Citi selling Private Equity to Stepstone


Stepstone Group LLC said Wednesday that it has closed its acquisition of $4 billion private equity funds from Citigroup Inc. (C) as the investment bank seeks to offload its alternative assets units ahead of U.S. new financial rules discouraging banks from engaging in risky trades with their own money.
Financial details of the transaction weren't disclosed but the package includes fund of funds, mezzanine and co-investment businesses.

A voting machine for good businesses

"The public market is a voting machine in the short term, weighing machine in the long term," said Randall Abramson, Trapeze Asset Management. This quote came from one of Randall's favorite economic experts, Benjamin Graham, who was also one of Warren Buffet's mentors. Randall was going through his company's rational for investing, and running a demonstration of their extraordinary algorithm which made sense. Showing Disney's stock journey over the past few decades, gave a compelling snapshot to back up Randall's view that good investing is about value and digging deep to find undervalued companies. There were many opportunities to buy a seriously undervalued Disney stock and other times when the stock was too over priced to be an attractive investment.
The message was clear: fickle public opinion does not out perform the long term value of a business.
The public market has been a voting machine for future success, based on the talent and innovativeness of the management team and their employees and resources. The long term focus has been damaged though, as bubbles hammer good companies who do not deserve to have their stock reduced due to the foolishness of other businesses forgetting good business practices. The crash hurt sensible, wise investors with its sudden plunges.
This volatility of stock price, which is mostly out of the control of management, is the number one reason given by CEOs for frustration with public markets. Harvard reported that 88% of CEOs preferred running a private business without the pressure.

Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet: Attract Private Equity Investors to Your Business

Succession Planning Should Focus on Selling the Business


Less than 3% of family businesses make it to the third generation. That arresting factoid prefaces Every Family’s Business, a book dealing with succession planning for family businesses. In this book review by Canadian Business expert, Larry MacDonald, he reveals how the author, William Deans, draws on a wealth of personal experience: he is a fourth-generation businessman and ran his father’s 250-employee chemical business for ten years prior to its sale. MacDonald says:
This remarkable book is written in the dialogue style of David Chilton’s The Wealthy Barber. It was first released in 2008 and has sold over 100,000 copies so far. Deans himself is much in demand and has done over 300 presentations around the world. He operates out of Hockley, Ontario and has a website at www.everyfamiliesbusiness.com.
When it comes to succession issues surrounding family businesses, most books and advisors deal with how to transfer control to younger family members. But Deans thinks the focus should instead be on selling the business at fair value whether it is to family or non-family. 
I would add in here that you can sell to private equity either fully or staggered over five to twenty years.
This sale will all chips off the table and not only assures a more secure retirement for the owner but often leaves behind greater wealth to distribute to heirs. MacDonald says:
Many business owners want to hand over their beloved enterprise on easy terms to children as an act of love or because they wish to leave their business behind as a legacy. But for a variety of reasons, as discussed in Every Family’s Business, the transfer often leads to acrimony and dysfunction within the family. It can also culminate in insolvency or a sale at a low price to a non-family buyer.

Read more Here

Why today’s investors must think globally

History reminds us that no nation ever pays off its debts outright, and that all government debt is eventually – and inevitably – inflated away.
It may be quiescent for now, but to ignore the time-bomb of inflation is to do so at one’s own peril. It’s a risk that could well be reflected in an ever-rising gold price (currently over U.S. $1300 an ounce, and counting), as well as an ever-sliding (and cheaper) U.S. dollar.
The U.S. dollar, the world’s reserve currency, keeps on sliding despite the pressures on China to lift the value of its yuan and a growing groundswell of foreign currency posturing.
The latent inflation risk is another reason why investment strategies must remain focused on equities. Besides, it’s invariably better to be an owner than a debtor and to have interest (and dividends) payable to you rather than by you – and ever more so now.
Adding to the case for being an owner rather than a loaner is a global economy being slowed by the U.S. but offset by a burgeoning new world order led by Asia, Latin America, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other rising powerhouses.
There’s also China’s ever-lengthening investment clout, witness Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan contemplating a Chinese white knight to rescue it from the hostile (and underpriced?) clutches of BHP Billiton? It’s but one more example of why today’s investors must think globally.
In Europe there’s encouragement too, despite nation-wide strikes in France and intensified payback stresses in Greece, Ireland, Iceland and others.
In Britain, the determination of David Cameron’s new coalition government to get on top of its huge debt and deficit problems remains especially noteworthy. One respected English friend writes: “The majority of the British people know that the problem must be addressed now and will back the government against an overpaid, overprotected and quite often bone-idle public sector”. Another comments on how many UK companies have come through the recession surprisingly well and have sustained earnings better than might have been expected.

