to the Buyer if there are any breaches post-closing.
Right now, the cost of R&W coverage is a narrow range. The premium insurers will charge is 2% – 4% of the policy limit. And that number doesn’t appear to be going up anytime soon.
Add to that the Underwriting fee, which is $25k – $50K (depending on the size and complexity of the deal) and policy taxes determined by the Buyer’s state of domicile, which can range from 3% – 7% of the premium.
In today’s episode we shake things up and put Patrick Stroth, the regular host and founder of Silicon Valley-based Rubicon Insurance Services, in the hot seat for an exclusive interview with business consultant Steve Gordon.
Patrick is on a mission to tell investors, founders, corporate development teams, attorneys, and anyone else in the world of mergers and acquisitions about a unique insurance product that can save tens of millions of dollars in a transaction and speed deals to completion, while reducing risk for Buyer and Seller.
If this insurance is in place deals are 8 times more likely to close.
It’s been used in 1/3 of M&A deals over $25 million in value in recent years. Patrick says that once more people understand the benefits that number should jump.
We get into the details on how this insurance works, including…
Mentioned in This Episode: www.rubiconins.com
Steve Gordon: Welcome to the M & A Master’s podcast. I am your temporary host today. My name is Steve Gordon. Today we’re doing something a little bit unique on the podcast. We are putting your normal host Patrick Stroth on the hot seat today. I’m going to be interviewing him. I think you’re going to get just a tremendous amount of value out of this interview.
Patrick is an absolute expert at some fairly new and unique approaches to handling risk in mergers and acquisition. Patrick, I’m excited about this. Before we jump in I want to give you a proper introduction though.
For those of you who don’t know Patrick, he is the founder of Rubicon M & A Insurance Services. He’s a speaker on M & A topics and he’s the host of this very podcast, the M & A Master’s podcast where he interviews thought leaders and folks who’ve had real success in the M & A space. Patrick, welcome to your podcast.
Patrick Stroth: Thanks for having me today, Steve.
Steve Gordon: This is going to fun. I always like turning the tables on folks and doing these interviews. It’s going to be an absolute blast to do with you. To start us off, we’re going to talk a little bit about this insurance product called rep and warranty insurance, representations and warranty insurance. I want to start with, from your perspective, why is having this conversation important? Why would it be important for somebody who’s listening today?
Patrick Stroth: Well, thanks again for having me Steve. The reason why rep and warranty is an issue is because it’s a tool in putting a deal together that has just gained significant traction over the last four or five years to the point where this item, rep and warranty, is being used in about one-third of all M & A deals over 25 million transaction sites. That’s a huge jump from the last couple of years.
For people that are in and around an M & A transaction, whether you’re an investor, a founder, corporate development, everybody is looking to find a tool that’s going to give them an edge. It’s going to improve their deal, improve their terms. So, along comes this item that is, like I said, gaining higher profile status, it’s gaining traction because it’s become effective. The people that have used it are repeat users and they’re using it a great amount.
However, there’s two-thirds of the market out there that may have heard about it. It’s new, they haven’t used it yet, so they’re trying to find out a little bit more to just get a little bit more comfort out there.
The great thing about rep and warranty is it’s not mandatory for every deal. It may not be a fit, but where it’s a fit it saves parties tens of millions of dollars in some cases and it speeds deals to a successful completion. So, if you’re an advisor, legal, financial, compliance, whatever, it really behooves you be aware of this product on a global level, then see whether or not it’s a fit for your particular deal.
Steve Gordon: Patrick, let’s start at the beginning for people who, maybe they’ve heard of it but they don’t understand how it works. What exactly is rep and warranty insurance?
Patrick Stroth: Yeah, rep and warranty is short for representations and warranties. Reps and warranties are the disclosures that sellers make to the buyer giving them details about their company. The ownership structure, legal issues that may or may not be out there, sales, financial aspects … all the facts about a company that the seller needs to disclose to the buyer and the buyer then will perform due diligence to look at those disclosures to see how accurate they are. Based on the quality of those disclosures the buyer makes the decision whether or not they’re going to pay a certain price to go ahead and purchase a company.
Now, because these transactions happen is such a tight timeframe it’s impossible to find out every little nook and cranny detail about a company. A lot of times you’re going on faith that the disclosures that you’re being told are accurate, are truthful, and that post-deal there won’t be any surprises.
Well, in the real world there are surprises that happen, and they often happen after the fact. Now within the purchase sale agreement and contracts right now there’s what’s called an indemnification clause, wherein the seller must indemnify the buyer for any losses the buyer suffers as a result of those reps and warranties, those disclosures being inaccurate and those inaccuracies lead to the buyer suffering a financial loss.
A great example of that would be you’re buying a chain of restaurants. Unbeknownst to you, the chain of restaurants had given out over two million dollars in free entrée vouchers to beef up business and beef up sales. Well, you’ve purchased the chain of restaurants and now all of a sudden you didn’t know about two million dollars of free food you’re going to have to give out, but you’re obligated to honor that.
That would be an example of one of those types of surprises. You want to be able to have some kind of recourse to come after the seller. That’s done with this indemnification clause.
