One of our clients was a Canadian domestic company with large margins and a solid customer base of Canadian banks was looking to enter the public markets. This would have been a nightmare. The public market option is typically not ideally suited for mid-market companies, often lacking liquidity as investors lose interest after the initial public offering.
In addition to the high initial costs of an IPO, business owners must pay annual fees for audited financial statements and supply quarterly reports to their shareholders. There is often the conflict of interest in meeting short-term expectations with long-term growth plans. The initial sacrifice of payout to the investor should be rewarded with later value from the realized growth potential of the firm.
Furthermore, the lack of privacy of confidential information, once a company goes public, may decrease a company’s competitive edge as margins are disclosed to competitors, suppliers and customers, among other strategic information.
Private capital has the flexibility to meet a wide range of business owner needs, while providing privacy of confidential information and a long term outlook in realizing growth potential. A PE fund provides strong financial expertise to complement the management team. With no short-term external reporting requirements, management is able to better focus their capital on growth opportunities that add value to existing shareholders. PE funds assist in improving business operations through efficiency or by supplying expertise in exploring new markets for growth.
PE funds are also able to leverage their existing relationships with banks and lawyers to provide the business owner with access to a broader base of financing options than they had before. American private capital investors in particular are able to use their relationships with banks and lawyers south of the border to support investment opportunities in Canada. This provides a much larger pool for Canadian business owner’s to dip their toes in and Canadian business owners are no longer restricted to the kiddie side of the pool.
In amidst all the talk of PE funds building equity value, let me emind the business owner that there is a lot of hype around adding value and that there is often the need to cut through all the clutter. Some PE funds are able to add tangible value to building the business through growth, others are more focused on cost cutting, and others are all about the hype.
It is also important to consider the decision making process as PE financing entails the addition of a partner. It is important to retain the rapid decision making that exists prior to the PE fund investor while incorporating the additional expertise of the board members.
An example of a “Homerun” investment for the Monitor Clipper Partners entailed a small Canadian investment in 2004. The founder owned 70% of a truly amazing business model and wanted to diversify holdings. The fund was able to dissuade the owner from listing on the public markets for the reasons listed above. Instead the individual sold half of his equity position to private equity investors, effectively taking money off the table. With the injection of working and growth capital, the business growth rate was accelerated. The 35% ownership structure and additional capital to turbo charge growth and expand the business footprint into the U.S., grew to become 75% of what the initial business value was, upon exit, three years later. For Monitor Clipper, this was their highest IRR on a three year investment and a Canadian investment to boot!