You can never count the U.S. out

Tony Boeckh (of the Bank Credit Analyst) puts the case for today’s America best: “It’s got a trillion-dollar deficit monkey on its back, its consumers have been gutted, its housing and banking sectors could take years to recover, and its currency is a dog…. You can never count the U.S. out – it has an incredible ability to rediscover itself and rejuvenate.”

Deloitte reports Private Equity's Confidence

Private equity is stepping up and getting the results where the public market lags. A report from Deloitte goes on to explain:
 There is still confidence and optimism among private equity fund managers (GPs), according to the latest Mena Private Equity Confidence Survey released by Deloitte. The annual survey, conducted for Deloitte by Arbor Square Associates, is designed to measure confidence and market sentiment in the private equity market.
Jacoline Loewen, Private Equity expert and author of Money Magnet.

4 Lessons from Physics for Marketing

Marketing and physics do seem a natural combination but here is a talk by Dan Cobley, a physics expert, on 4 lessons marketing can draw from the common laws of physics.

NI 31-103 is a really bold change

Individuals and firms who distribute exempt-market securities are scrambling to meet the new requirements they’ll face beginning Sept. 28. In fact, some are even moving out of the exempt-securities realm altogether as they assess the drastic regulatory reforms associated with National Instrument 31-103.

The new regulations include widespread changes for exempt-market dealers. EMDs include those who distribute prospectus-exempt securities such as hedge funds, principal-protected notes and limited partnerships, as well as those who work with accredited investors. 

“This is the one area of NI 31-103 that is a really bold change,” says Geoffrey Ritchie, executive director of the Toronto-based Exempt Market Dealers Association of Canada. “It’s a huge transition.”

Most of NI 31-103’s new regulations came into effect on Sept. 28, 2009. However, existing EMD firms and reps had one year to comply with some of the requirements. Regulators are warning that registrants who fail to meet the looming deadline could face immediate suspension until they comply.

For firms dealing in exempt securities, the upcoming deadline includes new capital requirements, beefed-up disclosure rules and new filing requirements for financial statements. Dealing reps at these firms, meanwhile, face new proficiency requirements under which they must successfully complete either the Canadian securities course offered by Toronto-based CSI Global Education Inc. or the more specialized exempt-market products course offered by the Investment Funds Institute of Canada’s IFSE Institute. 

Chief compliance officers with EMDs are also required to complete one of these two courses, along with either IFSE’s officers, partners and directors course or CSI’s partners, directors and senior officers course.

The new proficiency requirements are intended to protect investors, according to the Ontario Securities Commission, by ensuring that reps who deal with the exempt market meet minimum qualifications.
Find out more about the Exempt Market Dealers Association http://www.emdacanada.com/

Big, greedy drug companies don't do any research

Innovation seems to be thought of as something that just happens - shezaam, eureka. The head of Government Health in South Africa back in 1994, demanded that the greedy pharmas hand over their drugs at cost and went on to berate corporate drug companies. That health minister is now dead but the argument about greedy pharma continues. Derek Lowe has something to say to the folks who claim that all the "real" research on pharmaceuticals is done in universities, and drug companies just steal

