Sunday, August 17, 2014

Business Valuation Multiples

Earnings multiples and so called rules of thumb have been around as long or longer than the practice of business valuation itself.  One of the key approaches to estimating the value of a business is the Income Approach, which is based on the present value of future expected earnings.  That sounds very similar to a multiple of earnings, doesn't it?  It may, but it isn't.

Using a multiple of earnings may not be a bad way to put the value of a business into a very large ball park, but that's where the thumb ruler should stop. Promising to buy any company for four times earnings - because you heard that was the going rate - makes as much sense as promising to buy any real estate for $100,000 per acre for the same reason.  Yes, every piece of real estate is unique, and so is every company.  Therefore, your source of earnings is also unique.  Paying a set amount for a every company's earnings means the investor is requiring the same rate of return on each company.

Paying a set multiple for earnings fails to account for growing earnings, declining earnings, volatility of earnings, the risk or lack of risk attached to the specific business and its earnings, and last but not least the degree to which the assets being acquired can be collateralized.  All of these things can dramatically change the rate of return realized to an investor on companies with the same earnings at the start.

Which earnings?  EBITDA is the usual favorite to which multiples are applied.  But EBITDA can also be deceiving, particularly in a business that is capital intensive, because it fails to account for the reduction in cash flows resulting from necessary reinvestment into equipment.  

When it's time to make or accept an offer, a difference of 4, 5, or 6 times earnings can mean millions.  A thorough valuation of the company can expose its real drivers of value.  That's a small investment that can save a buyer or seller from making a million dollar mistake!

Brian Murray CPA/ABV, CVA specializes in business valuations and merger and acquisition consulting, and has served as an expert witness in court.  Please call Murray & Roberts CPA Firm SC at (920) 225-6436 to find out more or visit our website, and click on the BUSINESS VALUATION link.  Go to now for a fast and affordable business valuation report prepared by Brian Murray.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Real Estate in Business Valuation and Company Value

Why is it important to factor out real estate when valuing a business?

First, let’s limit this discussion to companies whose ownership or use of real estate is incidental to their business activity, not companies for whom real estate ownership is central to their business activity.  This discussion would apply to companies who use office or industrial buildings as opposed to companies that are in the business of leasing property to other companies.

One of the key principles in business valuation is risk: the risk perceived by investors associated with a particular asset or asset type (and the cash flows it produces) will determine the rate of return required by investors to induce them to take on that risk.

Broadly speaking, real estate – as an asset class – generally enjoys a lower perception of risk and a lower required rate of return than a non-public business investment.  What that means in practical terms is this: if you require a lower rate of return from an asset, you will be willing to pay more to acquire its income producing capacity than you would another asset with the same income producing capacity but higher risk.  Therefore, lower risk equals higher value.

The primary reasons real estate is seen as lower risk are intrinsic value and marketability.  Real estate has an intrinsic value, which can be identified regardless of how that real estate is being used at any given time.  Businesses, on the other hand, usually include a component of ‘goodwill’ in their value – often referred to as blue sky – which places the enterprise value higher than the sum of the intrinsic value of the assets used by the business.

Real estate, in part due to its intrinsic nature, also has a well developed market, where values, sellers, and buyers are identifiable.  Businesses have different values to different types of buyers, and have a significantly less developed marketplace.  Therefore business interests are generally considered to be less liquid than real estate.

If we attempt to value a business with the real estate, we are blending two asset types into one valuation, which may result in a portion of the earnings being over valued or under valued.  It would be equally incorrect to value the business with the real estate, and then attempt to subtract the real estate appraisal value from the total value. 

The real estate must be ‘adjusted out’ of the business financials, and appraised separately.  How is this done?  It is very simple to do in most cases.  On the balance sheet, the building (at cost, as well as any associated accumulated depreciation) and land are removed from assets.  Any mortgages associated with the buildings or land are removed from the liabilities.  On the income statement, depreciation from the building is removed from expenses, interest on the mortgage is removed from expenses, and a new deduction for a triple net lease payment is added to expenses.

A triple net lease requires that the tenant pays all expenses related to the building, including utilities, maintenance, insurance, and property taxes.  These leases have historically averaged 9% of the fair market value of the real estate per year.  This is called a capitalization rate, or ‘cap rate.’  In periods of low long term interest rates (such as now) cap rates have averaged 6.5 – 7.5%.  The more specialized the property is, the higher the cap rate will be.  Office and retail space usually has the lowest cap rates (because tenants are easier to replace), while specialized industrial sites will require 10-20% higher than average, depending on the degree of specialization. 

After these adjustments are made, the balance sheet equity and net income will only reflect the results of the business activity, and not any benefit of real estate investment.

I hope this discussion helps you understand why and how we separate the real estate from the business when valuing a business.

Brian Murray CPA/ABV, CVA specializes in business valuations and merger and acquisition consulting, and has served as an expert witness in court.  Please call Murray & Roberts CPA Firm SC at (920) 225-6436 to find out more or visit our website, and click on the BUSINESS VALUATION link.  Go to now for a fast and affordable business valuation report prepared by Brian Murray.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Business Valuation: Get a Better Value

Get a Better Value

Why the Murray & Roberts Calculation of Value (found at is the best in the industry

Everyone claims their product is the best: the best engine oil, the best cellular service, the best hand-held power tools.  Isn’t Murray & Roberts claim that their Calculation of Value product, the ‘MRCOV,’ is the best among its peers more promotional puffing?  Actually not.  We can prove it.

We can prove that the estimate of value produced by our product has a higher probability of reflecting the true value of your business than our competitors.  The answer is printed before you in black and white.  Most CPA firms offering calculation of value services provide a sample report on their websites (as we do).   We downloaded them and compared them to ours.

These reports tend to be full of industry jargon, non-specific legalese, and wordy disclaimers, which makes pushing through them difficult (we’ve tried to be better than the industry here too, but we also have lawyers.)  It will become evident as you read our competitors’ reports that they employed one method only – the income approach – to determine the value of your business.  The MRCOV calculates the value of your business using all three of the standard valuation approaches: asset, income, and market.  Obviously using three approaches to determine value is much more comprehensive than just one, and has a higher probability of determining the most accurate value.

Further, the MRCOV is the only report which also considers external industry data from two separate and widely recognized sources of industry research.   Our competitors’ reports did not include any external industry data into their analysis.  The MRCOV also considers: the expected future growth rate of the business, customer concentrations, optimum capital structure, and excess/under working capital.  Most of our competitors did not factor any of these significant conditions into their estimate of value.

The fact is, the limited procedures conducted by our competitors are so extremely limited that there is a high probability their calculation of value will fail to consider business or industry conditions that would materially alter the value estimate of your business.

In developing our COV product, we took sample data from dozens of full valuation reports prepared by our firm and honed our mathematical model until our calculation of value consistently produced value estimates within 5% of the values determined by full valuations.  Our MRCOV in most cases will produce an estimate of value within 10% of the value arrived at by full valuation.  At a cost of only $499, it costs less than 10% of most full valuations - an amazing value.

Find out for yourself at  

The MRCOV is an excellent tool for wealth planning, business investment planning, goal setting, and more.  

Brian Murray CPA/ABV CVA
Murray & Roberts CPA Firm SC