What has happened though is it gets pretty contentious because sellers want to sell their business and they want to pay their investors. They just want to move on to their next venture. They want to take their money and move on. Buyers don’t want to get stuck holding the bag if there is some surprise out there that costs some money that they just missed in diligence. They’re trying to keep the seller on the hook as long as possible. Seller wants a clean exit. So, there’s this natural tension.
The insurance industry came along and developed a product where they would insure those disclosures, those reps and warranties, by stating that they will review what those disclosures are. They look at what the buyer did in terms of due diligence making sure that they double checked the financials, they looked at the inventories, they did a cap table, they did what they could to make sure that they held the seller to task as much as possible.
If the underwriters are satisfied they simply say, “I’ll tell you what, we don’t think anything bad is going to happen. Give us a couple of dollars and we’ll insure the deal so that should there be a breach of the reps and warranties we’re going to take that indemnity obligation away from the seller and we’re going to take it. Buyer, in the event there’s a breach and you suffer financial loss, come to us with that financial loss and we will pay you up to whatever the policy amount is.”
What it’s done is rather than have this natural tension between buyer and seller, you’ve got this independent third party that looks at everything, has deeper pockets than both the buyer and seller combined that can go ahead and pay the buyer their loss. The great thing is buyer goes ahead and they’ve got certainty that if something bad happens they’re not going to be left holding the bag.
And, the seller gets a clean exit. A lot of times they end up collecting a lot more money at closing because an insurance policy, the rep and warranty policy, begins at an attachment point that’s far below what the seller normally would have to be locked up in escrow.
The difference between an uninsured deal with an escrow versus an insured deal with a deductible could be, in some cases, tens of millions of dollars. That’s the product that’s out there. It was initially used for very contentious transactions where there were big disagreements and only an insurance policy could come at.
Then, there was also a usage for the product where you had buyers or sellers that just were very, very risk adverse and wanted any way possible that they could mitigate the risk as much as possible. But, what happened is that it’s become more of a financial tool.
That’s why private equity has really embraced this product because they’re constantly buying and selling portfolio companies, usually to other private equity firms. Having this product eliminates post-closing losses in terms of financial commitments, accelerates profits and realizing proceeds at closing, and they move on to the next deal.
The private equity buyer knows that should there be a breach or some other loss, those losses are mitigated because there’s a product there. It’s been something that has actually accelerated M & A transactions rather than being some pure risk mitigation thing that a bunch of worry warts wanted to have.
Steve Gordon: Patrick, it’s pretty clear that there are benefits for a seller in this situation. It accelerates the speed with which they’re able to get their cash out of the deal. What are the benefits to a buyer, particularly a strategic buyer? Why would a buyer say, “I really want that as a part of the deal?”
Patrick Stroth: Great question, happens a lot because the buyer in many cases is in a position where they say, “Well, we don’t want to take the risk,” or, “We don’t see the risk. Why should we involve ourselves in this? Let’s keep the seller on the hook.”
The fact of the matter is right now in this environment, this is a seller’s market, so sellers are pressing the terms because they have a lot more leverage these days. What a buyer needs to do is they to make as seller-favorable a term sheet as possible. Now, how can you do that without having to do the obvious thing is well, just pay way more money than anybody else can and then we’ll buy it.
Well, this is an alternative to having to over-buy. If you can go ahead and provide something that mitigates the seller’s risk, accelerates their profitability or their returns without having to raise your offer, that’s a big help.
Another thing is that there is certainty of recovery. If there is a breach and it does impact the buyer financially, they are not worried about sellers scattering out all over the place, particularly if you’ve got situations where you’ve got multiple shareholders in a company and you’re going to exert a lot of expense and time trying to track them down to recover.
So, you’ve got one party. You will go to them and they will partner with you. The fact that using rep and warranty can accelerate the process, the timetable for getting the deal done because if a rep or warranty is insured there’s no need to negotiate it any further. You move on to the next rep and warranty, and the next one, and so forth. It saves time and money with the attorneys on having to go back and forth.
For strategics, it can remove a real uncomfortable situation. When you purchase a target company, you’re usually bringing that management team on board with you. It gets very uncomfortable in the event there’s a breach post-deal. The company now has to go to those rock star new members of their team and say, “You know what, I know it’s not your fault, but something bad happened, it cost us money. We’re going to have to claw back a significant amount of your escrow or a significant amount of money that we had promised to pay you.” This removes that.
The other issue about this is that it can provide a little bit of a backup on your due diligence. If you’re performing a bunch of diligence and you’re not insured, you’re going to be moving forward in to the great unknown hoping that diligence worked and hoping that you got that escrow or that seller on the hook if something goes wrong.
Well, if you’ve got insurance there and they’re looking at it and they say, “Yes, these reps are covered,” now you’re not as worried about your diligence issue because it’s insurable should the event happen. Then, you’re taken care of.
The bottom line, the biggest thing that’s a benefit for the buyer is … We get this information from multiple investment bankers, is that at the end of the day you want to get the deal done. Okay, deals with rep and warranty are eight times more likely to successfully close than deals that are not insured. If you’re a buyer and you’re going into this, think about it, why are you even going into this exercise unless you want to get it done? Okay, this is a way that’s going to make it much more likely for the deal to be successfully consummated. You know the great thing? You don’t have to overpay to get it.
