To Attract Investors, Put Your Best Financial Foot Forward

2/9/12

As you have read this week about the financial details of Facebook’s IPO filing, you have no doubt stopped to think about—or daydream about—what your own company might be worth.  While going public might be a distant or inappropriate goal for your own venture, Facebook’s IPO serves as a timely reminder that you should be calibrating your business and growth strategies to make your company attractive to investors or strategic partners.  After all, for most startup entrepreneurs, the eventual reward comes in the form of a merger or acquisition, rather than an IPO.

The good news is that the vast majority of technology CFOs (75 percent) expect M&A activity in the sector to rise in 2012, according to the fifth annual BDO Technology Outlook Survey, released this month by BDO USA, LLP, where I am a partner and national director of the Technology and Life Sciences Practice.  However, a word of warning: I’ve seen many deals derailed—with significant delays or value erosion—because of the management team’s undisciplined approach to presenting financial information.

Therefore, whether your own organization is in the market to acquire another business for strategic growth purposes, or you are working to position your company as an attractive acquisition target, there are two issues that are crucial to generating or maintaining shareholder value: Having an acute awareness of the motivating factors behind an M&A transaction, and providing an orderly financial snapshot that will answer the mostly likely questions from potential partners.

Motivating Factors Spurring M&A Transactions

In our survey, respondents predicted that the top three motivations behind M&A deals in 2012 will be revenue growth, enhanced market share, and the acquisition of new technology and intellectual property. In other words, a significant majority of CFOs believe that M&A transactions will mostly be offensive in nature. A company waging an offensive strategy isn’t necessarily engaged in hostile takeovers; rather, it means the focus is more on growth than cost-cutting. Therefore, companies are looking for acquisition targets that will fill in holes in product or technology portfolios, and are not necessarily angling to take a competitor’s product out of the market.

Financial Rigor

Understanding the motivations of other parties in a deal can put you in a more powerful position, either as an acquirer or a target. Equally important is meeting the due diligence requirements of an acquirer in an efficient and confident manner. By ensuring that reliable and accurate financial and operational information is available, companies can avoid roadblocks to the M&A process—roadblocks that can significantly erode shareholder value, if not derail the entire process.  For example, although the survey indicates a positive outlook for the industry this year, respondents foresee overall revenue increases of just 2.6 percent – significantly lower than the forecasted growth in last year’s survey (10.4 percent).  If you are experiencing a lower revenue forecast this year, be prepared to address how you intend to get your company back on track.

Beyond M&A Transactions

Even if M&As are not currently a part of your growth strategy, accessing capital remains a top of mind issue for technology companies. The good news is that—according to our survey—over three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents say they feel better about the ability to access capital in 2012. The hurdles to arranging debt financing remain high, but businesses with strong fundamentals and fiscal discipline are once again able to obtain credit. In fact, the majority of respondents who plan to raise additional capital this year intend to use debt financing. The key to making debt work for your company is to manage the process proactively, and avoid being forced into reactive mode.

Whether your business is planning to undertake a strategic transaction or simply needs to access capital through financing, careful planning is critical. A blend of fiscal responsibility, corporate discipline and the willingness to take measured risk are the keys to powering growth.

Aftab Jamil is a partner and national director of the Technology and Life Sciences Practice at BDO USA. Follow @

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