I recently had a client looking to sell their medical supply business and retire. I worked with management to pull together all the documentation and financials needed, and conducted conduct a probable selling price analysis. With report in hand I met with our clients to review the results and plan a go-to-market strategy.
Unfortunately, the probable selling price fell slightly short of what the client needed to retire (after taxes). We identified excessive inventory as one of the factors that was limiting enterprise value. How did inventory reduce value and spoil our client’s exit strategy? What can they do resolve this limitation? Read on for the full story.
The company had thousands of SKUs, colors, shapes, types and sizes of medical supplies in inventory. Fully 78% of its assets were in inventory. Current assets exceeded 99% of total company assets. We compared our client’s financials against 10,000+ companies in the industry. The industry was averaging 35 days of inventory on hand (11 turns per year). By comparison our client turned its inventory less than once per year. Keep these figures in mind as we continue.
Cash Flow is King
It’s no surprise that buyers of going concern businesses buy primarily to get returns on their time and money invested. Tying up cash in inventory means less cash to operate or invest in the business (or pay dividends to investors) and increases the risk that you won’t get your money back out of your inventory. But there’s more to this story about how inventory affects value.
The income approach to valuation is based on the concept that a business is worth the present value of its expected future cash flows to its owners. The other approaches to value (market and asset approaches) are also important, but cash flow is ultimately king.
A common income valuation method involves dividing the forecasted net cash flow by a capitalization rate (Cap Rate). The capitalization rate is a function of the expected growth and risks inherent in a company. There’s a lot that goes into calculating appropriate risk and growth rates, but here’s the basic formula:
Value = Net Cash Flow / (Risk – Growth)
Crunching the Numbers
Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities
- With minimal current liabilities and high current assets, the company had high working capital requirements.
Working Capital Turnover (Sales / Working Capital)
- I previously mentioned that the company turns over inventory less than once a year. This suggests either too much inventory or not enough sales, or both.
- The working capital turnover for this company was an average of 2 (i.e. sales were 2x working capital cost).
- Industry data showed an average working capital turnover ratio of 7-8.
Net Cash Flow Calculation
- Net cash flow to equity (NCFe) measures the cash flow to shareholders in a company (equity interest holders).
- NCFe = normalized after-tax net income + depreciation – less capital expenses – increases in working capital +/- changes in interest-bearing debt.
- Notice the NCFe formula subtracts increases in working capital. As a company grows, working capital increases, which means less cash for shareholders. For this client, working capital growth reduced cash flow by 25%.
Enough Numbers – Back to Our Story
Our client’s business has a high risk of not selling through years of inventory before that inventory becomes obsolete, expired, lost, stolen or damaged. Therefore, the value from the income approach came in lower than the market approach and asset approach results. In fact, the cost of inventory was higher than the value of the company on a going concern basis. Even in liquidation, the full value could not be realized after the costs of liquidating.
The moral of this story is that a hard-earned business exit can be busted by excessive inventory and inefficient use of working capital. In this case, we advised our client to put their exit on hold for a few years and work strategically to reduce inventory and increase sales. Not only will the reduction in inventory increase future value, but it will also put more cash in the client’s pocket along the way.
If you’re considering a sale and wondering what financial shape your company is in, Exit Strategies’ team of M&A brokers and business appraisers can help you determine value, evaluate strategic alternatives and maximize results.
Michael Lyman CVA is a certified valuation analyst and M&A broker specializing in health care, technology and education fields. With 15 years’ experience working in and building his knowledge in these markets, Michael understands the needs of sellers, buyer and investors. His background includes university positions, two successful e-commerce startups and president/CEO of a small pediatric health care business.
See our related blog post on Managing Working Capital to Increase Business Value.