Steve Gordon: Patrick, you’ve touched on a number of the benefits of using this tool in a deal. What do you see as the most important one or two advantages of rep and warranty compared to a standard escrow arrangement?
Patrick Stroth: Honestly, the deal is going to get done. When you go in to a venture, I mean, if it’s meant to happen it’s going to happen, but the issue is if you’re going to go forward with the expense and the time to perform diligence on a target company, and go through all the work to get it, you want this thing to happen successfully. The great thing about rep and warranty is that it removes the tension between buyer and seller.
Now, there’s this theory out there with regard to parties that really insist on having a good sized escrow there, so you have cash on hand. If both sides go ahead, they’re in good faith, they tell everything, they do all the due diligence, and everything is on the table let’s say. The fact that we’ve got a little cash on hand, off to the side, that if something does blow up, “Hey we’ve got the cash. We just go pay it.” Money on hand is going to remove any tension between the two sides. That’s just not necessarily true.
I think that when you’ve got this situation whereas you’re going forward with of the deal, particularly as you get to the reps and warranties and the disclosures and the indemnification clause … Indemnification clause, I mean, is almost like negotiating a pre-nup agreement between a loving couple before marriage. Suddenly, all these bad thoughts, bad ideas come up because the nature of it is you’re thinking worst case scenario, both sides are.
The advantage on having rep and warranty is that you’ve got a tool that brings a third party in. So, it’s not you versus the other party. Well we’re going to make sure that you’re honest, so if you have skin in the game in the presence of a big escrow amount, hey that will make you more honest.
Then, you’ve got that subliminally, the seller may be saying well, “You don’t trust me?” I mean, there are a lot of dynamics out there that you can completely bypass and transfer a lot of these things out to a third party.
The other really nice thing about this is if you can lower the temperature in the room, remove a lot of the contentiousness in the negotiations, why not look at it? Because what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a buyer that’s in a position of possibly fear that they missed something. You’re going to have a seller that’s very defensive, “Why are they asking me these questions? I told them. Why don’t they trust me?”
It’s just that element, there’s enough stress in these deals to begin with, particularly the money involved. If there’s a way that a tool can be used to lower the temperature in the room and successfully get the deal done, that’s not just win-win, that’s win-win-win for everybody.
Steve Gordon: Patrick, let’s talk about the elephant in the room for a minute. We’re now going to involve a third party insurance company. I know the thing that is probably in the back of some people’s mind is well, when it comes time to actually make a claim … If worst case scenario that something does go wrong in the deal post-close and we’ve got this insurance policy in place, is the insurance company going to pay the claim or am I now going to have to go fight them?
Patrick Stroth: Probably the most common question I field with this … This is just unfortunately the rap that people get with insurance, on any insurance product is that, “Well, that’s great. We’re going to pay all this money, but what happens when the claim happens? I’m not going to collect what I wanted to do.”
What happens with rep and warranty is unfortunately it’s called an insurance policy. It is an insurance policy. However, it is different from another other policy that’s written for a couple of reasons.
First of all, the scope of the insurance policy for rep and warranty is very narrow. It is only covering the stated reps and warranties that are in a purchase sale agreement. That’s the only scope. It’s doesn’t go beyond that, so if there are any other side agreements or whatever, those are not part of this. Anything that is known by either party prior to closing of the deal is not covered.
All that is out there are these reps and warranties where both sides are warranting that they don’t know of anything else. You’ve got a real narrow scope of the coverage that needs to be applied. Unlike other policies such as directors and officers, which are so broad that they have to respond to everything, which ends up meaning that they’re going to decline 90 percent of the claims that come in initially just because they’re so broad and they want to get a little narrow.
The second area where these policies are different is the amount of diligence that is performed on placing a rep and warranty policy is so much more thorough than any other insurance policy that’s issued. The underwriters have a very good, wide-open-eyed view on what they’re getting into. They’re essentially sitting there in the room virtually with the buyer’s diligence team.
So, when they go through the underwriting process keep in mind the underwriters for rep and warranty are all M & A attorneys, they are not actuaries, they are not insurance people, they are attorneys. So, you have attorneys that are reviewing M & A legal documents. They are attorneys that are looking at the due diligence materials, and so forth. It’s really hard for an insurance company to say, “You know what, you didn’t tell us about this when we were putting a policy together. We’re a little reluctant right now because you didn’t tell us about this.” They can’t do that. They’re tied in with this because they were in the room when the deal was done.
You’ve got the narrow specific coverage. You’ve got the fact that they’ve seen everything, so if something comes up as a surprise, like I mentioned the free dinner coupons or whatever. Hey, if they missed it, everybody missed it, it’s going to be covered, and so forth. They’ve got that which is different from all other insurance.
The other issue, and this is a real profound issue particularly with regard to private equity, is that rep and warranty policies are very profitable. They have very few losses and they’re being used by repeat buyers, private equity firms, particularly buying these policies over and over and over again. Because the diligence is so thorough and because the risk is actually significantly low, compared to other policies, there haven’t been very many claims.
