Corporate Finance - Business and Share ValuationsAdding commercial value to your transaction
While there is a ready made market and market price for the owners of listed public limited company shares, those needing a valuation for a private company need to be more creative.
Various valuation methods have developed over the years. These can be used as a starting point and basis for negotiation when it comes to selling a business.
Earnings multiples are commonly used to value businesses with an established, profitable history.
Often, a price earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is used, which represents the value of a business divided by its profits after tax. To obtain a valuation, this ratio is then multiplied by current profits. Here the calculation of the profit figure itself does depend on circumstances and will be adjusted for relevant factors.
A difficulty with this method for private companies is in establishing an appropriate P/E ratio to use – these vary widely. P/E ratios for quoted companies can be found in the financial press and one for a business in the same sector can be used as a general starting point. However, this needs to be discounted heavily as shares in quoted companies are much easier to buy and sell, making them more attractive to investors.
As a rule of thumb, typically the P/E ratio of a small unquoted company is 50% lower than a comparable quoted company. Generally, small unquoted businesses are valued at somewhere between five and ten times their annual post tax profit. Of course, particular market conditions can affect this, with boom industries seeing their P/E ratios increase.
A similar method uses EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation), a term which essentially defines the cash profits of a business. Again an appropriate multiple is applied.
Generally appropriate for cash-generating, mature, stable businesses and those with good long-term prospects, this more technical method depends heavily on the assumptions made about long-term business conditions.Essentially, the valuation is based on a cash flow forecast for a number of years forward plus a residual business value. The current value is then calculated using a discount rate, so that the value of the business can be established in today’s terms.
This method of valuation reflects the costs involved in setting up a business from scratch. Here the costs of purchasing assets, recruiting and training staff, developing products, building up a customer base, etc are the starting point for the valuation. A prospective buyer may look to reduce this for any cost savings they believe they could make.
This type of valuation method is most suited to businesses with a significant amount of tangible assets, for example, a stable, asset rich property or manufacturing business. The method does not however take account of future earnings and is based on the sum of assets less liabilities. The starting point for the valuation is the assets per the accounts, which will then be adjusted to reflect current market rates.
Where buying and selling a business is common, certain industry-wide rules of thumb may develop. For example, the number of outlets for an estate agency business or recurring fees for an accountancy practice.
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