How to Evaluate a New Business Acquisition There’s nothing simple about estimating the value of a business you want to acquire. Valuating a business is not a simple exercise, nor is it an exact science. It simply provides a theoretical value that will give you an idea of the fair price to pay for a business.You mustn’t rely only on the judgment of your accountant or the seller. It is recommended that you have an expert, who specializes in business valuations, to produce an independent report.In general, you will rarely be able to compare your potential acquisition with a similar transaction. There is little information available on such transactions and they may not even apply to your specific conditions. Also, the terms may be too closely related to a particular sector to be useful.3 Degrees of AssuranceThere are three types of reports, they vary from the most generic to the most detailed:Calculation report: Provides an approximate valuation for initial planning.Estimate report: Ideal for preliminary negotiations, succession planning, and situations involving important issues that are subject to budgetary constraints.Comprehensive report: Appropriate in situations that involve high risks, important issues, or when there are legal proceedings.To prepare their reports, evaluators look at the facts and financial data, formulate a conclusion, and the possible impacts on the estimated value. They will also add a disclaimer regarding the scope of the mandate, which varies with the quality of the report provided.Work RequiredTo produce a calculation report, the valuator reviews and analyses the financial information and may meet with management.The estimate report takes the same approach but is more exhaustive.In the comprehensive report, the valuator provides an opinion. It is a more of an in-depth analysis of the business and it reviews:Patents, bylaws, and shareholder agreementsBusiness’ economic situation and sectorMarket conditions and the competitionClientele and any contracts, backlog of ordersSuppliers contracts and commitmentsVisit to the businessFinancial and forecast dataRationale for the choice of discount and capitalization rates using accepted financial modelsBasic Valuation PrinciplesThe first step in the process of establishing a price consists of determining the fair market value of the business. The three main valuation principles are:Value is dependent on expectationsValue is dependent on future cash flowsValue is dependent on tangible capital assetsValuation MethodsThere are two basic ways of determining the value of a business:Asset-basedBook value: Company’s net worth, which is equal to assets minus liabilities. What is shown in the financial statements.Liquidation value: Assumes that the business sells all its assets, pays off all its debts, including taxes, and distributes the surplus to its shareholders.Earnings and Cash FlowDiscounted cash flow: Value is based on the future cash flows of a business.Going concern value: Assumes that the business will continue operating and compares the current cash flows with future inflows to make projections.Valuation techniquesSome of the most common techniques used to calculate a business value include:Capitalization of typical net earnings: A value can be attributed to future earnings resulting from the acquisition. To obtain the going concern value, a capitalization multiple is applied to these earnings and non-operating assets are added.Capitalization of typical cash flows: The same as above with the exception that cash flows, rather than earnings, are capitalized.Discounting of expected future cash flows: Consists of determining the most likely future cash flows and discounting them at the valuation date.Determination of adjusted net assets: Liabilities are subtracted from the determined fair market value of the assets. It is used for businesses, such as those in the real estate sector, whose value is asset-related rather than operations-related.Other RulesIn some sectors of the service industry the value of a business is based on a multiple of revenues. For example, an insurance brokerage firm can be worth 1 to 1.5 times the commissions received over a period determined by negotiation.In the final analysis, purchase conditions and the final price paid will be determined in your negotiations with the vendor.