So, the absolute worst thing an insurance company can do after having a narrow scope and being in the room with everybody is to show any kind of reluctance when a claim comes in. The minute they do that their credibility with the marketplace is eliminated. Private equity and the law firms that work with them will leave them immediately.
There’s a financial pressure on the industry unlike any other product where if you don’t do your absolute best to get it right when a claim comes in … That’s their thing, they don’t just want to pay claims. They want to get it right. That’s over and over what the insurance attorneys tell me when they are helping to settle claims on these.
They pay a lot of these claims, even though again, the losses are small compared to the amount of business they are writing. There is this obligation that they are going to show up and they’re going to do what they say and say what they do, which is unique in the industry.
Steve Gordon: Patrick, can you share an example of how this has been applied to a deal, maybe to give folks who are listening a little bit of a specific example of how this played out?
Patrick Stroth: Oh, absolutely, yeah. Here’s a case with a strategic where you had a large top brand auto company that was purchasing a software company because they were doing on demand drive sharing programs. The auto company wanted to get involved with that and move it over.
Well, it’s easier to go buy this technology company than develop their own tech. The technology company had two major shareholders and had about 10 other investors. While the large auto company was making this purchase, it was a nine figure purchase, and the auto company could afford if there was a loss or whatever. They weren’t really worried about risk.
But, the sellers, the technology company, was afraid because you had the two major shareholders were real concerned that hey, they’re going to be the deep pockets in this deal. In the event something did blow up it wouldn’t be the other 10 investors that the auto company would go after, it would be them.
So, these two shareholders were very, very concerned. They came to us and said, “Is there a way we can insure the deal so we are protected?” We talked to the auto company and said, “Well, if you agree to put this policy in place where the auto company is the policy holder, if there’s a breach of the reps, auto company gets paid and these two major shareholders are off the hook. They don’t have to worry.”
The auto company said, “Hey, we’re all for it. We don’t see the risk. We want these people happy. Tell you what, we’ll split the cost. If they’re willing to pay a majority,” they paid most of it, “if the seller is willing to pay for it, then we’re willing to go forward. We’ll share our due diligence with the insurance company, we’ll go.”
That was a case where even though you had a large corporation, weren’t worried about the risk, but to accommodate their target they went and did this. You have investors and shareholders that are really pushing to get reduced exposure so that they can get their proceeds and move on and not worry about a claw back.
There was another situation with a telecom company where it was being purchased by a larger telecom company. The owner/founder actually beyond the threshold that his attorneys had wanted him to do, bared his soul, disclosed more than his attorneys thought he should have disclosed, but he wanted to be out there honest and did everything.
Well, the technology company said, “Fine, thanks very much. We need an indemnity cap that’s going to be about 20 percent of the transaction value.” The owner was offended. He just said, “Wait a minute. I just bared my soul. If anything is out there, I have no idea. You don’t trust me. Forget this. I can’t fathom having that kind of exposure out there when I’ve just shared with you everything.”
The telecom buyer, more of an institutional player and they said, “Look, this is the rules. This is what we do. We want a 20 percent indemnity cap and that’s just the way it is. We’re sorry. We don’t think there’s more exposure than anything else, but this is how we do it.” So, you had an impasse.
We came in and presented a rep and warranty policy at the 20 percent indemnity cap. Seller did not have to worry because now he is not on the hook for this. Buyer, they were able to check the box, got their requirement in there. Everybody was happy. Deal had been sidetracked was going to not happen solely over this blowup. A policy was plugged in and solved the deal, bridged the gap between the buyer and seller. You have all kinds of examples of things like that out there.
Steve Gordon: That’s clearly a powerful tool and can be used very strategically in a deal to keep things moving forward. Patrick, that really brings me to the next most important question, for somebody listening, how do they know if they’re working on a deal that would be a good fit? What would constitute a good fit deal for a rep and warranty policy?
Patrick Stroth: The way we look at this, first of all, we’re asked often, what sector can you write, what sector can’t you write, and so forth. The insurance industry out there is open to all sectors. I mean, from aerospace to zoology, A to Z. They will entertain and look at pretty much everything. If there are businesses that are in highly regulated fields or businesses that are in non-regulated fields, like cannabis for example, the appetite is a little bit trickier there.
However, as time goes on there’s more comfort that comes along with underwriters. The best way of saying this is the insurance underwriters are industry agnostic. Some like some things more than others, but there’s a variety of places out there. The issue is really if a deal has an indemnity cap in it of 10 million dollars or more. Now, we can do smaller deals, but transaction value, we’ll hear about that where if it’s a transaction value of 25 million and up to a billion dollars, we’d look at that.
We prefer to look at the indemnity cap. What is the buyer looking for? If you look at the 10 million dollar indemnity cap … Because that’s how big the policy is, that’s a great starting point. So, if you have a deal, whether it’s a 50 million, 30 million, whatever, if you have a 10 million dollar indemnity cap or up, rep and warranty is an ideal fit, okay?