Allow me to rant for a bit, because I saw yet another argument the other day that the big drug companies don't do any research, no, it's all done at universities with public funds, at which point Big Pharma just swoops in and makes off with the swag. You know the stuff. Well, I would absolutely love to have the people who hold that view explain the PPAR story to me. I really would. The drug industry poured a huge amount of time and money into both basic and applied research in that area, and they did it for years. No one has to take my word for it - ask any of the academic leaders in the field if GSK or Merck, to name just two companies, managed to make any contributions.
We did it, naturally, because we expected to make a profit out of it in the end. The whole PPAR story looked like a great way to affect metabolic disorders and plenty of other diseases as well: cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular. That is, if we could just manage to understand what was going on. But we didn't. Once we all figured out that nuclear receptors were involved and got busy on drug discovery on that basis, we didn't help anyone with any diseases, and we didn't make any profits. Big piles of money actually disappeared during the process, never to be seen again. You could ask Merck about that, or GSK (post-rosiglitazone), or Lilly, or BMS, or Bayer, and plenty of other players large and small.
No one hears about these things.  We're understandably reluctant to go on about our failures in this industry, but the side effect is that people who aren't paying attention end up thinking that we don't have any. Nothing could be more mistaken. And they aren't failures to come up with a catchy slogan or to find a good color scheme for the packaging - they're failures back at the actual science, where reality meets our ideas about it, and likely as not beats them down to the floor.
Honestly, I don't understand where these they-don't-do-any-research folks get off. Look at the patent filings. Look at the open literature. Where on earth do you think all those molecules come from, all those research programs to fill up all those servers? There are whole scientific journals that wouldn't exist if it weren't for a steady stream of failed research projects. Where's it all coming from?

What is happening to entrepreneurial businesses

My partner and I own a successful e-commerce website. We started it in the late 1990's by ourselves and now we have five employees. Our growth came from personal resources, as well as credit card lines. Each year we saw sales increases of at least 10-20%. However, in late 2008/early 2009, we started seeing our sales slipping. As a result (and watching our competitors) we lowered our on-line prices to continue to drive sales. As of today, our prices are 40% below where they were in 2008. However, we have the same number of customers - we just work a heck of a lot harder!

On the negative side, we saw all of our credit card lines cut, so we can no longer use them. Bank financing is completely out as we have no business assets so to speak (our business is online - not manufacturing). We have cut costs by moving to a cheaper office location, letting one employee go and demanding lower prices from our own suppliers (mostly successful). As a result of our cost cutting, our bottom line has only slipped 10%. We feel very fortunate in this regard.

As to what would help our small business grow and hire people again - simple; more sales! We do NOT need to borrow more money as we already owe enough and our capacity is only at 50%. So what would we borrow money for? More production? We don't have the sales.

So QE actions by the Fed have no effect on us. Interest rates could go to zero and it still would not matter. What we are NOT seeing are credit card rates going down - now THAT might help us somewhat. Regardless, it seems that the economists in charge are playing from the old handbook of everyone borrowing money to spend money. Needless to say, it's not working - but you already knew that. Thanks again and keep telling the truth.

Danny
Austin, Texas

Will Canadian Firms Size-Up Enough?

In the past year, many company owners have contacted me to sell their companies. They do not have anything near the value they expect. Why is there such a gap in expectations?
First and biggest reason for the gap is if your company is under $20M in revenues, this greatly reduces your universe of potential buyers. This smaller size also means you get an immediate steep discount on your end sale valuation. Investors with the money are seeking companies with operating revenues over $20M, and if you are under that amount, your asking price drops off the cliff.
Canadian companies are small and conservative. Many are family owned and do not wish to risk growing organically or by acquisition. I do not blame them, but they must see the game has changed. Right now, we are global. It means you have to think global and that means get bigger than $20M. I have had this conversation with many family business owners and it is not necessary. If they got in private equity partners at 30% ownership, they would get money out for their family and get on with growth. Their second sale would be worth far more.