Less than two months into 2019, and it’s apparent that the seller’s market in M&A is still strong.
For Dr. John Binkley and his team at Generational Equity, this isn’t surprising considering the strength of the economy right now and the buoyant attitude of buyers and sellers towards deal making in recent years. Cutting the U.S. Corporate Tax Rate to 21% and steady GDP growth (3.5% in Q3 2018) are contributing to this exceptional environment for M&A.
However, the length and robustness of this seller’s market has been something of a blessing, not just for Generational’s team and clients, but across North America.
Indeed, Merrill Corporation’s year-end review of 2018 (based on data compiled by Mergermarket) demonstrated that the value and volume of M&A deals last year was at a similar record-level as the past five years. This was elevated by another strong year for deals involving private equity firms.
Alongside this, Dr. Binkley is happy to report that Generational Equity fit this forecast of significant M&A activity seamlessly last year.
It was another record-breaking year for Generational, with an 8% increase in transactions closed to 2017’s prior record, as well as an 11% rise in wealth transferred to the firm’s clients. The firm also ranked first in transactions valued up to $25 million in Thomson Reuters’ 2018 North American M&A Rankings.
M&A Seller’s Market Still Going Strong in 2019
If anyone feared 2019 would see the strong M&A landscape come to a shuddering halt, that hasn’t proved accurate. In fact, if early indications remain consistent, this could be an even stronger year than 2018.
This is a clear indication that this seller’s market in M&A is forecasting no signs of slowing in the near future, despite growing rumblings that an economic downturn could be on the horizon. And, among this already positive environment, another excellent aspect of this activity is that it’s impacting all financial tiers, including the middle market.
Citizen Commercial Banking’s Annual M&A Outlook, which surveys 600 middle market business leaders nationwide, has demonstrated that M&A activity is high on their agenda for 2019. 62% of potential sellers are either presently working on a deal or are open to negotiating one this year, with 71% of potential buyers feeling the same way.
In addition, 80% of these buyers are either extremely or modestly confident they will conclude a transaction in the next 12 months. For Dr. John Binkley, having a clear majority of business leaders on the buyer’s and seller’s side is a strong indicator that the market is alive and well.
Furthermore, readers of Middle Market Review have confidently forecast that M&A activity in 2019 will remain strong, citing many positive signals including:
- The booming economic outlook
- The growing number of baby boomers looking to retire and sell their business
- The expansion of GDP
- The lower barrier to growth for businesses under the Trump Administration
However, again the threat of a potential recession is playing on the minds of many middle market business owners. Around half those surveyed by Citizen Commercial Banking expecting this downturn to take place in the next two years. In the same way that economic growth is usually a factor in a rise in M&A activity, a recession usually leads to a decline as a period of economic uncertainty takes hold.
This anticipation and the current positive forecast for M&A means one thing – 2019 is the ideal time for those contemplating an exit to act now for the best chance of securing an optimal offer.
2019 in the Middle Market: Executing Your Exit Strategy
“For sellers, a more pronounced slowdown presents a conundrum. Act now or they could be faced with the reality of putting their exit strategies on hold until market conditions rebound, and hoping that company performance holds up in the meantime.” – Ralph Della Ratta, Citizens Capital Markets
While seller’s markets in M&A are a great time for business owners looking to sell, pushing valuations up and encouraging buyers to get active, it is only great if you are prepared to exit. Otherwise, as Dr. John Binkley and others at Generational Equity have witnessed numerous times, business owners could miss out on maximizing the value of their company at exit.
Even this seller’s market, which has been one of the most enduring and lucrative in decades, will come to an end at some point. While it is still possible to achieve an optimal offer in a buyer’s market by presenting the right proposition, business sellers who miss this boat could easily find themselves exiting for a cut-priced sum.
As previously indicated, there are many factors that are converging right now in the M&A market that are making now a great time to sell a business. Companies’ liquidity has opened the door for more deal making and investment, and tax reform has had a profoundly positive impact.
However, for Dr. Binkley, two pivotal influences right now should be motivating those considering an exit to get a move on their strategies: U.S. demographics and private equity potential.
According to the AARP, 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every single day, a rate expected to last into the 2030s. Eventually, those who own a business at this age will depart, one way or another.
For dealmakers and buyers, this is great news – more businesses on the market means more work. But, for sellers, more businesses entering the market in one fell swoop means more competition. What makes your business more appealing than John Doe’s across town?
Every year the market will become more and more crowded. So, it pays to put exit plans into action now when the economy is vibrant and others are slow on the draw – this quick thinking could mean a significant amount to the value of your exit.
Then, there’s the continued rise of private equity investment. Deloitte’s 2019 M&A Trends report revealed that nearly 90 percent of private equity leaders forecast a rise in M&A deal flow this year, with PE firms sitting on a record $1.14 trillion in dry powder.
Plus, PitchBook reported that the number of private equity-backed companies in North America and Europe is on the rise, closing the gap to the number of public companies (10,440 vs 14,393). With the dry powder capital waiting to be invested in businesses that demonstrate real growth potential, this presents a real opportunity to business owners with a prepared exit strategy that outlines what makes their proposition so strong.
Make 2019 the Year to Exit Your Company
If you are considering exiting your company, Dr. John Binkley strongly recommends making 2019 the year to put your plan into action. When this incredible seller’s market ends, there is no way to accurately determine when one will return. If you are serious about achieving the maximum value when you depart your business, providing the best quality of life for you and your loved ones post-sale, now is the time to act.
Don’t know where to start? Dr. Binkley and his experienced team at Generational Equity can help guide you to a successful, fulfilling exit. With more completed deals in the middle market than any other M&A advisory firm in the past decade, Generational’s expertise has supported entrepreneurs in all industries secure the optimal deal.
To build your knowledge of the M&A process, check out Generational Equity’s collection of insights, which go into greater detail on the market right now and offer advice on what steps to take to pursue an effective transaction.
In addition, Dr. John Binkley’s blog has several other works dedicated to business owners looking to exit, as well as other inspiring and motivational pieces.
Dr. Binkley hopes you found this enjoyable and it serves you in good stead as you make the most of 2019.