The reason why I say 10 million, because the minimum premium for a policy right now is about 250 thousand dollars. That happens to be the rate for a ten million dollar policy. If you’ve got a smaller deal and you need a five million dollar policy, you don’t have a ten million, that’s fine. We can still do it. There are markets that are willing to write a five million dollar policy for that indemnity cap, but again, it’s going to be that minimum 250 thousand dollars. If it makes sense, great. It can be a fit. Ideally you want to look for risks where there’s an indemnity cap of ten million, all the way up from there.
Steve Gordon: That’s, I think, really helpful for folks to draw a fence around where this applies as they’re working through deals. Patrick-
Patrick Stroth: Yeah, what happens often in this … Some people may say, “Well, why ten million? Why so big? What’s going on?” It’s largely because we’ll get asked about sub-ten million dollar transactions. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a market that could handle the two million to ten million dollar deals because there are thousands and thousands of those out there.
The reason why the underwriters want the larger deals is because you’re looking at the buyer’s due diligence. The buyer’s due diligence has to be pretty thorough. You’re not having a real thorough due diligence done on the smaller transaction value deals.
Once you get over 25 million transaction value and up you’re having M & A attorneys. You’ve got to invest in bankers. You’ve got professional advisors. You’ve got audited financials, or at least reviewed financials. The elements that make a risk eligible as opposed to ineligible. So, I definitely want to put in that issue on the ‘why’ at that threshold.
Steve Gordon: I think that’s good information. Patrick, we’ve only got a few minutes left and there are a couple of questions that I think are important for folks who may be looking at trying to learn more about this. The first is, I know you do a tremendous amount of education around rep and warranty insurance and M & A in general through your podcasts and your website and all that. You guys publish articles, I think at least twice a month on these topics and on other M & A related topics that folks can get to. I know that you go and do presentations and that you do webinars. How can folks tap in to all this education that you are doing?
Patrick Stroth: The best way to find stuff, I’m pretty proud of the work that we’ve done on our website on this, is first to visit our website at Rubiconins.com. If you click on the insights tab there we’ve got a list of our articles, links to podcasts, and so forth, just to get a flavor. I would say this, as an insurance broker in the M & A sector, we have probably the easiest, most user-friendly website when it comes to finding M & A-related material.
There are videos in there with some side-by-side comparisons on an uninsured and an insured deal. There are other resources there that it’s one click and you’re in. I’m very proud of that because when I had to do my research on this years ago, you were hunting and pecking all over the place. So, I would say the first place would be to go there.
The other issue is that we do routinely is, on a regular basis, we’re providing ongoing continuing education to the corporate groups and the M & A practices for a number of law firms. We can do these either live or I have a webinar where we go point by point on how to execute this product, pricing on the product, and the comparisons. It’s really difficult when you’re listening to something when you hear numbers here and there, and comparisons, and so forth.
It’s important to have some visuals. I would argue we probably have the best visuals when it comes to an M & A webinar presentation. So, those are available just by reaching out to me and scheduling that to give you on the ground work on this.
I would say that without exception, if you attend one of my webinars on M & A for rep and warranty you will know more about rep and warranty, and how it can be executed, and how can it impact a deal than about 95 percent of the people in the insurance industry.
There are a lot of commercial insurance agents and brokers out there that are very good and they do great work … They don’t know this. It’s not just how the product works, but how you can go from dead stop to getting a policy placed and get it set. That’s a real problem when you’ve got something new.
When you’re into M & A transactions and you’re dealing with bankers and their fees, you’ve got advisors and their fees. If you want to stage your company you’re going to have some compliance issues and costs to get yourself set up, IT expenses to get your security up.
Then, you’ve got legal costs. You have all these things you’re going to incur before you’re even going out there on the road to get an offer for selling your company. There’s all these expenses out there.
To get the idea of rep and warranty in there, that’s just one more thing on the pile of other to-dos that you have. It becomes a reluctant item because you’ve got so many other things out there. What we show with both the webinar and in speaking with me is that there’s a step-by-step way of doing it. It’s a very simple process and it’s manageable. The best thing about it, it’s at zero cost. Until you’re committed to where you want to move forward on a policy you don’t spend a dime.
So, that’s a nice departure from traditionally getting other services where you’re going to incur some kind of retainer fee or expense just to get started. That’s not the case with this. The more people that know that there’s this free resource for a key tool, the better.
Steve Gordon: Excellent, Patrick. I know you do a tremendous amount of work to put all that together. So, for folks who have listened to this and now they’re thinking, “Well, maybe I have a deal that could be a fit,” what’s the best way for them to maybe get in touch with you to begin to talk some specifics, just to see if the deal is a fit? How do they go about doing that? How do they get in touch with you?
Patrick Stroth: Absolutely. The easier it is just to get a quick snapshot look, I think, the better. So, the way you do this is you either reach out to me by email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find it on the website or call me, 415-806-2356. Give me a call.
Here’s what I need. This just shows you how simple we’ve made it for you, okay. If I have four data points: the transaction value that you’re thinking about, what the indemnity cap is, is there an escrow amount, for comparison purposes, what escrow if you were uninsured, what would that be, and then what is the state of domicile for the buyer? That’s important because all policies have taxes and it depends on where the buyer is domiciled, so we can get that.
If you have those four items, I don’t even need to know what type of company it is. If you give me that, we can at least give you a real back-of-the-envelope number. Then, it’s just a matter of is the due diligence eligible for the underwriters? And we would go through that later.
But, at least with those four data points, that’s all I need and you’re going to at least have pricing. If you can get that idea budgetary-wise what’s out there, as you go into the letter of intent stage, it’s a lot easier to incorporate this powerful, powerful tool without having to stop doing what you’re doing in the deal to then inject this process and then do it later. It’s much more effective if it’s baked in to the deal at the outset.
Steve Gordon: Very good, Patrick. This has been really educational. I know I’ve been taking notes as we’ve talked. You’ve shared just a ton of information. I appreciate you doing that. Folks, Patrick will be back as the official host of the M & A Master’s podcast in the very next episode, so be sure and come back for that. Patrick, thanks for giving me the opportunity to turn the tables on you today and put you in the hot seat. Thank you again, for everything that you’ve shared. It’s been great having this conversation with you.
Patrick Stroth: Thanks very much, Steve. Appreciate the help there.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Samir Shah, operating partner with Cervin Ventures, which is a Silicon Valley based pre-Series A venture capital firm specializing in enterprise technology. Samir has a background that gives him unique insight into the world of tech startups and M&A.
Prior to joining Cervin Ventures, Samir founded the software testing firm, Zephyr, and ran it as CEO until it sold.
After seeing what makes for a successful (and attractive) company from the sell side, and what he and the team look for when investing in startups, Samir has distilled that knowledge and experience into a series of eight “one-liners” (think of them like maxims or rules) that should guide any entrepreneur as they build their business, as well as VCs looking for startups with potential to invest in.
These one-liners get into the heart of what separates successful businesses from those that crash and burn.
Every business owner has to ask this question – and sometimes face a hard truth that could impact growth and/or a future merger or acquisition.
The way you answer, is to look at what you’ve created.
Have you come up with something that’s simply a feature that improves an existing product?
Is this a product that people will actually use? Be honest with yourself about the market potential.
Once you know the answer to these questions you can figure out how to sell that feature or product to another company. At that point your journey with this business is over.
Do you actually have a company with the potential to create many profitable products… a sustainable venture that could continue to grow and could be bought down the road for a sizable amount?
It’s essential to start generating revenue as early as possible. Too many business owners fall in love with their product before they’ve even sold one unit and delay bringing it to market to perfect it.
Perfect is the enemy of good. And, the sooner you get a product out to market, the sooner you get feedback and can make adjustments, tweaks, and improvements that will make it more attractive to your customers.
Apple is a great example. Their first version of any new product, while superior to other market options, is completely inferior to the versions they release a year or two later. Apps get released with major bugs that are later ironed out. There isn’t one app that hasn’t needed some fixes down the road.
It’s essential to note that the business doesn’t need to be profitable at this point, just that there is someone out there willing to pay you for your products. Build/improve from there, and revenues will lead to profits.
3. It rains dollar bills when their hair is on fire.
Take a long hard look at the product or service you offer. Does it fit a need? Does it solve a problem?
Your goal is to find the people who have that need because they will pay anything to have that problem solved. As Samir says, “How do you get to revenue fast? Real revenue, sustainable revenue comes from use cases where the customers’ ‘hair is on fire,’” i.e. they have an intense, urgent need.
A great example of this is IT security. Hacking has been a big deal for a long time… and always will be. Products in this niche have a high demand. They’re a must-have.
“Selling is hard. Everybody is trying to sell something,” notes Samir. It’s true that people are hard-wired to feel threatened when “being sold.”
So instead of trying to persuade someone to buy, make it easy for your customers to find you and make your product or service as easy to use as possible, not to mention truly useful (see #1).
If it’s easier to buy from you than a competitor, and you’re the “path of least resistance,” you become the clear choice.
5. One good salesman is transformative.
Nothing happens until something is sold and someone has to do the “selling”. In the beginning, it’s the owner/founder, but at some point, someone else is needed in this essential role for a company to truly grow.
Probably the hardest person to hire is a top-notch salesperson. You almost never get it right the first time.
But you have to keep trying because nothing happens if you don’t sell.
To find this person, talk to mentors and colleagues, get recommendations. Sometimes your best salesperson is someone inside your firm who understands your product and believes in it.
Compensation does go up for these special people, and your search will take time. But it’s well worth it for how this one person can radically change your business.
It’s not enough to have a great idea or concept. Until customers pay you money… you don’t have a real business. Revenue is the lifeblood of any company.
And when you have money coming in, it changes how customers, your team, investors, and your competitors look at you. It also changes the perspective of potential strategic partners. Obviously, if you’re generating significant revenue, people will be more likely to want to work with you.
Think back to the Dotcom era. So many startups just burned through investors’ money without anything to show for it. They weren’t generating revenue, let alone a profit. And we all know where those companies are today.
Companies that make the leap to actually generating revenue have to be prepared for the next stage when they become flush. It’s counterintuitive, but more money can actually create more problems, as we’ll see in the next step.
You’ve worked so hard to build the business and to generate revenue. Once you accomplish that goal, it’s tempting to “take a break,” so to speak. But when management gets sloppy, things can go south quickly.
Samir suggests thinking of your business as a bucket. Customers (and revenue) are pouring in at the top. But, if you have holes in the bucket, more money could start leaking out than is coming in.
You might put off solving small problems or inefficiencies that cost more to solve later. You could be hot in pursuit of new customers… but neglect your existing core customers, which prompts them to leave. Bugs could crop up, you could have problems with pricing, or a new competitor could emerge.
The point is, you have to always watch for leaks and plug them as soon as possible.
Your greatest source of additional revenue is existing clients. And it’s much easier (and cheaper) to “sell” to them than convince new customers, who don’t know you, to come on board.
Don’t take your core customers for granted. Always consider if there is anything more they need from you. Is there more value you can deliver?
It’s tempting to think that you already have an account, so you’re free to focus on going after new accounts. But you risk losing customers. If you meet their new needs they’re less likely to go elsewhere.
Samir’s eight one-liners can help guide founders, entrepreneurs, and VCs as they build or invest in businesses. In the complex world of Silicon Valley and the tech industry, it can sometimes be easy to forget what makes for a strong, viable business.
The truth is that these rules apply to any industry. As you’ve seen, these are simple good business practices that you should follow for any business venture. If you’re involved in any sort of startup these should be rules to live by.
To help you keep Samir’s one-liners top of mind, you can download Samir’s list of one-liners and keep it posted as a reminder for you and your team.
Samir Shah has a unique pedigree in the M&A world. He was previously an owner whose company was successfully sold. And these days he’s with Silicon Valley-based pre-series A venture capital firm Cervin Ventures, specializing in helping founders in the enterprise technology space.
Based on his experience Samir has come up with eight “one-liners” (i.e. rules or words to live by) that should guide every startup.
The first one is a question every entrepreneur should ask before even thinking about starting a business.
You get all the details, and, along the way, find out…
Mentioned in this Episode: www.cervinventures.com
The typical M&A deal can be a long, drawn-out process – and painful, too. Negotiations on the Purchase and Sale Agreement can stretch out for months – or longer – as lawyers haggle over terms and contract language. And Sellers are often dismayed by how much money is held in escrow at closing to cover indemnity.
There’s a way to make those problems go away:
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Imagine the subtle grin on your client’s face as you tell them how you’ve managed to improve the terms of their deal by a few million dollars…
You’d have a happy client, wouldn’t you?
And, if you could do that for all of your clients, I’d bet that word would get around.
Many technology companies are sitting on an untapped resource that could add 5%, 10%, 20%, or more to their company’s value, says Dr. Elvir Causevic, managing director of Houlihan Lokey’s Tech and IP advisory department.
Many companies today are sitting on an untapped goldmine that could be worth tens of millions of dollars. Technology companies, in particular, are poised to benefit, especially those in Silicon Valley.
The gold is patents that are unused and not part of the core business. This intellectual property might not be valuable to the company that developed the technology, but the right Buyer would be willing to pay top dollar. And, you can start monetizing these assets now, as you’ll see in a moment.
Today, we discuss why cybersecurity is a necessity for companies considering an M&A transaction. If your company doesn’t use the Internet, you can skip this program.
The old school, traditional way of looking at corporate security involves physical assets such as market research, intellectual property, and other corporate secrets that can be locked away. Picture the secret formula for Coca-Cola is sitting in a safe somewhere in an undisclosed location in Atlanta.
Today, we discuss the details behind the best practices to exiting with M&A.
When an M&A Buyer acquires a company these days – especially a tech company – more often than not they compel the business’s Founders and key employees to enter into a re-vesting agreement.
Here’s a conversation regarding revesting, a staple in tech M&A designed to favor not only buyers, but owners, founders, and their investors.
News came across the wire recently about a major lawsuit targeting a well-known Private Equity firm due to a post-closing dispute in a substantial M&A deal.
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Today, I speak with Stephen Hohenrieder about M&A in a sector we ALL use EVERY DAY – food. After hearing this conversation, you won’t look at food the same way again!
From a cost perspective, there’s never been a better time to deploy Representations and Warranty (R&W) insurance in M&A deals.
In every M&A deal, the devil is in the details. Nate McKitterick explains the ins and outs of one of the biggest potential deal breaking issues – indemnification.
The current economic environment makes it a prime time for mergers and acquisitions.
Activity in M&A in recent years bears it out. Total global M&A transactions for 2017 hit $3.2 trillion, the third year in a row annual M&A crested $3 trillion.
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Representations and Warranty insurance is the ideal way to protect both Buyer and Seller in an M&A transaction. If there is a breach of a representation or warranty in the purchase and sale agreement, they are protected. Both sides come out ahead because the risk is transferred to a third party: the insurance company.
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Technology isn’t the only fast changing industry. Listen to Jimmy Vallee explain why the oil and gas business is so dynamic that the city of Houston is now considered the “Silicon Valley” of energy.
Closing an M&A deal is similar to closing escrow on a house. You sign documents, a wire transfer with the funds is processed, and you take possession.
If you’re considering your first deal, why not get the perspective from someone who has successfully completed over 500 deals in the past 30 years.
The use of Representations and Warranty insurance in M&A has been growing over the last several years. It jumped 240% from 2001 to 2015. And while in the not-too-distant past only deals of $50 million to $1.5 billion were eligible for coverage, insurers are now covering deals as low as $20 million.
In our conversation, Patrick Krause explains the unique balance healthcare companies must make between quality of care and profitability, as well how the healthcare sector is unique to any other business today.
If you’re the Buyer in a merger or acquisition, you can take one action at the start of the deal—at the offer stage—that will
In this podcast, I speak with Terry on the importance of getting your “financial house” in order BEFORE you let anyone know you’re looking to sell your company.
Would you buy a house without a home inspection or a title search?
Of course not. It would be way too risky.
That’s why Underwriters insist on thorough due diligence when they put together insurance policies covering multi-million-dollar M&A deals.
In this podcast, I speak with Shari Yocum of EY focusing on the often overlooked “human-side” of M&A.
Today I speak with Patrick Crocker, an investment banker with MHT Partners to discuss the critical role investment bankers play in helping founders/owners maximize their payout in M&A.
In our first podcast, listen as I interview the leading M&A litigator, Joe Finnerty of DLA Piper as we discuss claims in M&A.
As global insurance and risk management professional service firms, Marsh & McLennan and Aon do great work and have solid reputations in the world of M&A insurance. Along with Rubicon M&A Insurance Services, LLC, they are the only companies offering this specialized type of insurance to companies in Silicon Valley.
At the end of the day, successful mergers and acquisitions are about bringing people together… coming to an agreement and moving forward to everybody’s satisfaction.
I have a surprising truth for you. It goes against everything you’ve been taught or experienced when it comes to insurance companies.
When it comes to standard car, home, or health insurance, policyholders tend to play it close to the vest.
They won’t freely give information above what the insurance company requires, and if the insurer starts asking questions, especially about a claim, they get downright defensive.
They’re worried the company is trying to deny a claim or exclude something from their policy. A policyholder’s biggest fear is not getting paid when they actually want to use the insurance they’ve been paying premiums for. Hey, it does happen.
Up until very recently, rep and warranty insurance, which offers many advantages to buyers and sellers during mergers and acquisitions, has been available primarily with deals worth $50 million or more.
But good news for those involved in smaller deals.
A couple of years back, I witnessed a train wreck of an acquisition that could have gone much, much smoother if the parties involved had taken one extra, but very low cost, step as they put together the deal.
Let me set the scene. The owner of a telecommunications company was ready to sell… to the tune of $100+ million. He had a buyer all ready to go. That’s when the trouble started.
Representations and warranties insurance should be part of any large-scale merger or acquisition deal. Such a policy puts the risk in a business transaction away from buyer and seller and onto a third party – an insurance company.
In March 2017, luxury automaker Audi, part of the Volkswagen Group, announced they were buying Silvercar, a distinctive and disruptive rental car company known for its fleet of Audi A4s in, what else, silver.
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The scene – an unnamed company. A new CFO was appointed and installed as the 401(k) plan administrator. He replaced the 12 investment options offered before with three mutual funds. It turns out his brother managed those funds. A clear conflict of interest with regard to the 401(k) plan – enough to trigger serious legal action.
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If you’re offering health insurance to your employees, you may not know it, but there’s a “hidden” liability waiting inside your plan. It’s waiting for you, the fiduciary of the plan, to make a simple clerical mistake. When you do it will cost you $110 per day, per employee. For a 100-person firm, that’s $11,000 PER DAY!
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Rep & Warranty Insurance is a well-known tool to reduce risk and increase cash flow for the M&A industry. But what if your deal is too small (under $50M transaction value) for R&W?
There’s hope for one of the most active sectors in M&A – healthcare, where news of a lesser-known tactic for saving money is all the more important for physicians, owners of healthcare firms and their advisors.
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Imagine the subtle grin on your client’s face as you tell them how you’ve managed to improve the terms of their deal by a few million dollars…
You’d have a happy client wouldn’t you?
And, if you could do that for all of your clients, I’d bet that word will get around.
If you could do that, without adding any cost or complication to your world, you’d do it on every deal, wouldn’t you…?
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Many employers provide 401(k) plans and other retirement benefits to their employees for a variety of reasons from altruistic, to pure competitive necessity. What these
employers don’t realize is that the moment they set up a Plan, they’re no longer just an employer. They are a Plan Sponsor, and in the eyes of the Federal Government – a “fiduciary”.
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Over the last 3 years, Representation & Warranty Insurance (R&W) has been gaining interest throughout the M&A Sector. R&W is an insurance contract designed to protect buyers and sellers from financial loss that result from a breach of the seller’s representations.
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Step 1. There’s no insurance application. While not required, we prefer to schedule a 20 minute call with a member of the Buyer’s team to discuss the deal in general terms in order for us to prepare a narrative for Underwriters. In addition to the pre-submission discussion, terms can be provided upon our receipt of the following:
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The Seller’s Nightmare is Real
Time is a cruel and silent thief, with its hand deep in your pocket. The longer the process drags on, the lower the price will go (or the smaller the check will be at closing). All BAD NEWS for you.
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